New Horizon Coffee demonstrates a commitment that extends beyond just brewing the perfect cup. The company exclusively partners with Fair Trade coffee suppliers, ensuring every bean used is single-origin, known for its stomach-friendly properties and clean ingredients. Through sourcing from such dedicated farmers, New Horizon guarantees that they receive a just and consistent price, covering the average cost of sustainable production and offering financial stability. This approach enables farmers to budget for future farming seasons, manage household expenses, and contribute to the development of their local communities. The beans, which are organically and sustainably sourced, are delivered directly to customers’ doors. Notably, 20% of all profits from New Horizon Coffee are dedicated to providing a second chance for victims of human trafficking. Rosie Luciano, the founder and creator of New Horizon Coffee, has been generous enough to sit down for a conversation.
Grayson Mask: I’m keen to delve into your story. My first question is: Before starting your business, were you a frequent coffee consumer or involved in the coffee business?
Rosie Luciano: Yes, I was quite into coffee. I used to work at Starbucks. After leaving, I missed making my own drinks. So, I began roasting my own beans. I still drink a lot of coffee.
GM: Before you started this business, was your idea more driven by the mission to address human trafficking, or was it primarily about the coffee? I’m curious to know when and why you decided to incorporate the human trafficking element.
RL: It was a blend of both passions. I genuinely love coffee, but I also wanted to make a positive impact on the community. There are numerous coffee shops, but I sought something that stood out. I noticed that human trafficking, especially in Texas, isn’t widely discussed. Many people steer clear of the topic due to its gravity. However, I’ve observed that recently, there’s a growing openness to address it. So, I merged my love for coffee with my desire to shed light on this crucial issue. That’s how the idea evolved.
GM: Can you provide some insight into the timeline leading up to the launch of your business? Was there a defining moment or inspiration that led to its creation?
RL: After enduring a five-year relationship breakup, I found myself isolated since all my previous friends were associated with him. During this period of solitude, I focused on my interests. I was studying social work, which exposed me to the topic of human trafficking. This sparked a deep interest, and I began to research intensively. Interestingly, I already had experience roasting coffee for personal use and for friends. The idea for the business wasn’t premeditated; it was more of an organic development, perhaps even arising from my need to engage in meaningful work during that lonely period. It surprised me to discover that Texas ranked second in the prevalence of human trafficking. This knowledge fueled my curiosity further. While interning in another social work capacity, I grappled with how I could contribute to addressing this issue. Although I was committed to social work, I wanted to find a unique approach to it.
GM: Once you had the motivation and knew you could roast the coffee, did you instantly have a vision of how you wanted to sell and distribute it? Were you immediately inclined towards an online or delivery model?
RL: Not immediately. I was aware that, given my circumstances, I’d have to start by selling online, so that’s how it began. I didn’t have many connections in the business world, so it was a journey of learning and adapting. I followed my instincts, my experiences, and what my heart was telling me. Eventually, I sought guidance from a mentor. This was a turning point, as I felt a bit lost before that. With their advice, I began exploring other avenues, like local pop-ups.
GM: Speaking of your mentor, is there any standout advice or insights you’ve retained from them? What’s the most impactful guidance you’ve received?
RL: One critical piece of advice was the importance of finance management and tax obligations, which I wasn’t familiar with. It’s foundational to business longevity. Another profound insight he shared was that passion should drive business rather than the mere pursuit of profit. If you’re genuinely passionate about what you do, financial gains become secondary.
GM: With that advice in mind, and knowing that your mentor emphasized exploring markets, what was the initial feedback when you introduced your coffee at these markets? Was there a particular product or flavor preference from customers?
RL: Many showed a liking for the dark or medium roast. This preference guided my decision to focus more on these roasts.
GM: Besides the roast preferences, did customers indicate a preference for a particular type of coffee bean? I’m interested in your sourcing process and if deciding on the origin of the coffee beans poses challenges for you.
RL: Most people don’t delve deeply into bean origins. Their primary concerns are quality and affordability. While pitching to some restaurants, I found that they often opt for more cost-effective alternatives due to our premium pricing.
GM: Given that your coffee leans towards higher quality, which justifies the price point, how do you source your beans? Do you work with wholesalers, and do you lean towards single origin beans or a blend from multiple origins?
RL: We partner with wholesalers and primarily focus on single origin beans. It’s essential that our suppliers align with our quality standards. We’ve collaborated with a particularly good one that offers organic coffee. I emphasize beans that are low in acidity since high-acid coffee can be harsh on the stomach. Balancing flavor with low acidity is crucial for us.
GM: With your current strategies in place and the feedback from festivals, are your primary sales channels still festivals and online sales? Are you considering branching into retail spaces anytime soon?
RL: While I’ve considered moving into a retail space, my mentor advised against it for now. He recommended that we continue with online sales and local pop-ups. I do aspire to transition to retail, but it doesn’t seem like the right move at this moment.
GM: On your website, there are various subscription packages available. How is that working out? Are most of your sales individual coffee bags, or do many of your customers opt for the subscription plans?
RL: Currently, our primary focus is on the subscription plans, as a significant portion of our customer base prefers it. Many order the three-bag option due to their high coffee consumption rate. So, yes, most of our customers lean towards subscription.
GM: Given the mission-driven origins of your brand, particularly around raising awareness about human trafficking, do you have ongoing projects or initiatives related to this cause?
RL: Yes, we’ve committed to donating 20% of our proceeds to New Friends New Life, a local organization. That’s been our mission from the start. We also strive to stay informed about current events and spread awareness about issues related to human trafficking, especially within Texas. I’ve received offers to conduct a class, which I’d like to pursue once I become more confident with in-person public speaking. That’s something we’re aiming for in the future.
GM: Moving back to the subscriptions, when customers opt for a subscription, do you see a high retention rate? How do you transition someone from just trying your coffee to becoming a subscriber?
RL: Often, customers initially buy a single bag to test the coffee. If they like it, they become repeat customers. Some might try various coffee options before deciding on a subscription. Primarily, those who genuinely enjoy our coffee end up subscribing. A large portion of our base consists of repeat customers.
GM: Finally, can you shed some light on the business’s future goals or projects for the upcoming year? Whether it’s related to the human trafficking mission or plans for new sales or marketing avenues for the coffee?
RL: At the moment, we’re working on fundraising to get our coffee in stores as canned bottles. That’s our end-of-the-year goal. We also aim to conduct a class to educate, especially hotel and restaurant workers, on recognizing signs related to human trafficking, given its prevalence in these sectors. Hosting an event around this is also on our radar. Those are our end goals for New Horizon Coffee. Our aim is to develop a formulation to get our coffee in stores as bottled drinks. It’s an ongoing process, so the timeline could be by this year-end or early next year.