Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Brown.
Hi Melissa, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Nine years ago, I was in Nicaragua visiting my parents, who moved there in 2007 to take their non-profit full-time, which they started with the purpose of serving rural communities in Nicaragua devastated by Hurricane Mitch. New Song Mission was doing amazing things through health, wellness, and community-building initiatives. Having visited each year since the mission began, I tried to convince my husband Jon to let us move there, but life circumstances would not allow it.
I knew I had to get creative and partner with New Song stateside. When we walked the coffee farm on our trip in 2012, I saw how hard the farmers worked, and when I tasted how wonderful their coffee was, a light bulb went off. I decided that I was going to import coffee from that farm and donate a portion of the proceeds to New Song.
I wrote a business plan on the back of a Delta napkin on the flight home, and six weeks later, Well-Bean Coffee was born. The name was the perfect mix of my passions for wellness, great coffee, and doing good for others.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
After a failed coffee bar on a college campus, to an unsuccessful coffee drive-thru booth, my husband Jon and I were out of money, and in a lot of personal debt. I knew I was supposed to start Well-Bean. I knew it was bigger than me, my pocketbook, or my pride. I knew it was worth the risk, and I had to push on. About the time the coffee drive-thru was almost out of business someone asked if I could deliver coffee beans to their office.
Then it hit me that there were no coffee roasters in the area focusing on “office coffee.” So, I went to Jon and said I wanted to start my own coffee roastery. Well… that conversation didn’t go as planned knowing my track record, but he said if I built my coffee route (out of our upstairs) and started selling 1,000 pounds of coffee per month, then I could start my own roastery. I took on the challenge.
Fast forward into 2015, our office coffee business began to flourish and we grew so fast over the next four years that we got the attention of three publicly-traded, office coffee corporations wanting to buy my coffee routes. I would keep the roastery and the Well-Bean name. We ended up selling our office coffee routes and thankfully we closed the deal just before a global pandemic because it allowed us to avoid bankruptcy.
I still had that deep, quiet confidence that Well-Bean was not over, and that I should get up, rebrand, and go after it. It was clear I needed to make the scary jump into selling our coffee online through e-commerce because this is what had to happen to be able to support New Song Mission and the farmers who depended on our continued success.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Well-Bean provides craft coffee beans for distributors, restaurants, and cafes and offers coffee subscriptions through our e-commerce website as well as on Amazon. Sustainability and giving back are at the forefront of our mission. With a focus on direct trade, we help supply farmers with larger profits.
Every purchase of Well-Bean Coffee gives back to health initiatives through our partnership with New Song Nicaragua. I am proud to say that Well-Bean is a woman-owned and operated company, which is a rarity in this industry. Less than 1% of coffee roasters in the U.S. are owned by women.
Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I’ve always had a “go-big or go-home” spirit. I started my career in the health & fitness industry and participated in highly competitive hobbies such as CrossFit, triathlons, and national fitness competitions like Ms. Fitness USA. I’ve even appeared on HGTV’s “Love it or List it” and as a contestant on Fear Factor.
My relentless drive and determination within the wellness field poured over into the coffee industry where I decided to merge my love of philanthropy, travel, and entrepreneurship.