Jennifer Alexander, '08
Jennifer Alexander, ’08 alumna, and Carlos Monzon, ’07 graduate, are the founders of Chapín Coffee LLC. Chapín was founded to bring Fair Trade and Organic certified specialty coffee to consumers and give back to the coffee-growing communities in Guatemala. With the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America, about 3 of every 4 kids in the rural coffee-growing communities of Guatemala are suffering. For every bag sold, Chapín works with the non-profit Pueblo a Pueblo, to deliver children living in the coffee-growing area 3 school meals. We were able to talk to Jennifer and learn about the mission of her growing business and the value the Booth network has brought her and Carlos.
Jen, what motivated you and Carlos to start Chapín Coffee?
It all started with our mission – helping to end the childhood chronic malnutrition epidemic in Guatemala. Carlos, whose parents are both from Guatemala, grew up around the many coffee farms and passionately wanted to help the children suffering from malnutrition in the area. With Guatemala producing some of the world’s highest quality specialty coffees, we could close the loop and sell this coffee while making a difference and giving back. Each bag gives three meals to a child living in the area the beans were sourced. Right now we’ve feed kids just under 6 thousand meals. Hopefully more by the time this is published!
I agree! Hopefully more. You’re giving back – that’s amazing. How did you get started? Did you or Carlos have a background in the food industry?
After leaving Booth, I worked at BCG, focusing solely on Consumer Goods. After a year, I left my traditional role to get experience working for smaller firms and startups. I honestly wanted to start giving back and using everything Booth taught me to help others. When thinking about starting Chapín, we started reaching out. We were able to meet up with Booth Alumni who were also starting food businesses and learned from what they were doing. We were able to share stories and connections – helping each other build a network that could support each of our businesses.
That’s great that you’ve been able to leverage the network. What do you feel Entrepreneurship has taught you?
So much. Every day I’m learning. Every day it’s something new, and I think that’s what it taught me, how to handle change. I remember going thru LEAD facilitator training at Booth and the huge breakthroughs I had. It made me very self – aware. I continue to remind myself of what it taught me and tell myself it is okay to not have all the answers. It is okay because I can figure them out! That’s what Booth has taught me. That and I can reach out to others and learn from their experiences. Collaboration with the Alumni network has been extremely helpful. I have been able to learn from them and grow friendships with many of them. The alumni and the friends I’ve made in school have been greatly supportive as we’ve gotten started.
With the challenges of a new business, how do you keep going every day?
The children of Guatemala and giving back to them. The first time I went to Guatemala was when I led a second year Booth random walk. I went there and fell in love with the people, the land, and all that they do. Knowing that I’m giving consumers a high-quality product and giving back to the people who farm coffee for Chapin, and several other businesses, means the world. The children, and our mission, “Fuel Your Day with Purpose”, gets me up every day.
What is the focus of Chapín currently? Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?
We’re growing every day, but now it’s all about prioritizing, working with retainers and displaying marketing that will have the most impact on consumers. We’re trying to grow our distribution network and increase what we’re giving back the children in Guatemala. Our vision is that in five years, we’ll be selling at stores nationwide.
I’m amazed by your business and what you and Carlos have done. Now the important question – where do I buy it?
That is the important one! We’ve worked with a number of retailers in the Chicago land area, and Minneapolis to have it on the shelf. But we also sell it online – go check out www.Chapíncoffee.com and www.artizone.com. If you’re in the Chicago-land area – check out our single-origin coffees and expresso drinks at Delicious Café in Roscoe Village. Let me know what you think!