CEO & Co-Founder
David Steingard began his career as an entrepreneur and CEO, first of a marketing firm and then of a technology company for public schools. Following his heart, he departed from his life in business to attend law school and become a criminal prosecutor in Brooklyn. David surprised colleagues when he left his legal practice to return to the private sector and open a coffee shop with actor Hugh Jackman. The new social enterprise, Laughing Man Coffee and Tea, combined David’s interest in justice with a philosophy of life and work, succinctly expressed in the company tagline: “All Be Happy.”
As CEO of Laughing Man Coffee and Tea, David began by working closely with a struggling Ethiopian coffee farmer named Dukale. The business and personal relationship challenged his imagination and problem-solving abilities. He began to evaluate the real meaning of success and question what consumers really want when they make purchases.
In 2015, Green Mountain, the largest distributor and buyer of organic and fair trade coffee in the world, bought Laughing Man and has continued to invest in his vision. The experience of building a social business lead David to realize that the potential of Laughing Man was bigger than the company. He was ready to engage a broader community and share what he had learned.
In 2009, actors Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness, traveled to Ethiopia as ambassadors for World Vision Australia, one of the world's largest humanitarian aid organizations. As longtime donors, the Jackmans wanted to visit a World Vision community development project to see how rural communities were being empowered to eradicate poverty.
While in the Yirgacheffe region, Hugh met a 27 year-old coffee farmer named Dukale, working to lift his family out of poverty. Spending time on Dukale's farm, Hugh learned first-hand about the value of fair trade coffee and clean cookstove technology.
Upon his return home to New York City, Hugh decided the best way for him to have a direct impact on poverty reduction was to start a coffee company in order to trade directly with the growers. In 2011, Hugh launched Laughing Man Coffee to provide a marketplace for farmers like Dukale to sell their goods to consumers across the U.S.
Laughing Man Coffee has received significant coverage in the press. Additionally, David's partner, Hugh Jackman has authored many articles about their work. The following links are a few recent original articles and reporting.
Since Laughing Man began, public understanding of Fair Trade coffee has grown. There is opportunity to focus discussions on issues of increasing nuance and complexity. David's aim has always been to go beyond product messaging to build genuine community dialogue.
Entrepreneurs and Humanity Conference, Dallas, Texas
Columbia University, Teachers College
Borough of Manhattan Community College
David has been an instructor at the School of Practical Philosophy for over 10 years.