Places you can go for a good cup of coffee: a cafe, coffee shop or coffeehouse come to mind. If you're in a pinch, a coffee cart or kiosk might do. But soon you'll be able to add electric tuk tuk to the list. The owners of Denvers' 8th Day Coffee are planning on rolling out their mobile coffee concept in October using a style of motorized tricycle they first encountered while working in Kolkata, India.
Kristen and Mark Lanning have been working on getting their company, 8th Day Coffee, off the ground since the beginning of 2017. While a bid to secure the former Rooster & Moon space in January was unsuccessful (Anecdote Cafe and Bakery will open there instead), the Lannings didn't give up hope. With a goal of training and employing women who have experienced exploitation, the two decided on a cheaper route toward getting the business off the ground. So they're purchasing a tuk tuk, or auto rickshaw, that they'll outfit with equipment to serve pour-over and drip coffee as well as tea and baked goods.
Kristen Lanning says the idea came to her from her year spent working abroad. "I lived in Kolkata, India, for a while working for an NGO that does anti-human trafficking work," she explains. "Auto rickshaws are a major form of transportation there."
While in India, Kristen also became aware of 8th Day Cafe and Bakery, run by entrepreneurs with a mission similar to hers. She decided to take that mission to Colorado and open her own version of 8th Day. And after being temporarily stymied by rent prices in Denver, she and Mark came up with the tuk tuk idea. They originally wanted to purchase and ship a vehicle from India, but the cost of bringing one in and having it upgraded to meet regulations in the U.S. proved prohibitive.
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Enter eTukUSA, a Denver company that only recently started producing and selling electric rickshaws. The Lannings are in the process of purchasing a vehicle from eTuk that will have a driver's seat in the front and a service unit in the back with several compartments. They'll be using beans from Kaladi Coffee Roasters and will also sell tea and their own signature Sakshi's cold-brew coffee.
"Our goal is this fall; we're hoping to sell our first cup of coffee in October," Kristen notes. "We've been continuing to network with some of our partners who can refer women to us, and with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District. Ideally, we'd still like to end up with a brick-and-mortar in the Golden Triangle."
8th Day won't be just a coffee company; it will also be a place where single mothers, victims of sex trafficking and other exploited women can learn job skills and eventually become entrepreneurs. That's because the Lannings hope to expand their fleet of tuk tuks in the next few years and offer their employees ownership in each mobile unit. "Not only are we able to offer transformational employment to our women," Kristen explains, "but we'll also be able to offer small-business ownership. The 8th day is symbolic of new life, and that's what we want to offer."
The Lannings plan to launch their mobile coffee rickshaw on the University of Denver and Auraria campuses this fall, but you can meet the couple and see an eTuk rickshaw at a fundraiser event at Kaladi's new location at 2823 South Broadway on Saturday, September 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. See 8th Day's event page if you want to donate, attend or both.