The foods we eat, their tastes and smells, all have a way of connecting us to the past. For Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, a business trip to Mexico, a sip of coffee at the end of a long day and reminiscing on time spent as a child serving coffee with his grandmother sparked an idea. From that spark he launched Soldadera Coffee in 2017 in partnership with his sister Gabriela.
In five years, Soldadera Coffee has grown from an idea to a line of cold brew coffees inspired by Mario and Gabriela’s grandmother, a social activist in Mexico.
Choosing the name Soldadera Coffee
Soldaderas were inspirational female soldiers who, despite being allowed to participate in the Mexican Revolutionary War, were not allowed to enter combat. Instead, they made several significant contributions to maintain and support front-line forces who were vastly outnumbered.
The soldaderas' daily observation of the fatigued Mexican soldiers led them to develop a unique brew of coffee herbs to re-energize them. This blend was made in a clay pot to retain heat, giving the coffee a pleasant, earthy flavor. Even the name, Café de Olla translates to “coffee from a clay pot.”
“The name of the company honors these powerful women and our grandmother,” Mario shared. “We use the same recipe our grandmother taught us. The branding and packaging, it all helps tell the story of our culture.”
Mario has received emails from customers, especially Mexican -Americans, who tell him, “This reminds me of my mom”- a familiar, heartwarming example of the impact they strive for.
A family company
Part of Soldadera’s success comes from the siblings’ life-long entrepreneurship. They had a lemonade stand as children, and Mario made wooden pens to sell while in high school. “I can remember being nine years old, walking through Meijer with my parents, and asking why we couldn’t have something on the shelves there,” Mario shared. Soldadera is now on shelves in over 115 locations across six states, including Meijer stores.
other local food businesses have also helped Soldadera scale to this level in five years. “Grand Rapids brings national and international investments to support the growth of local companies. The ecosystem here is why Soldadera has been able to partner with other companies, like Last Mile Cafe, Tastefull Vegan, Lively Up Kombucha and others to support each other in growing,” Mario told us.
Mario and Gabriella have big plans for the company in the next ten years. They are planning a national launch for 2024 and have their sights set on international markets as well. Expanded product lines and additional team members to support growth are all on the horizon. Their passion for the product will help drive success.
“You have to have a fire in your belly for this work,” Mario said. “If you are going to build a company, whether it is coffee, cookies, or any other product, you have to be passionate about what you are doing. Be able to say you will spend ten years of your life on this, regardless of if the company succeeds or not. There are resources to help with research, marketing, and the rest, but the passion makes it happen.”
Mario’s passion is obvious- Soldadera was founded on it. The importance of making a quality product so ingrained with their family’s culture cannot be separated from the story of this family company. Mario, Gabriela and Soldadera will continue that story by raising seed funds with angel investors and venture capital to aid their exponential growth. To connect with them, email email@example.com.