Great coffee. That is what Travis and Julie Hester were after when they opened Kingdom Growers Coffee in Forney. But the story that led them to start importing, roasting and selling high-quality coffee involves impacting the lives of coffee growers around the world and helping people understand the value of their work.
“Before this we had moved to Honduras to work in missions,” Travis Hester explained. “Julie taught English, and I was doing an agricultural program at a seminary. We encountered what poverty really is and started to question if the systems we know and how the western style of doing things was translating into other places.”
As they worked alongside a local church group, Hester saw how a co-op business model among farmers, who often have less than three acres of land, could supply quality coffee if there was a way to get them to markets in the United States.
“In a way we had been going with the old adage about teaching a man to fish so he could eat for a lifetime,” Hester said. “What we found was, they know how to fish but don’t have access to a place to fish.”
Upon returning home to Forney, the Hesters took a leap of faith to put their business ideas to the test. Opening the Kingdom Growers roaster to sell finished products and selling the high-quality beans to other roasters proved to be a success but only by working to make a niche in the market and keeping high quality and good value as top priorities.
“We knew it is a crowded, saturated market,” Hester said. “Our story and the impact we have makes us different, but leveraging that was not enough. We want to offer a good value proposition and unique product to get enough market share to survive and grow.”
In 2018, Kingdom Growers moved to a larger space in Talty, which allowed a retail coffee shop to open. While the location is a bit out of the major traffic areas, it makes a great place for local coffee lovers to visit and drink the freshest cup available while watching coffee roasting in action.
“We already have to have the brewing equipment for quality control, so with this extra room we decided to open and hope that the community would respond and want to participate with us and so far, so good,” Hester said.
Now, Travis Hester spends about 20 weeks each year traveling to meet coffee growers and educate them about business practices and quality standards to help them develop their small businesses. Meanwhile, Julie helps manage the logistics and operations stateside.
“We have about 975 families around the world that work with us and depend on us to do our part to develop a thriving company,” Hester said. “Meanwhile, we are depending on them to keep a high standard and invest in their crops to meet our quality standards. We are all in it together to make sure that they can receive the value for their work and go forward to make positive changes in their communities.”
Kingdom Growers is located at 9558 Helms Trail, Suite 800A in Forney and online at kingdomgrowers.com.