Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sean Warner, Owner of Honduran Coffee Alliance, located in Danli, El Paraiso, Honduras.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Honduran Coffee Alliance is a social enterprise that facilitates long-lasting, just trade relationships between coffee farmers and buyers, contributing to an equitable transformation of the supply chain. We like to think of ourselves as the "eharmony" for coffee, connecting people -producers and buyers - that otherwise may not meet. We primarily work with coffee roasters in the US and Canada but also sell to importers and are beginning to expand into selling to other countries. As a social enterprise, HCA works for profit to fund its operations and to invest back into the model and the members, with the goal of creating a vibrant community. Our most important metrics to measure our success as a social enterprise is based on having a positive impact on producers.
Tell us about yourself
I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and, from there, went on to work for Lockheed Martin in Texas. I loved my job, but I always had the drive to do something different and make a real impact. My wife formed a project with our church in Texas and a church in Honduras to sponsor impoverished kids to go to school. As the project grew and evolved and through months of prayer, we decided to move to Honduras. After living in Honduras for two years, a small roaster in Texas asked me if I could help him buy coffee from a Honduran farmer. As I began to explore the industry, I discovered my entrepreneurial drive to form something of my own that would make a lasting impact. In Honduras, the coffee industry comprises 30% of the agricultural GDP and 5% of the country's total GDP, involving an estimated 120,000 families across the country. The opportunity to make a positive, lasting impact is clear, and we are starting to see this come to fruition.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Enduring. There have been some tough times and a lot of tough decisions. We were poised to finally have our breakthrough year going into 2020, and then COVID hit. I spent two weeks in Honduras tasting coffee and preparing samples for a large suite of interested buyers. The samples landed with the buyers a few days before the world's shutdown. I had been plagued by self-doubt even before this, and then seeing so much coffee go unsold was hard. I went into the following harvest very unsure of the future of HCA, but in the end, I was able to secure our largest client to date and triple our total sales. Pushing through this hard time and now having several years of growth is what I am most proud of.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Juggling so many hats. Running a small company, I feel like I am filling so many different roles - accountant, accounts receivable, marketing, manager, sales, etc. It is hard sometimes to feel like I am doing everything but not doing anything well. In some ways, I think I thrive off of the challenge of learning these different roles, but at the same time, it is very difficult. I know that as we grow, I will need to make the right decisions in terms of delegating and hiring.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I firmly believe in a mission beyond profitability. Anyone starting a business should identify and build around their why.
- Find one to two people that you can bounce tough questions off of. When I have had tough decisions or challenges in front of me, this has been a huge help.
- Don't Worry, Be Happy. Whenever I get stressed, my wife just starts singing that song. It is a bit silly, but the reality is as business owners, we face a lot of tough decisions. You just have to be able to take it in stride.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.