Arron, the founder of Redemption Road Coffee, knew at 10 years old he wanted to be a pastor. He grew up in Texas where his dad and grandfather were both pastors and planted churches across the state.
However, school didn’t come easy for him. That is, until he was prescribed Adderall in high school and went from a D student to straight A’s. A funny guy that loved sports and socializing, the pills made him become an honor student over night, but with that went his personality and ability to talk to people.
Aaron’s mother saw the changes, too. On the weekends, when he normally would race bikes and throw a football with friends, he preferred the solitude of his Algebra homework. She grew concerned that the best parts of him were being erased by this miracle drug.
She talked with some friends and learned about studies being conducted pointing to coffee being effective in treating ADHD. Aaron stopped the medication, switched to coffee, and was able to focus without losing his personality.
📚In College and Seminary, he was going through $60 a month in coffee. For a young student, coffee that didn’t taste like a soggy ash tray was becoming unaffordable.
At a 4th of July party with other young men from seminary, Aaron saw someone off on their own, roasting coffee and humming quietly.
What in the world, he thought. Aaron excused himself and walked over.
“How much does that cost you, “he asked.
“Around $5 a pound, it’s almost too easy.” the man replied.
“How so?” Aaron replied.
“Designer coffee at Walmart prices.” The young man then began demonstrating how it worked.
Aaron was stunned. He began roasting.
Aaron soon found himself to be the standard for a man in his late 20’s: wife, career, coffee. However, God put on Aaron’s heart the same message his father and grandfather received: grow my ministry.
How, he prayed.
Kingdom Growth, God replied.
Aaron knew now what he needed to do. To spread God’s Kingdom through kindness. The type of kindness that doesn’t come with subtext of Do’s and Don’ts, or that is attached to a particular religion. Just pure, unfiltered love.
Ok, he prayed. I will.
In 2011 Aaron gave his ministry a name: Redemption Road. It is filled with followers like he and his wife who come together for fellowship and Aaron’s roasted coffee.
“You should sell this,” a member of Redemption Road said after a meeting.
The seed was planted. Redemption Road Coffee was born.
🛣️Opening a coffee business seemed confusing. He watched other entrepreneurs around him in the coffee world gravitate towards high margins, corporatism, and fancy coffee culture that was devoid of eye contact. Aaron felt lost. He didn’t want to chase money or manage multiple coffee shops run by foam-art trained baristas.
“Just trying to find single origin coffee mentors, I came into a culture of customers paying $18-24 a lb. People in that community felt unapproachably ‘affluent’; that they were so far above me they were just looking over me.” He recalls.
This feeling of not belonging was perhaps God calling him to look at the process. As it all starts with harvesting, Aaron had to ask the hard question a lot of us don’t want to, because the answer is terrifying. Who is harvesting this coffee?
🚜The world of coffee, as Aaron learned, has an odor of other big-name brands: corrupt. The accessibility, and within reason affordability, of Starbucks, Dunkin Doughnuts, etc., comes at a cost to the farmers who grow the coffee plant. These big-name companies have contracts with farmers across the world, however the wages paid are barely enough for these farmers to break even. This prevents the farmers from leaving these contracts to pursue business elsewhere; keeps margins to where they pay $1 per lb. of coffee, and we pay $18. Those big profits are benefiting 1st-world workers vs 3rd-world workers.
What Aaron also discovered is that even local brands were skimming off the top. Charging for a pound of coffee (16 oz.), but after it’s roasted it only weighs 12 oz.
As the makings of Redemption Road Coffee began to weave together, uncertainties began to arise beyond the unfairness of coffee trading.
What does scripture say, he would continuously ask himself while forming his business.
Aaron began to work with farmers in a way that is unheard of. Instead of telling them what he would/will pay for their product, he asks them, “What do you want me to pay you? What is fair?”
This is the Kingdom Growth God put on Aaron’s heart. His company began to show love to farmers who had before only been exposed to greed.
“When you strip my company bare, I want people to see Jesus—labor with fair wages, housing, healthcare; we purposefully pay triple market value for the coffee to ensure these things for the farmers.” Aaron said.
And Aaron brings this fairness to customers as well by offering some of the lowest margins for the highest-grade coffee available in the States. Though this means he has to work twice as hard to sell at a higher volume and his wife Jessica had to take on a part-time job to make sure bills were paid.
Today, Redemption Road Coffee continues in spite of the pandemic. The company and ministry survive on the same values and gospel despite the fear and change COVID has inflicted.
It is truly remarkable to speak to Aaron and his wife Jessica about where they see Redemption Road Coffee in five years.
“Our goal is to continue to help educate customers on the world of coffee and the world of Jesus. I allow Jesus to lead my work and lead my company. I let Jesus lead.” Aaron reflected.
What is so mystical about this business approach is that its only safety net is faith and trust; in something Aaron can’t see in an Excel spreadsheet, confirm with an accountant, or secure with an investor.
“I live in a much bigger story than coffee.”
~Hannah King, Owner
ABC Provisions: feel good about what you're eating.