Every great brand starts with a great story. Rice Love is no different.
Coney Pulla was raised by a family from lowest caste in India, known as the “untouchables.” Coney’s family lived in poverty for many generations. From a young age, he would pass children living in huts alongside a drainage ditch. The families Coney saw didn’t make enough money to provide them with adequate food or an education. Seeing this, Coney knew that someday he would help these people and others like them. His father’s dream was to send one of his children to college overseas. After the first three children in the family refused, Coney, the youngest, was his father’s last hope. The day finally came when Coney was accepted to a university in America. Coney had no idea that the university was located on a small island in Hawaii until he looked down from the airplane as it landed. Culture-shocked and nervous, Coney got off the plane, called his dad, and said, “I’m scared. I want to come home.” His dad replied lovingly, “Son, if you want to come home, I will buy you a ticket and you can come home.” But, the thought of breaking his father’s heart gave Coney the courage to move on.
Adjusting to college in America was not easy. Coney tried Computer Science as coding and software is something every Indian does. Attended a class and knew right away that wasn't his choice. Later, changed his major to Business management and attended a class. He knew again that it wasn't what he wanted. One day as he attended a class in Political Science. He learned in the class that college wasn’t just about getting a high-paying job, it was about making a positive impact on the world. He decided he wanted to find a way to make a positive impact in India.
In 2013, Coney met Corbin Thomander. Corbin grew up in California, but moved to Hawaii when he was 17. He had somewhat of a bohemian history. Corbin ran away from home when he was 16 sleeping in a VW bus on a journey of self-discovery. Later, he lived in South America for a couple years. When Corbin was in college, he intentionally dressed like a bum, begged for money, and slept in the gutter in Honolulu, just to understand what that felt like. One night, Corbin even slept in an actual dumpster. These social experiments were Corbin’s attempt to understand what it is like to have absolutely nothing. He always had a desire to help people less fortunate than himself. The two shared this common interest.
Coney and Corbin talked about what they could do to have a positive impact on the world. After doing some research, they found that the world had enough food to end global hunger. And yet, 1 in 9 people in the world still go to bed on an empty stomach. With 800 million people affected, ending global hunger is one of the world’s top challenges. India is the country with the most people affected, 200 million. Rice is consumed more than any other food in India, which also meant that Coney and Corbin would be able to find a lot of discarded rice bags there. Their plan was to repurpose rice bags into tote bags and sell them. For every bag they made, they would give a kilo of rice away to a family in need. Giving rice is equal to giving life...which symbolizes love. Thus, Rice Love was born.
In December 2014, Coney graduated and moved back to India. Corbin quit his job in order to ship the first 200 tote bags to the first 200 customers. The following month, the two gave 200 kilos of rice in Coney’s hometown to the very people he imagined helping years earlier.
Today, Rice Love finds families in India with temporary job loss or illness to give to. Every family is delivered 25 kilos of rice. Families share their photo and story on ricelove.org to say, "Thank you!"