Have you ever considered that living an adventure may not be one big sweeping decision? Rather, it is choosing to take little steps that move in a direction of impact, meaning, and purpose? Adventure is inherently a journey.
I’m not sure that I had every paused to fully consider this until having the opportunity to sit down with Brendon Maxwell, the Founder of Utopian Coffee. His life has been an adventure – one for the books.
A Good Coffee Connection
I became aware of Brendon and his company through goodMRKT. I sipped Utopian Coffee coffee while I visited for goodMRKT’s opening weekend; their Impact Day. Every brand in goodMRKT has a story and a give back component, Utopian Coffee was no different.
I learned that they believe in “Better Coffee for a Better World.” They stand behind the idea that coffee should be good for everyone involved in the supply chain; from the farmers to the roasters and ultimately to the coffee-drinker. As a coffee-lover myself, and someone who loves meeting bold people, I wanted to dive deep into Brendon’s experiences and drive.
A Backdrop of Impact
When Brendon came on the Zoom screen he was against a sage green background – certainly not the “Utopian blue” I have come to know from the brand. He quickly explained that he was in their brand new roasting facility – they had just closed on the property the day prior. The team was in the new space to plan for renovations, updates, and how to make this space their roasting home. He paused the work for our conversation.
With all that he had swirling, I would have understood if Brendon seemed rushed or eager to move through my questions. It was the complete opposite. He was fully present and engaged in our discussion all while flanked by the sage green reminder of the excitement and progress around him.
The timing of our conversation was special as it landed on such a significant day for Brendon and Utopian Coffee. A day that affirms Better Coffee for a Better World is resonating with people! Impact is happening!
A Big Brother with a Big Impact
As we spoke, and he shared details of his journey, I was increasingly struck by a theme. Brendon focused on the next right step. Through incrementalism, he developed a casual idea into an engine for impact.
Brendon began Utopian Coffee with a self expressed “level of naivety at 23 years old.” While he may have been self-described as naive, there were things he was certain of at that age. He was confident he wanted his life to fully embrace opportunities for impact and travel.
Brendon’s love for travel was the direct result of watching his older brother embrace adventure. His brother moved overseas and through living abroad he helped Brendon approach travel with enthusiasm and without fear. His brother normalized – and celebrated – the opportunity to see far-off places and experience a wide variety of people. Brendon refers to him as a “trail blazer.”
After college, Brendon felt the urge to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He thought, “I want to have those experiences as well.” This resulted in a 2-month trek across the South Pacific. That didn’t satisfy his thirst for travel and far off places, it urged it forward. The ferocious and relentless travel bug had bit him and prompted a goal to figure out how he could continuously “do this” – explore, experience, and go!
On one trip he was able to see the source of coffee and wondered if there was something there. Perhaps coffee would be a segue into the life of adventure and impact he was craving? Simultaneously, he was intrigued with the use of technology to create geography freedom. This was 10 years ago when e-commerce was in more of an infancy state. He was curious about the possibilities of a web-based coffee company.
A Utopian Was Born
Brendon called up a cousin and with his help, they began Utopian Coffee. Initially, there wasn’t funding to go far off places but it has grown, and so have those opportunities. Little by little, step after step, Brendon describes how the growth of his company has been “providential.”
What I loved most about our conversation is how all the details and nearly all of our discussion were about people. Brendon never talked about revenue models, projected growth, and spread-sheet like topics. He told me the names of farmers, described their communities, told me about their hopes, shared their hardships.
The people impacted by Utopian Coffee extend to those within the United States. He has assembled a team that believes fervently in the mission of Better Coffee for a Better World. I grinned when he told me about his roaster, Nick, the guy who is “wildly passionate” about coffee. Hearing the providential way that Nick and Brendon met was affirming of the seemingly serendipitous ways that Utopian Coffee has grown.
Better Coffee for a Better World
I write this story and I hope I can do justice to Brendon’s humble demeanor and powerhouse tales of impact. No story he told was shared in order to make much of himself. Each story allowed the farmer to be the hero and he was a mere supporting character in the tale of transformation. I loved that.
Pablo on the front porch, sitting with Brendon, emotional over the way the payment for his crop honored the work of his hands – for the first time.
Supporting a Guatemalan co-op that flies in the face of machismo and values women in a way they haven’t been honored before.
Felix, living where the dirt road ends, high upon a mountain, and with a view that steals the oxygen from your lungs. Full of gratitude to welcome his first westerner, Brendon, onto his property. The porch, the weather, his face, the conversation – something about that experience that caused Brendon’s heart to shift in a permanent way.
You can Boldly Pursue a Better World, Too.
One of the best parts about Brendon is how he is humble, matter of fact, and authentic. His energy is found in the impact of lives changed and people honored through his work. And to think, it all began with a desire to explore new corners of the world.
After talking to Brendon I was more sure than ever of my ability to impact this world. I am certain that taking a series of incremental steps will add up to something of significant value – not for me, but for those I serve.
It is my hope that in hearing the story of how Brendon has chosen to live boldly with his life, you will feel encouraged to do the same with your own. I hope you will boldly pursue impact.
Fun Note: I love Utopian Coffee so much that I subscribe to monthly shipments of their purpose-packed beans! We all have ways to use our dollars as a vote of support for people, causes, and impact.
What do you think? (leave a comment!)