Arick Davis and Sarah Laman founded Last Mile Cafe in May of 2021 with a big vision. They launched the business with online fulfilment of roasted coffee and quickly expanded to supplying beans to local coffee shops, planning for their own storefront cafe in the near future. They wanted to build a company that put sustainability and living wages first, believing that when a company has authentic values at its core it will resonate with customers and employees. So far, they are seeing the proof of this concept in action.
When they announced a crowd funding campaign to build out their physical cafe space near the Boston Square neighborhood in Grand Rapids, they received emails from people interested in working for them as baristas. During this time of tight labor markets, their values first approach has connected with people.
When asked what they are looking for in employees, Arick shared, “Hiring people who believe in our mission matters more than people with a specific skill set. We will teach people how to roast coffee or prepare drinks, but we can’t teach them to care about sustainability and ethical sourcing.”
Training employees to know how to do the work is in the DNA of the company. They have found coffee roasting classes in New York that some staff will attend to gain needed skills. The unique roasting equipment for the company requires specific training as well, which will help develop their employees’ skills even more. “We care about the quality of our employees, and that means investing in training them for these roles,” Arick stated.
Last Mile Cafe has focused on using compostable containers. They are connecting with growers who use environmentally sustainable practices and who pay living wages to their workers in nations where coffee is grown. They are donating 10% of their profits to nonprofits aligned with their values. They are building the costs of these best practices into their pricing and finding customers who connect to their vision find value in the cost they pay. “It has to be authentic. You can’t turn to compostable materials or promote living wages to get more sales. You have to genuinely care about sustainability and then solve for the increased costs within your business model. Employees and customers will see it and everyone will benefit,” Arick said.