The Future of Benevolent Business Practices: King’s Hill Roasters
This small batch coffee roasting company asks "What if your love for coffee could be transformed into love for your community?"
King’s Hill Roasters, a small batch coffee business run out of the home of Dan and Melody Hues in the Goose Hollow neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, isn’t your typical small business.
On their website, the King’s Hill Roasters asks you, “What if your love for coffee could be transformed into love for your community?” And it is that specific question that led to the creation and launch of their company — a sustainable coffee roasting business built and structured under a benevolent business model designed to funnel 100% of company profits into charitable giving. Making money is still the goal, but the endgame is to give that money away.
“It’s full-circle. You buy the Guatemalan coffee, that money is going back to Guatemala,” said Melody. When customers buy their Manos De Mujer brand, those proceeds go directly back into a Guatemalan orphanage in the same community where the beans are picked by an all-female network of growers.
It’s this attention to care and sustainability at every level of the coffee journey that drives Dan and Melody. It’s not just about the coffee. But it is about the coffee.
It’s coffee with a mission, and King’s Hill Roasters are ready to lead the way.
What Benevolent Business Looks Like
King’s Hill got its name from “an intersection of physical and theological significance,” said Dan, who is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Portland. Zion can be interpreted as the hill where God dwells — King’s Hill. But in the Goose Hollow community where the church and the business are located, there is also a King’s Hill transit stop. So, the name reflects both a physical location and a reference to their mission.
That mission? Keep profits moving back into the communities where the coffee originated. In a benevolent business model, every person along the supply chain from farmer to consumer is part of an organism working toward 100% sustainability. And while benevolent capitalism might seem like an oxymoron, the idea has been gaining traction, if not attention.
For Dan and Melody, the benevolence is the key.
Dan said, “The coffee roasting company came from a place of seeing a need all around us during the pandemic. I wanted to create a business model to help communities, our community, and I so married that with something I was passionate about: Coffee. But ultimately, we knew we wanted to build this where we could use the funds to help others.”
I wanted to create a business model to help communities, our community, and I so married that with something I was passionate about: Coffee.
During the pandemic, while Dan was home creating online content for his church, he indulged in a new hobby, roasting small batches of coffee with a small 8oz coffee roaster. While playing around with roasting — and setting off his fire alarms — Dan asked Melody if roasting could be a business. Could they monetize this? Was there a way to roast coffee on a larger scale?
“I knew we needed a commercial roaster. I also wanted a sustainable roaster, one with zero emissions, and that’s when we found Bellwether,” Dan said.
Bellwether Coffee made its mission to break down the barriers between farmer to consumer and “distrust the traditional model of coffee roasting and remove every existing barrier.” According to the company website:
If more independent cafes were roasting, the increased demand for green coffee would be decentralized, and farmers would be paid better for their beans. If we did it right, we would create real, meaningful change for the coffee experience from farm to cup.
King’s Hill echoes that mission, bringing sustainability to Portland and into the Goose Hollow community. Dan believes there is joy in knowing where the beans are sourced from, having a connection all the way to the farmer level, and knowing they aren’t hurting the environment.
“I don’t know if I would have sustained desire for doing this business on the side if I didn’t have the purpose of giving back to others,” Dan said. “That’s the whole focal point of this. Our mission is to create artisan coffee that is of high quality, ecologically responsible, sustainable, traceable, where farmers are paid fair wages, the beans are sourced from appropriate locations. So when we sell it, we have integrity. We know it’s from a reputable place and people weren’t exploited. When we want our business to be benevolent, that means benevolent at all levels.”
Our mission is to create artisan coffee that is of high quality, ecologically responsible, sustainable, traceable, where farmers are paid fair wages, the beans are sourced from appropriate locations. So when we sell it, we have integrity.
A Family Affair
Dan took an interest in coffee roasting, and Melody, a former teacher and small business owner, used her business acumen to get them up and running. Running a Spanish immersion school prepared Melody for most of the tasks she’d face in her current role.
“There are so many hats you wear as a teacher. You are an administrator, a cheerleader; you are documenting everything, monitoring everything, negotiating between parents and children, children and children. There are so many built-in systems you learn as a teacher, and it translates to business,” said Melody, who pauses occasionally to speak in Spanish to her daughters Harmony and Cadence, who are eager to be interviewed.
“They are wonderful salespeople,” Melody said. “We walked into a business the other day and they said, these might make good clients!”
“We incorporate our daughters any way we can,” Dan said. “I am teaching Harmony how to roast. Bellwether’s technology makes it easy to learn. And I’ve incorporated their help in putting stickers on bags and getting shipments ready, so they are part of the process. One cool element is that this gives our girls skills and ownership. I’ve told them, this is your business, too, and I want to make sure they are involved in some way. They love it. They love being invited into the roasting room and participating.”
Like most small businesses, there is a lot of DIY — from website design to their logo. And since they are new on the Portland coffee scene, there is work involved in getting the word out about the business model and their coffee.
If more people were educated about coffee, they might see their consumer practices differently.
“People don’t understand their coffee,” Melody said. “And people need to understand that’s the heart behind this business. People are being taken advantage of in other countries to produce their coffee. This is a platform so people can understand it’s not just about coffee taste but about how we treat people from farm to cup.”
This is a platform so people can understand it’s not just about coffee taste but about how we treat people from farm to cup.
When the Hues’ talk family, they don’t just mean their own. The community is family. The farmers are family.
Dan said, “I’ve learned that running your business like a nonprofit doesn’t endear people to you. Consumers like convenience and most don’t care where the coffee comes from, right? That’s the challenging thing to overcome. How do we present ourselves as a benevolent brand and also educate people about the benefits of brewing your own versus just going to Starbucks.”
Giving Back Is The Goal
King’s Hill Roasters doesn’t want to just talk the talk. For Dan and Melody Hues, the business is successful as long as they are able to continue to give away everything they earn.
“We want to be servants of the community. In the most perfect situation, I just want to see how much money we can give away,” said Melody.
Dan hopes they expand and grow enough that his business can sustain someone else’s employment. “I’d also love to give my own salary back to the church,” he said. “Ultimately, as we build brand awareness, I want to see us be able to implore the community to come together.”
Ultimately, as we build brand awareness, I want to see us be able to implore the community to come together.
King’s Hill Roasters continues to show small businesses that benevolent capitalism, functioning on the principles of doing no harm to anyone at any stage of the process, is possible.