WEST CHICAGO – When the Andersens were looking to go into the coffee industry, they knew they wanted to do things differently.
Rather than working with just anyone, Eric and Krista Andersen of Geneva sought to benefit small farmers from around the world directly by partnering with importers and foundations that support farming communities with education and other services.
“We don’t want to just hand them money and say, ‘Go for it,’ ” Krista Andersen said. “The whole point of our business and of our importers and the foundations we work through is education.”
The Andersens’ West Chicago-based company, FreshGround Roasting, was named Small Business of the Year by the city in recognition of the business’ unique setup and story, and the growth it has seen in its first two years as a niche business in the community, said Rosemary Mackey, the city’s marketing and communications coordinator.
FreshGround was started in 2011 and is located at 100 Arbor Ave. in downtown West Chicago. It sells six kinds of coffee beans, as well as a few blends, through its website.
Customers can choose to have the coffee sent to them or pick it up at locations throughout the Chicago area. In addition to selling coffee, the company also offers tasting and brewing classes for local clubs and other groups.
FreshGround Roasting engages in direct trade, which means that what the Andersens pay for the coffee beans they import directly supports the farmers that harvested those beans, Krista said.
Before opening their business, they had heard about direct trade but learned more through their own research.
“We discovered more of that potential and knew right away that that’s what we’d rather do,” she said.
The farms that provide coffee beans to FreshGround Roasting are located in Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
Often these farmers don’t receive a fair amount for their beans because they don’t know their products’ worth, Krista said.
Together with her husband, she hopes to change that reality through the education provided by their partners.
The work FreshGround Roasting has done during the last two years has been recognized in the West Chicago community, as evidenced by the company’s nomination for one of the city’s Brilliance in Business awards.
“I think FreshGround Roasting is such a unique business, and they’re doing such a wonderful job growing their business here in downtown West Chicago,” Mackey said.
The nominating process began in July, and the winners were decided by a committee of city staff in September. Winners were announced to the public in October.
The winning businesses will be honored at the City Council meeting Nov. 18.
“West Chicago has been very good to us,” Krista said.