Story Cups

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Story Cups: What if you could change the world every time you purchased a takeaway coffee?

Derby, United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Story Cups is driven by the purpose to make a difference in the world by empowering consumers to more easily support the worlds charities. We manufacture disposable and reusable cups that tell the (positive) story of a charity, and when purchased equal a donation to that charity on your behalf.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if you could change the world, simply by buying your takeaway coffee as normal?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Story Cups wants to solve two problems: 1) the constant struggle for funds and awareness that charities deal with daily, and 2) the environmental impact of our takeaway coffee culture. 3) Unfulfilled human intent to help charities more. Most charity marketing is competing with consumer goods. Most non-disposable cup schemes ask too much of the consumer, and do nothing to align with them to help them fulfil their intent to do more.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to enable consumers to raise awareness and funds for charities simply by buying their favourite hot-drink as usual. We work with charities (for free) to repurpose the disposable cup to become a storytelling vehicle (and gateway to "infotaining" content). Whenever a Story-Cup-filled drink is purchased, the charity will receive a donation on behalf of the consumer. The hypothesis is that the consumer, knowing this, will then feel a strong connection due his/her action and proceed to "engage" with the cup. Our long-term solution is to introduce an easy-to-use (& more rewarding) reusable cup sharing system, where the consumer can still "bin" the cup, but we gather, wash and redistribute it to retailers.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Story Cups gives people the opportunity to match their (almost) daily ritual of take-out coffee/tea with their long-lasting intention to do more for charities and good causes. Story Cups also gives charities a better alternative to building relationships with consumers without interrupting them via outdated tactics. For example, Lisa is an accountant in London, and every day on her way to work she stops by her local coffee shop to purchase her latte. Lisa leads a busy life, but wishes she could do more for charity. When her coffee shop begins to use Story Cups, Lisa is excited to find out that, now, every day she is raising funds for charity. What's more, she gets the opportunity to learn about each new charity on her tube ride to work.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In recent years financial and emotional support for charities has decreased as people concentrate on their own lives. What remains, however, is massive intention to continue/improve support for charities. On a qualitative basis, Story Cups will provide a huge boost to consumers, businesses, and charities alike, by introducing a simple and economical solution to each aspect of the problem. On a quantitative basis, the UK market for disposable cups is approximately 2.5 billion per year. I expect that within 5 years, Story Cups will account for at least 250 million cups sold per year, meaning an estimated annual charity donation figure of £7.5 million. Hypothetically, should the market size remain at 2.5 billion, and we achieve a 50% market share, the estimated annual charity donation figure will stand at £37.5 million (in the UK alone). The 50% MSD figure for USA = £240 million.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The main spread strategy is to win contracts to supply airports, airlines and trains, enabling the global spread of Story Cups. The hypothesis here is that the Story Cups movement gains popularity amongst the consumer population, which encourages retailers across the world to adopt Story Cups as their supplier. Once we have built a global brand and community built on trust (target 4 years), we will then move to introduce our reusable cup system, which will create significant positive environmental impact (shrinking the disposable cup market), as well as scaling-up the charitable impact.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Story Cups is essentially a for-profit business driven by a social purpose. Even though we plan to provide charity partners with a free service, we expect to make a healthy profit on cup sales (post charity donation). We have decided to manufacture the cups ourselves, thus increasing the profit-margin per batch produced. This gives us freedom to set prices and charity donation levels. As well as the ability to innovate: i.e. reusable cups.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Currently there is no one else embracing the disposable cup "redesign to support charity" scheme. However there are numerous competitive attempts to introduce reusable cups into the market. So far, though, these efforts have achieved minimal success. I believe that the lack of success of competitors comes from them "jumping the start". Disposable cups provide convenience for consumers, and they are not going to give them up without a good reason and without trusting the brand (and the system) to whom they are changing for. This is exactly the strategy that reusable Story Cups will adopt.

Founding Story

I was sitting in Starbucks reading "Start Something That Matters", by TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie. I started to think about how he turned an everyday item into a multi purpose vehicle for social good. I then looked over to the usual queue at the counter, and then my eyes watched as the majority walked away with a pristine white take away cup, with nothing more than their name and the Starbucks logo on it. Then I thought "this is a product of daily use for billions of people, just like the shoe, so why not inject the cup with a second purpose too? Purchase = Donation!" What's more, i thought, people travel with these cups, and have "dead time" where they could use something to occupy their attention... the cup in their hand!


Currently I am the only member of the team (it's a new idea). However I am in the process of recruiting a lead designer to work with charity partners. This person will be passionate about inspiring visual design and storytelling, but they will also (ideally) be a young entrepreneurial type who wants to do work with purpose. A second team member that I am looking to recruit is someone who has experience in food & drink retail product supply.