Insights on greater productivity, leadership & collaboration from the Edoc team

Inspiration for Paying It Forward: Lessons from Alpha Coffee

how this small business is paying it forward

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Chris Abel, an Edoc associate who lives in Salt Lake City Utah.

While there, we held a meeting at Alpha Coffee, a veteran and military-spouse co-owned and operated coffee company.

In doing so, I saw firsthand how Alpha Coffee is an example of a values-driven company that believes success is about growing a business with purpose. They also believe that true success also includes giving back in the community.

About Alpha Coffee

On September 11, 2010, Alpha Coffee was co-founded by LTC(R) Carl Churchill, a combat veteran with 21 years of service as both an enlisted soldier and officer, and his wife Lori Churchill, a military spouse and coffee lover.

It just so happens that Carl and Edoc’s CEO/Founder Jim Mullaney (also a veteran) met years ago at an INC. Conference and have stayed in touch since—which is how I learned of Carl, Lori, and the company.

From the start, Alpha Coffee (then called Lock-n-Load Java) was a company guided by its principles and mission. They’ve stayed true to the simple mission:

Awesome Coffee

Be A Warrior

Have Fun

Give Back

Be A Warrior

The Alpha Coffee team promotes what they call “the warrior mentality and ethos,” in other words, the Alpha lifestyle.

That includes serving others (servant leadership), living a life of honor, embracing challenge, constantly striving for excellence, staying physically and mentally sharp, connecting with the outdoors and our natural world, and… drinking lots of awesome coffee.

All team members are committed to this spirit and lifestyle, as Carl explained to me on  my visit. They take pride in being part of a company that consistently provides outstanding, top grade premium coffee and serves its community of customers, its employees, and its suppliers with professionalism, honor, dignity, respect and integrity.

Giving Back to the Community

 Alpha Coffee does have amazing coffee—but they also support our military and our veterans.

“Right from the start we set up ‘Giving Back’ as one of our core bullet points in our mission statement. And we decided that we would focus on our local community, and especially giving back to veterans and their families. So we donate money, coffee and support to the charities listed on our website,” explains Carl.

More specifically, a portion of every batch of coffee they roast is sent to deployed troops.

In fact, since September 11, 2010, Alpha Coffee has sent almost 14,000 bags of coffee to deployed troops. As these troops will tell you, there is nothing like a hot cup of awesome to feel the support and love from home.

They also offer a discount to veterans, first responders and teachers—in other words, those who serve the community. “We have worked with the local schools quite a bit as well offering coffee and gift cards for programs that honor teachers who go above and beyond. I have spoken to a number of classes about Veterans Day and we’ve supported PTA events,” adds Carl.

They also host the Pat Tillman Honor Run for SLC, which raises money for its Tillman Scholars program. They’ve served coffee at the local business association breakfast and they host artists in the shop on quarterly art fairs and they give them a chance to sell their goods, too.

“We have also partnered with the local climbing group when they are doing trail days at local climbing spots and likewise with the Utah Avalanche Center,” says Carl.

The giving back doesn’t stop there. They also donate coffee baskets to raise money for non-profits during raffles.

Alpha Coffee looks to give back as much as they can, but they also want to be sure it’s sustainable. “The key is to know how much you can afford and then be able to say no, because if you don’t stay in business, you can’t keep helping long term,” explains Carl.

Teaching Leadership Skills in the Coffee Shop & In the Community

During our conversation over coffee, Carl (whose official title is Chief Coffee Officer) also talked to me about how his military background has shaped his approach to developing leaders. This isn’t just within the coffee shop, but it also includes developing leaders within the larger community, which I found really impressive.

In particular, he shared a story about how a local lacrosse team had asked him to help bring the team together early in the season. The aim was to encourage teamwork and to teach them leadership skills.

Based on his experience in the military taking young men and women from various walks of life and working with them to create teams that worked together at all times, he came up with an idea.

The concept was Judgement Day, a program with a few key concepts that would help kids develop strong leadership competencies, behaviors and traits on and off the field.

The Judgement Day Challenge

“Judgement Day is a formal initiation that involves being challenged, overcoming adversity, having to rely on others to succeed, and expanding your understanding of others on the team. This is something that every tribe has had in one form or another,” explains Carl.

During the Judgement Day program, the teens start their day very early.

They work individually, with “buddy teams” and they find themselves in situations where they have to rely on the larger group. They are pushed physically so that they have a chance to practice their teamwork skills and their resiliency muscles.

“That’s done in a variety of ways, including insisting that all movement be done as a team, team ‘punishment’ (usually in the form of pushups and burpees) for people not meeting the standard or giving up, to name a few examples,” explains Carl.

One of the most effective practices is the concept of the Battle Buddy that’s introduced even before the challenge. “The idea is that you are never alone on the team. Someone has your back,” explains Carl.

This is analogous to a Battle Buddy in the military that serves as a partner who supports another soldier in and out of combat scenarios.

That ‘Battle Buddy’ is someone people work closely with. It’s the person they do drills with. And it’s also the person who the coaches go to if a certain player doesn’t show up for practice, for example.

“That Battle Buddy becomes someone you are responsible for, and they are responsible for you. Often, we find that when someone on the team is struggling with school or having personal issues, they will confide in their Battle Buddy first, and then that person will often come to the coaches and let them know what is happening.”

Throughout this process, these teens start to become better leaders. They are more disciplined and they have more accountability to themselves and to each other. Just as important, they really start to act like a team.

“By the end of Judgement Day, these kids have begun to really come together as a team. The freshman especially have the opportunity to bond with the upperclassmen,” adds Carl.

Small Giant Companies Are Values-Driven Companies

Small Giants understand the value of establishing deep roots in their community. Alpha Coffee is an example of a company doing just that. In the process, they are developing leaders within their four walls and beyond.

We invite you to attend the next Small Giants Executive Breakfast interview of Joe Motz, CEO of The Motz Group. We’ll be tapping into the heart and soul of leadership with an in-depth, personal interview of Joe as part of our 2018 Small Giants Series, brought to you by the Entrepreneur’s Organization. Learn more and register here.

READ MORE:  #SmallGiantsCincinnati: Meet Other Likeminded Business Leaders in Our Region

Kim Sykes is a marketer at Edoc Service, Inc.

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