Note: Fernando Vaquero is a member of the FFI Regional Council.
The opening of a new coffee bean roasting business in the summer of 2012 is but one element of living the American dream for Calmar residents Fernando and Barbara Vaquero of Calmar.
The Vaqueros moved to the United States from their native Honduras eight years ago. After spending time first in New Jersey and then New Mexico, the Vaqueros decided to move to Iowa a couple years ago when Fernando was offered a good job, and because they wanted their children to get a good education. “And here we are,” Barbara said with a smile. “Our main decision was education, if you can do better, why not?”
The Vaqueros, parents of daughters Barbara, 10, and Isabella, 2, bought a home in Calmar and added space onto the garage to operate their coffee-roasting business called Bean Masters, Inc. Fernando is an industrial engineer who is assistant plant manager at Swiss Valley Farms cheese plant in Luana. He also has worked in his native Honduras training farmers to succeed in coffee-growing and other agriculture endeavors. Barbara, an agriculture engineer, has a strong background in environmental science, food safety and enforcement.
The Vaqueros are putting their backgrounds to good use in their at-home business, Bean Masters Inc. – which prides itself in sourcing and roasting premium quality coffees from around the world. “Our mission is to custom roast premium quality coffee in small batches, and to guarantee a finished product with a significantly greater degree of freshness than what the market currently offers,” Fernando said. Bean Masters wants to eventually sell to 5% of the established target market which consists of the Northeast Iowa counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek. In reaching that goal, Bean Masters will concentrate on three separate market segments – selling directly to local businesses, selling to grocery stores and retail chains, and selling online.
“We have acknowledged strong market competitors,” Fernando said, adding, “However, we believe that our coffee will be well positioned in the market.” That statement is based on the fact Bean Masters is the only coffee roaster in the immediate area, providing unmatched freshness.
In the spring of 2012, Bean Masters entered Winneshiek County Development’s Biz Booster Challenge business-plan competition. The business was awarded the highest amount presented that year, $3,700. That money has already been put to good use with the purchase of a professional label maker and sealer to professionally seal the packages the coffee is sold in. And about a year later business is going well. Bean Masters own label of coffee, K’uun Coffee, is selling at Luther College, Oneota Food Coop and The Perfect Edge, all in Decorah, and Annie’s Gardens & Greens in Calmar, Dough & Joe Bakery in Cresco, the Decorah Farmers Market and is used regularly at a variety of local businesses with a significant number of employees.
“We are expanding and making our business more efficient with the acquisition of a second, larger capacity roaster,” Barbara said in May of this year. “The support of the local community has been crucial to achieve this goal, and we are very grateful for that and we will continue to work hard to provide fresh, specialty roasted coffee.”
Source: Northeast Iowa Business Network (NIBN) newsletter, June 2013