Why Thousands Are Saying 'It's About More Than the Coffee'

By: John Sweeney


On the 27th of March 2013, I was stressed, unable to sleep, and worried about putting food on the table. The economic crisis had hit me hard, just like so many others around the world. I was an unemployed husband and father who had made it this far, through following the direction of others. Now I had responsibilities, no work, nobody to tell me how to make a change for the better and was terrified by the uncertainty. It was yet another night that I just couldn't sleep. It was then, at 2:30a.m., that I first read about a tradition born in the working class cafés of Naples, Italy, where people would advance purchase a coffee for someone in need.

Mark Twain said that the two most important days in your life are the day that you are born, and the day that you discover why. In that moment, sitting at my computer in the dark, I had discovered my "why." In a moment of inspiration, I set up a Facebook page called Suspended Coffees, encouraging people to commit to paying it forward through simple acts of kindness.

What followed was beyond anything I had ever dreamed: the beginning of a global social movement. Before I knew it, we had over a quarter of a million followers on social media and 1800 cafés around the world that signed up to offer it in their businesses. The idea of spreading a little kindness had gone a very long way.

I may not have appreciated the importance of kindness had I not experienced the lack of it. I grew up in a small town in Ireland, where I was faced with bullying, both physical and emotional violence and feelings of isolation. All my life I'd been told that I wasn't good enough and I'd never amount to anything. I had been a scared and lonely child, and those taunts had stayed with me into my adult life.

But the love and support of my immediate family and the hundreds of thousands around the world who support the Suspended Coffees movement have given me the courage to make this my mission in life: To promote the idea that we all have worth, we all have importance, and big or small, we can all make a difference.

Today, these simple acts of kindness are spreading around the world. Every single day more and more inspiring stories are sent to us by people who are making the world around them a little brighter. Sometimes it's through the purchase of a meal. At other times it's taking a moment to help somebody, whether it's helping to change a flat tyre, giving someone a ride, or taking a meal over to a sick friend. And sometimes it's as simple as a smile and a friendly chat.

There is no act of kindness too small to help restore our faith in humanity, and that is what we're about at Suspended Coffees. We can make all the difference in the world.

As the movement has grown, so have the opportunities to make a greater impact. One of our most exciting new ventures is a social enterprise that will sell ethically sourced coffee to fund a social program providing coaching and mentoring to teens and young adults, and teaching entrepreneurial skills to empower people to get back on their feet.

Recently I was invited to take part in the Pioneers for Change Program, which will help Suspended Coffees develop an even larger and more focused global social impact. Thanks to a new found self-belief and the support of my loved ones and an amazing team of volunteers, Suspended Coffees is on the way to making massive positive changes through simple and meaningful acts that start with coffee and kindness.

Visit our crowd-funder and please make our dream a reality.

These themes will be addressed in more detail through the Pioneers for Change Fellowship kicking off on March 23 and 24, 2015 in London. Pioneers for Change is an initiative of Adessy Associates.

About John Sweeney
John is from Cork, Ireland, and is the Founder and CEO of Suspended Coffees (SC). As a husband and father of four, he understands the struggles that families face every single day, in a world full of uncertainty. As a social entrepreneur, his compassion and desire to help anyone in need is what led to the creation of the Suspended Coffees movement. While he believes a simple cup of coffee can change a person's day, his vision for SC and humanity is much larger.

His dream is to help bring communities together, and create a real and lasting change that will have a global impact by providing coaching and mentoring to teens and young adults, and teaching entrepreneurial skills to empower people to get back on their feet.