Alpha Coffee doesn’t just make great coffee – they’re also doing so, so much more for military and veterans. Alpha Coffee was co-founded in 2010 by retired U.S. Army veteran LTC(R) Carl Churchill and his wife, Lori Churchill. Together, they’ve sent more than 19,000 bags of coffee to deployed troops around the world through their Coffee for Troops initiative, where every bag of coffee purchased helps send the equivalent of a cup of coffee to deployed troops.
They also offer a 10% Veteran Discount on all coffee and cocoa products.
In 2017, Alpha opened their first coffee shop, staying close to home with their first location at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. They now own two shops and are growing.
In honor of President’s Day, Alpha Coffee will donate 10% of their sales until February 15 to the PenFed Foundation in support of the military community.
This month, I had the opportunity to speak with Carl about how it all got started, and what’s next for the company:
What inspired you to start Alpha Coffee?
I lost my job during the Great Recession, and Lori and I sat down over a French press of coffee our brother-in-law had roasted to figure out what our next step would be. While drinking it, we came up with the idea to create a coffee company that would sell online and deliver high quality, great-tasting coffee to people’s front doors. But we wanted to also give back to the military community.
Since I had deployed multiple times and always drank terrible coffee downrange, we decided we would send the equivalent of a cup of coffee to deployed troops for every order that went out.
What is the “Alpha Lifestyle”?
Our Mission Statement is simple: Awesome Coffee, Be a Warrior, Have Fun and Give Back. That is the basis of the Alpha Lifestyle. Life is too short for bad coffee, so choosing to drink great coffee and enjoy all kinds of good, quality items and support companies that are doing the right thing is a big part of it. Being physically and mentally tough and challenging yourself to grow and stretch are part of it. Appreciating the natural world and exploring nature through adventure and challenge are part of it. Giving back through service to others, supporting your community, and being an example to others is also part of it. Finding your tribe and supporting it is key as well. The Alpha Lifestyle is for people who want to LIVE and not just exist. Attack the day!
What did you learn during your military service that helped you build your business?
The part I missed most about the military after I left it was the sense of mission and the camaraderie – the esprit de corps – the team. All of those have been key to our success as a business. One of the first things our employees learn about our culture is the first bullet point of what we call our Rules of Engagement – We Win as a Team. That was something that the military taught me from Day 1 of Boot Camp and carried through 21 years of service, including multiple combat deployments. I think the other thing the military deeply embedded in me was discipline and hard work. You simply cannot be a successful entrepreneur without those.
What is it like building a business with your spouse?
It is awesome but it can also be a challenge. We both really enjoy spending time together, and we both love teamwork, so that makes it work. The great thing is that she is the love of my life and when we started the business we had already been together for over 20 years, so we knew each other very well and had developed great communication skills with tons of mutual respect.
I really respect my wife and her intelligence, intuition, thoroughness, and kindness, and so her input really makes an impact on me. We are good at questioning and challenging each other to make the best choices for the business. I also think that having her perspective as a woman, mother, wife, and former military spouse makes our company much stronger. She helps smooth out my rough edges and reins me in appropriately when I might be getting too aggressive in business. The extra stress of being business partners can put a strain on your personal relationship so we always work on that and remind each other not to let it impact us. I love working with her and wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
What is your top piece of advice for veteran entrepreneurs or veterans with a business idea?
Being an entrepreneur is awesome, but it is challenging. Expect to work harder, for less than you ever have before – including in the military. I love being my own boss and I love building a company leading an amazing team, but it is just flat out hard work and a lot of responsibility. You have to be ready for that and embrace it. And you have to go in with a Never Freaking Quit attitude, because you will have challenge after challenge. But you have to keep your eyes on the horizon and figure out a way forward.
I heard a quote that said the definition of an entrepreneur was a person who went from one challenge or failure to another without any loss of enthusiasm, and there is a lot of truth to that. But the payoff in pride in your team’s success is worth it.
What’s next for Alpha Coffee Co?
We started Sept 11th, 2010 in our basement as an online coffee provider, with me and my wife and 2 kids working for free. Here we are 10 years later, and we have grown to include wholesale and brick and mortar coffee shops; we employ over 30 employees; we had over $1.7M in revenues last year; and we have sent over 19,000 bags of coffee to deployed troops. And there are still lots of people just getting to know us, our amazing coffee, and our mission to give back.
We have big plans to expand our online presence, build several more coffee shops in Utah, add more veteran owned coffee shops to our wholesale client base, and keep supporting the troops and charities doing great work for our nation. We will do that by continuing to let people experience the Alpha difference, build a company we are proud of, and have a ton of fun in the process.
If you’re a servicemember, veteran, or military spouse with an interesting story, business, or message, I’d love to hear about it! Email me at victoriakelly1 [at] gmail [dot] com.