John Sage

Ashoka Fellow
Seattle, Washington, United States
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when John Sage was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
Pura Vida is a test case for how to create good by using capitalism to empower producers, motivate consumers, inspire business leaders, and serve the poor. Pura Vida Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, launched PuraVida as a wholly-owned fair trade, organic beverage company. Like other fair trade companies, PuraVida targets consumers who want to buy products consistent with their social values, and ensures that producers of its coffee are paid a rate that empowers, rather than exploits. Unlike other such social enterprises, PuraVida operates the nonprofit and the for-profit as a “blended” organization. The staff, messaging, social benefit, and fund raising elements of PuraVida Partners are blended so closely with PuraVida that the company’s growth also provides unrestricted capital to the social benefit organization. His blended bond gave investors a way to make a 6 percent return on their investment that was in-turn donated to a nonprofit of their choice—most often Pura Vida Partners, which funds community development and education projects in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and is expanding into other producing countries such as Ethiopia and Indonesia.

In addition, PuraVida garners resources by tapping into the growing LOHAS (Life Styles of Health And Sustainability) market, estimated at $6 billion today and growing at 16 percent per year. PuraVida is especially attractive to young people and to socially conscious corporations, both of which represent the future of this market because of its values and structure. Indeed, all around the United States, donor communities have spontaneously formed in response to PuraVida’s “meet the grower” events in the U.S. in order to spread the word and help the PuraVida model spread.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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