Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mikaela Leaman, CAO of The Great Coffee Project, located in Baltimore, MD, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Great Coffee Project is a direct-to-consumer fresh-roasted coffee company formed by a group of neighbors, friends, and colleagues that came together around a single mission:

To make a positive and lasting global impact by delivering high-quality coffee through sustainable and ethical business practices. This mission is important to us because we want to make a difference in the world, and we believe that coffee is a powerful tool. We truly believe that change can start with a single cup of coffee.

We are US-based and currently only serve US customers. Our reach for impacting change starts locally, but we work with people worldwide to create the change we believe will create a brighter future. We begin locally by donating 15% of every sale to the non-profit of the customer's choice. This option allows organizations to build no-commitment fundraisers around our coffee by doing nothing more than selecting their organization from our dropdown at checkout. We are proud to be able to keep our price point competitive with other high-quality coffee brands while making that donation.

When we source the coffee, we utilize direct trade to the greatest extent possible, though COVID has made that more complex over the last few years. We do this because we want to ensure we understand the growing and processing practices of the farms we work with. We only buy coffee grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. That's better for the coffee, better for the farmers working with it, and the consumer. To promote sustainable growing practices, we have made a series of loans and grants to farmers in developing nations to give them the influx of money they need to build more sustainable growing practices. We started that effort before we ever sold our first bag of coffee. We believe sustainable farming is one tool to help establish a foothold in building a better life for farmers and their families.

We also believe in paying our farmers a fair price for their coffee. We can control this, and we want to do our part to ensure farmers are getting paid what their coffee is worth. We have built direct relationships with many of the farms we buy from to have that conversation and be sure they are being paid and treated fairly. When you purchase our coffee, you can rest assured knowing that you support a company working to make a difference in the world sustainably and ethically.

Tell us about yourself

Around two years ago, I moved to Baltimore, Maryland, started working for a cyber security company, and met my boss, now a colleague. We both were passionate about helping others and doing something good for this world. We would talk about it all the time and bounce ideas off of each other, and we quickly became good friends.

Eventually, he came up with the idea of a coffee company that gives back to the earth, community, and farmers. He brought me on as the Chief Administrative Officer of The Great Coffee Project. I love learning new things and tackling new challenges, so being a co-owner of this business was a natural fit for me.

What motivates me most is seeing how much good we can do in this world. I believe that coffee can be a real force for good, and we can make a difference, one cup of coffee at a time.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

For me, being able to help others is my biggest accomplishment, and I plan on using this business to do good in the world and help as many people as possible.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Owning a small business can sometimes be nerve-racking, with highs and lows. The hardest thing that has come with my ownership is knowing how great this business could be but not getting the recognition it deserves. That's why you have to work towards your goals every day to ensure your business is successful.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. If you dream of owning a business, chase it and make it happen! Life goes by quickly, and there's no reason you should miss out on something you are passionate about.
  2. Be prepared for all the good and bad of growing a business.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Recognize your strength and weaknesses.

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.

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