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Importin’ Joe’s focusing on growing the business and South Bend community

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – New details on a South Bend business that’s making Michiana the home for Ethiopian Coffee.

We first learned about Importin Joes back in 2020 when founder, Joseph Luten, was just getting off the ground.

16 News Now reporter Jack Springgate caught up with him to not only see how much they’re growing but to also learn how he’s helping others get a fresh start with Importin’ Joe’s.

Joe Luten doesn’t mince words about his past and the challenges he faced as a teen with a felony on his record.

“Starting out life at 18, 19 years old and having two felonies. I wasn’t able to get a job, I wasn’t able to get housing, I wasn’t able to get financial aid for school, and I wasn’t able to get anything. So it was extremely difficult for me to get a foot up,” said the Importin’ Joe’s founder.

Joe has gone from selling his beans door to door to now being stocked on shelves at Meijer.

He’s also acquired this new space that will allow him to scale up from roughly 1,000 lbs. of coffee a month to 40,000 lbs.

With the added business, he’s looking to give others with prior felony convictions the same opportunity that changed his life for the better.

“There are some systemic challenges and barriers set in place that more so focus on recidivism and retention as opposed to rehabilitation and reformation, and so that’s our focus as Importin’ Joe’s which is giving opportunity,” Luten said.

He said they want to focus on giving at-risk youth and people with felony convictions opportunities to train in entrepreneurship, commercialization, and economics by working in this new space.

Soma Support Inc. is one of the community partners he works with that shares this same vision.

“That’s something that we’re very proud to support and we love that he’s continuing to pass the buck along and help other people,” said Soma Support Inc. Co-Founder Justine Webb.

“All of our stories are a little bit different. We all have unique abilities to bring to the table—unique services and unique products so we think there’s just a huge need to reach out to these people and give them a helping hand,” said Soma Support Inc. Co-Founder Danielle Nyari.

Soma Support Inc. is a nonprofit that offers accounting support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and Luten says they’ve been a huge part of Importin’ Joe’s scale-up.

Luten says their global vision is a big part of their plan, but so is their connection to this community that his family has called home for over a century.

While you can grab bags of Importin’ Joe’s at Meijer now, Luten says they’re still dropping off coffee orders at customers’ front doors here locally.

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