Coffee roasting was just a hobby for brothers Jeff and Brett Huey. With a stovetop popcorn roaster, they roasted a few pounds of coffee from time to time with several friends. Selling a bag here and there, popularity grew and a demand for the coffee increased among friends and their church community.
“It was a hobby because we loved coffee and we always had dreams and desires to have a restaurant or coffee shop to connect people,” Jeff said.
They upgraded to a larger in-home roaster, spread the roasting duties among those interested, and spent several months roasting from a friend’s garage closet. Labels led to branding and branding led to the name Seeds Coffee Co.
“Well the name is kind of two fold,” Jeff explained. “The actual bean is a seed. That’s what we’re focused around is the coffee seed and since we’re pastors, it’s a seed of the gospel or seed of faith.”
In October of 2011, Jeff and Brett sat down with close friends and planned the future of roasting coffee. The first order of business was to purchase a commercial coffee roaster, so they gathered $16,000 in one night to make the purchase and to have startup funds.
April of 2012 rolled around and the commercial roaster was installed in the break room of an office space supplied for free by a friend. Seeds Coffee Co. officially became a coffee roaster in Birmingham, Ala.
Now with a café next door to their roasting facility, they’re able to put their product directly in the cup for the community to enjoy. Their vision of being in the community and serving people of all ages and all backgrounds is now a reality. They wanted a location for community gathering, and now they have it.
The focus wasn’t just coffee. The group was fixated on coffee growing countries, areas they wanted to reach with the Gospel. They wanted to pay farmers an honest wage and work to develop direct trade. Self-prosperity wasn’t the agenda, both Huey brothers reiterated.
Much Time and No Pay:
Jeff and Brett, along with the other entrepreneurs, decided against paychecks from the new startup. Instead, they rationed their time to work with the intention of giving everything to grow the business and ministry it was becoming. Jeff and the others had other jobs and sources of income, but Brett dedicated his days to working for Seeds for no pay.
“I think we saw the risk. I probably didn’t see as much as the others money wise. One of my main roles was to just give my time,” Brett said.
Not to mention Brett was a newly wed and entered his marriage with the plan of working for free while his wife carried the couple financially. “I always thought growing up that I wouldn’t let my wife make more than me, and this was when I wasn’t a Christian,” Brett explained with a laugh. “I’ve never felt like a failure for not being able to support.”
No one was paid at first. The only staff members paid today are two girls who work in the café and receive a part-time salary for their efforts. Intentions are for more jobs and salaries paid, but the business remains in the early stages of growth.
“I’m still not paid and that’s fine,” Brett said. “It hasn’t been an issue and it’s been well worth the time. If I’m going to be selfish then yes, I’m going to worry about myself.”
Brett mentioned how in just two months the business is nearly out of debt, an unheard of reality for most startup businesses.
From the Farm to the Cup:
“We started thinking this could be something really cool for ministry,” Jeff said. “What we see is that coffee has opened this door to so many things.”
The entrepreneurial team has traveled the four corners of the globe in search of building honest relationships with coffee farmers in hopes of developing direct trade and substantial ministry. Traveling to Guatemala, India and Sumatra, the Seeds team has seen the coffee production, spoken with the farmers themselves, settled on a living wage for the people, and partnered with Christians on the ground to bring ministry to life.
“Every time we go, we hope to improve on making ground work there. A lot of vision is going into it,” Brett explained.
From the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16 grew the vision for the Seeds staff. This passage is commonly known for the teaching of only serving one master—either God or money. They focused on these passages:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Luke 16:10-11
To the team, it’s not difficult. God has trusted them with much and they want to be honest with what they’ve been given. This mentality is the life-blood of everything they do. They want to be honest with God and honest with people.
The staff just purchased their first direct trade coffee from Sumatra. They work with an importer in Atlanta that is connected with the farmers they know in Guatemala so they can purchase the beans at a fair price for all.
Until Seeds reaches a certain level of sales and roasting capacity, they cannot purchase direct trade because the requirements are too high. However, the importer in Atlanta is as close as they can get to direct trade while retaining honesty and fairness.
Brett isn’t worried about the business going under or suffering fallout. He simply said, “if it fails, then it fails, we don’t worry.” It’s all an understanding of how God has provided and the staff is being faithful to their calling.
“We’re not business people, we’re not café owners, we’re not even really trained in coffee,” Jeff said. “We just love it and it’s presented itself before us as something we can use.”