Al Lopez is a fourth-generation coffee farmer, so it’s fitting that today’s episode is recorded in a coffee shop. Al has one of the most amazing stories you’ve never heard, and as he and Kevin share a few cups of Alma Coffee, you’ll discover the heart-filled lengths Al went to as he gave back to his community in Honduras.
Journey to the United States
Al grew up with coffee trees in his backyard, and it was his grandfather who instilled a love for them. He shares the story of how his grandfather encouraged him to pick and process the beans by hand, then took it a step further by allowing Al to sell the coffee and keep the profits. His father moved to the United States and Al joined him there on the promise of his own bicycle, and he shares the story of what it was like coming to a place with airplanes, electricity, indoor plumbing, and Coca-Cola in a can. He also shares the troubles he faced being ‘different’ in public schools, how he ended up in the military, and the injury that landed him in a factory.
Inspiration for the Future
While working in the factory, Al’s foreman kept telling him, “You have a head on your shoulders. Go to school.” So he did. From junior college to university, Al graduated with an accounting degree. As he waited for his first job interview, he had the crushing feeling that he wasn’t good enough to clean the bathrooms. Despite that, he had a phenomenal career there and moved to Sara Lee, where he really took off. He credits part of his success to growing up ‘on the streets.’
The Second Mountain
Al retired from his CEO position at age 42, having achieved his biggest goal. But he wasn’t finished yet; Al had a new purpose and it had nothing to do with his ego. He found himself being drawn back to his home in Honduras. For 800 years, farmers sold coffee and starved to death; they weren’t the ones making the money. Al decided to change that, and he shares the story of how he created Alma Coffee based on the idea of D2R, or ‘direct to roaster.’ But his holistic approach to helping the farmers goes much deeper.
The Real Deal
Al’s company was built, and he needed to find a roaster. He partnered with PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans after taking them to his farm in Honduras. He showed them that the story of his company, how he treats employees, and the difference it makes in the community was much more than a marketing ploy. It was the real deal because Al puts people first. He shares the three foundational pillars: improving lives, sustainable farming, and exceptional coffee. Al also shares his vision for the future; he wants the farming operation to continue 300 years after he’s gone.
The Definition of Success
Before Alma Coffee, the definition of success was the size of the paycheck. The golden parachute. Flying in private jets. But today, Al measures his success very differently: his farm director being able to buy his own home; his employees always having food, shelter, and community; lifting up the small town where he came from by improving the quality of life; his children wanting to continue the legacy. These things are the new definition of success.