Ask someone what coffee means to them, and you might get an answer that references their morning routine, or the bean's ability to help them power through a nine-to-five workday.
But ask Root Capital Senior Loan Officer Olivier Ramírez the same question, and his answer will likely blow you away: “Coffee means work, strength, patience, overcoming odds, and values like commitment and responsibility."
Olivier's answer – and his profundity, for that matter – doesn’t stop there.
“Through coffee, my family and I learned about the value of hard work, of the need to make sacrifices, and of the need for patience to reap the fruits of our labor,” he explains. “We learned to have faith and pray that bad weather and pests wouldn’t endanger the harvest on which our survival depended. We learned how to live in the moment while always thinking about improving our future, looking ahead so that we would be able to provide more, and better, opportunities for our children.”
Olivier, born and raised on a coffee farm in Costa Rica along with his four brothers and three sisters, began working at Root Capital in 2010. Today, he manages a portfolio of small and growing agricultural businesses in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador, many of which are coffee cooperatives like the one to which Olivier’s father belonged.
Thanks to government scholarships and many sacrifices made by his parents, Olivier was able to study business administration at the University of Costa Rica. After graduating, he worked for several private banks, including Citibank, where he spent seven years as a loan manager for small and medium enterprises. But despite success in the private sector, Olivier felt a need to use his privilege to help others.
“I remember my father’s cooperative giving us advance payments before the coffee harvest to help us attend to our crops, and also to help us survive in the winter, when coffee isn’t harvested,” Olivier explains. Knowing the value that cooperatives and agricultural enterprises could bring to farm families like his own, Olivier began working at Root Capital to play a role in improving the lives of smallholder farmers.
“I remember where I come from, and I feel the need to give back to rural farmers and their children who are living my past,” he says. “It fills me with great satisfaction when I can somehow help them.”
Working with Root Capital over the last six years, Olivier has witnessed the direct impact of his work. “I’ve seen Root Capital’s financial and advisory services make a big difference for our clients, who in turn bring significant benefits to their famers – higher incomes and better farming practices that lead to better food security, education, health, housing, and so many other things.”
Olivier explains that what inspires him most is working day in and day out for men and women who face enormous social disadvantages, but who “fight with a near supernatural force to lift their families and their communities out of critical economic situations.
“Growing up, my dad taught me: ‘siempre tener una esperanza.'” Always have a hope. “There are so many social problems arising from extreme poverty, from migration, to food insecurity, to child labor, and discrimination," he says. "I’ve made a commitment to contribute to the fight against all these social ills, and bring a little hope to the people experiencing these hardships.”