This coffee company aims to take fresh to a new level, and they’re doing it one bag at a time.
When you think of countries known for coffee, you might think of Colombia, Brazil, or even Indonesia; however, coffee grown in Honduras is quickly becoming incredibly popular. In fact, Honduras is currently the largest coffee producer in Central America, and the quality of Honduran coffee is some of the best coffee in the world.
Jose Oliva, originally from a small village in Honduras, is a seasoned entrepreneur working to make his dream of owning a coffee company come true.
Oliva founded Calabash Coffee with a relatively simple goal – to take fresh coffee from its source, roast it before it has a chance to become stale and ship it directly to you.
Now a U.S. citizen, Oliva said, “I wanted to find a way to stay connected to my country, my family, what I knew, what I did, and what was familiar to me.”
He said that while he has had the opportunity to start several businesses, coffee has always been near and dear to his heart because it makes up approximately 90% of his village’s economy, with roughly 7,000 people today.
Essentially, Calabash Coffee purchases fresh coffee beans directly from local farms in Honduras, roasts them immediately after purchase, and then ships the product to the United States for distribution.
Oliva said while the coffee industry is incredibly competitive and saturated, they have found their prioritization of freshness has allowed them to stand apart from their competition.
He said that when coffee companies in the United States produce their product, they are only required to put a package expiration date on their product after they roast the beans in America. He said that, essentially, a coffee company could sell you a product that has been sitting in a warehouse for months, even years, before production, and you would never be able to know it.
Oliva said the Calabash guarantee is that every bag of coffee you buy from them is roasted almost immediately after being harvested from the field.
From the company’s onset, Oliva knew that building a coffee brand from the ground up would be very challenging. So he is directly involved with the process, which requires him to travel back and forth between the United States and Honduras to guide production from the farms to the roastery and then to distribution.
Oliva’s business model revolves entirely around the concept of efficiency. As a result, he wanted to take out as much overhead as possible when developing the concept.
For example, instead of owning warehouse space in the United States, Calabash Coffee either ships its product directly to Amazon or stores it in a shared area they rent from a multi-subleased commercial warehouse.
Additionally, Oliva says Calabash Coffee cuts overhead costs by eliminating the need for a physical office in the United States because most of its production occurs in Honduras.
Oliva said that as Calabash Coffee began to develop, he wanted to try out an efficiency model where they could prioritize flexibility, allowing them to utilize their tools to the greatest possible extent.
Oliva said today he could track most of the business’s production through online tracking systems that allow him to follow the process step by step.
Oliva’s journey in entrepreneurship has been long developing, and Calabash Coffee is currently one of two companies he owns.
He said that entrepreneurship to him is a labor of love. He has self-funded all of his businesses, in which he takes great pride.
Oliva said that one of the most significant challenges in business is finding correct information and developing a usable knowledge base. For example, fund allocation, government filing, transportation, etc., are all complex systems that an entrepreneur needs to develop a strong base of understanding to flourish and grow.
Oliva said that when he moved to the United States, he started an automobile export company that shipped cars directly to Honduras for their consumer base. He said the automobile export industry is surprisingly challenging as the rules change frequently.
Oliva said his experience in the export industry laid the groundwork for the understanding he needed to start Calabash Coffee, as he has no direct control over the export process himself. Instead, he must work closely with officials to ensure his shipments flow smoothly.
Oliva shared that his experience with business and entrepreneurship started when he was 19 years old and in college. He said that his mother wanted him to go to college, but he ultimately saw the tremendous stress it was putting on her financially.
He said that while she did not intend for her stress to impact him, he could not stand by while his mother struggled.
At that point, Oliva decided to take a year off from college to see if he could find a way to make money to help ease the pressure on his mom. That took Oliva back home, where he looked at what he could use around him to make money.
At the time, Oliva’s family owned five cows and a rundown car on their property that they mainly used as a chicken house. But, he said, “I think a lot of Latino American people can identify with that.”
Oliva said his first decision was to sell their five cows and use the money to fix the car. Then, after miraculously repairing the vehicle, he used it to drive to the capital city of Honduras to meet with the owner of a popular bread company.
Oliva said that he asked them if he could buy bread wholesale and then sell it to people around his hometown because it was not being sold in his region. He said that after he bought the first shipment of bread, he was able to sell it all before even making it back to his hometown.
From that experience, Oliva learned that if you have a good product, treat people well, and conduct business honestly, people will receive you well anywhere in the world. He also said that the experience allowed him to build relationships with small companies around that region.
From there, Oliva raised enough money from buying and selling the bread to eventually come to the United States.
When asked how he plans to scale up Calabash Coffee in the future, Oliva said that the company’s next step is to open a physical café where they can conduct better U.S.-based market analysis on their product.
Oliva said he hopes to aid in developing a more cultured coffee environment in the United States and is eager to find ways to build naturally flavorful products further. He said Calabash Coffee is constantly experimenting with roast recipes in Honduras and wants to find new ways to make the best coffee products possible.
You can “taste the extravagance of this effort in every sip.”
For more information on Calabash Coffee and its products, visit https://calabashcompany.com