Last July 10, Soldadera Coffee, a local startup from Grand Rapids, won $20,000 in a pitch competition promoted by 100 Ideas. They were one of the 10 contestants, out of 100, who received the prize.
Mario Rodriguez, co-founder of Soldadera, spoke with Vive Michigan Magazine about their small business and how their inspiring idea and product have jumped into the Grand Rapids craft coffee and entrepreneurial scene.
The family-owned business of siblings Mario and Gabriella Rodriguez devised their cold-brew coffee business venture after two incredible stories that came together to form a great business idea.
First, their grandmother Cristina, a social activist back in Mexico, was known for her specialty drink cafe de olla. She used to set up tables with cafe de olla throughout Mexico City, as a token of kindness for the community. “I remember when I was a child, she used to take me to different religious venues and gave away free café de olla,” stated Mario Rodriguez.
Café de olla means “coffee from a clay pot,” a unique blend of coffee originated during the Mexican revolution. This is where the second story comes in, as soldaderas, or often called adelitas, were “women who fought in the Mexican revolution alongside men.” Some fought in battle while others helped around the camps. It was the first time that women went against the norms in traditional times.
This coffee was made by soldaderas, to help the soldiers refuel in the mornings and at night. During the revolution in 1910, Mexican women played a critical role, not just on the battlefield but with basic duties such as cooking for those fighting the war. They would put this coffee in clay pots, brew it and give it to the soldiers and drink it themselves.
Therefore, their grandmother, a truly late 20th century soldadera, with a passion for cafe de olla and eager to serve the community and to empower women, was the inspiration of Soldadera Coffee, not only for her incredible and unique coffee recipe, but also for her social activism; that translates today in the company’s purpose, which seeks to address women’s issues.
“Nowadays in Mexico, the name soldaderas is used to refer to any woman who struggles and fights for her rights. The name inspired us to use it as a symbol that represents our purpose of empowering women, especially from minorities, to fight for their rights and to promote gender equality,” added Mario.
The team, comprised of Mario and Gabriela Rodriguez, their father Cesar and Erinna Espinosa, came up with the idea of a specialty cold-brew coffee a few years back but officially launched in August 2017.
Soldadera produces a cold-brew coffee, using a blend of certified organic, fair trade and rainforest-safe coffee beans sourced from Guatemala and Mexico. The coffee is made with piloncillo (sugar cane), cloves, cinnamon, anise, water, and Central American coffee beans. Their product’s uniqueness lies in offering a realm of “cultural” flavors, not seen in regular cold-brew coffees.
Soldadera Coffee is currently produced in the incubator kitchen at the Downtown Market of Grand Rapids. “All the products are made and packaged ready for consumption at the incubator kitchen, which we rent on a regular basis to keep up with demand,” Rodriguez explained.
Their goal, especially now that they have won the $20,000 prize, is to increase production in greater quantities and thus expand their coffee through farmers markets, specialty retail stores, and independent community coffee shops.
The company has a mission to raise awareness of women’s issues. The team has come together to resolve issues that have been put at the forefront of society today and that revolve around women’s inequality. Their purpose is to conquer gender inequality challenges while helping to make the world a better place.
So far, they are using social media like podcasts and Facebook to connect with women and talk about their stories to inspire others and, therefore, raise awareness of minority women’s issues. A portion of the company’s sales will be used to keep producing media content and to fund community event participation.
If you haven’t tried this delicious cold-brew coffee, make sure to purchase online at soldaderacoffee.com. Expect to find Soldadera Coffee at your local grocery any time soon in Grand Rapids.
Haz clic para leer en Español: Soldadera Coffee una inspiradora historia detrás de un café frío