LTS Podcast Ep. 9: All About Coffee With Isaac Hodges

Jonathan Jones: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this episode of DEMDACO's Lift the Spirit podcast.

This is Jonathan Jones and I'm joined by Aaron Heim, my co host. Today's guest is Isaac Hodges. Isaac lives here in Kansas City and he works for the Fairwave Coffee Collective. And I'm going to let him give you his title and explain what he does. So welcome, Isaac.

Isaac Hodges: Hey, thank you so much. It's an honor to be here with you guys.

Welcome. Love podcasts, love telling stories, so I'm excited for this time together. So yeah, I'm I'm with the Fairwave Coffee Collective team. I'm the Vice President of Collective Growth and the Market Ambassador for our collective of specialty coffee companies.

Jonathan Jones: So, ambassador, do you give away a lot of coffee?

Isaac Hodges: I love giving away a lot of coffee. It's one of my favorite parts of the job. From day one since I joined the coffee team, I'm like, I just got to get more coffee to people's hands.

Jonathan Jones: So let the record show, there is no coffee that was brought today.

Isaac Hodges: No, it's very true. Yeah, I gotta get back in the swing of things.

Aaron Heim: He's [00:01:00] giving it all away.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, I love to give.

Jonathan Jones: So I met Isaac a couple years ago when you were a speaker at one of our Gather KC events and really told the story of coffee. And at that time you were with Messenger Coffee, which is now part of Fairwave. Is that correct? That's correct, yeah. And I was just fascinated and did not know really at all the story of coffee.

And we'll get to that, but tell us a little about yourself. I found out this morning you're from Buhler, Kansas, right? So tell us a little bit about where you're from.

Yeah, yeah. Well, grew up in Kansas. We moved around a little bit. Last place was Buhler and so I call it my hometown, but went to University of Kansas for school became an elementary PE teacher, got my Master's in Health and Physical Education and Recreation.

I did teaching for nine years in the DeSoto School District. And during that time, I always knew that this was a step in my journey of [00:02:00] professional life. The teaching? The teaching, yeah. At least the position of a teacher, of a public school educator. So I was always kind of working on passion, ideas and thoughts.

And one of those that ended up coming to life was opening my own coffee whiskey bar. And at that time there was a team of people that was creating Messenger Coffee and they we partnered together to create this idea. However, surprise, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first child and we decided probably the best to not open a coffee whiskey bar.

With baby number one on the way, I think that was some early wisdom.

Isaac Hodges: I think it was. And looking back, I think it was one of the smartest decisions because I had never opened my own business ever. And yet, as I stepped into a role with messenger coffee at the time, which was a business development wholesale kind of support role.

It ended up, you know, opening support 300 plus coffee shops around the country during my time with Messenger. So I learned so much during that time about what all the thought process into going, going into opening your own coffee shop. And now we're in a [00:03:00] whole other side of the business, which is really cool.

Jonathan Jones: So I'm going to go back to parenting. So you had your first child and you have. Three. Is that correct?

Isaac Hodges: Three. Now all about to turn the calendar over to be eight, six and two. So it's a beautiful, crazy. I'm very tired today.

Jonathan Jones: So going back to parenting and just healthy longterm relationships, decisions you make as a couple as a parent, good decisions, decisions you go, I could have done that better.

How has that shaped you and how? Has it shaped how you view work?

Isaac Hodges: Yeah. I mean, that's a huge part of my thought process. As an elementary PE teacher, well, even taking another step back, my, my dad was a music educator and I always remember going to his school after my school was over and hanging out in the band room or the music room that he was in and getting to play on all the instruments.

And so I, I always thought about how do my kids get incorporated into my work life. Right. And as an elementary [00:04:00] PE teacher, I was like, Oh, this could be cool. The kids will just come to the gym and they'll play with all the. Scooters and all, they can just do whatever they want. But as I kind of, I guess, matured and got closer to having my own family, I realized I was so tired of being around that many kids all day long to have my own kids and then go be with them would be, it'd be tough.

So that's part of the transition, but it was really important that I landed in my mind in a role that I could very easily incorporate my family into. And have them be a part of it.

Jonathan Jones: So what does that look like?

Isaac Hodges: Early on, it's like they come to coffee shops. They order a fluffy coffee everywhere they go.

And the baristas in our city know what a fluffy coffee is. There's not a special button for it on the register, but it's just a steamed milk. But a fluffy coffee. So they, they, they know coffee. They talk, they make coffee for us at home. Sometimes they throw it in the grinder and brew a pot for us.

Jonathan Jones: So if I go into messenger and I just say, ask for a fluffy, it's like the secret menu.

Isaac Hodges: It's a secret menu. Yeah. They know what it is. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. You can add a little vanilla to it. Yeah. Make it your [00:05:00] own. But coming into coffee shops. is a very it's an approachable thing. And there should be more of, there should be more noise. There should be more community. There should be more instead of, you know, pristine coffee shop experiences, which is really easy.

They want to create pristine coffee shop experience.

Jonathan Jones: Hold that thought because we're going to get to that.

Aaron Heim: , You said your children are what age right now

Isaac Hodges: about eight six and two

Aaron Heim: eight six and two How has your transition from education into being a very critical part of a business affected your work life balance?

And how have you managed some of, all of that?

Isaac Hodges: Well, there's definitely been ebbs and flows to that. I mean Pandemic was a great example of where the business did not, even though the world seemed to stop in some ways, the business became an all encompassing part of our life. Even the kids would come, my wife would come.

I worked for 40 something days straight just to keep Black Dog, Messenger, Filling Station open. And you know, that was one of the hardest days of my life laying off [00:06:00] 120 people in our company and then having to pick up, you know, a small team of people become baristas and become coffee delivery services.

But, so hold on a second. Yeah.

Jonathan Jones: So I think I remember that. Yeah. Cause our we'd known each other for a bit at that point. So people who had not been a barista at all.

Isaac Hodges: We all had had that. those, those muscles in our, in our, in our like repertoire. So I was just breaking them back out again. Yeah. And so, you know, I, we would just jump in and and serve people and, you know, it was a lot lower volume.

So we, we kind of practice in between customers and things like that. And you know, who was our, our customer became very different at that time too. But even thinking about incorporating family into the work life, yeah, there are definitely times of life that it's. busier and especially as Fairwave became a collective and Roasterie and Messenger came together in Kansas City, my work life became very very large.

And I oversaw more than just that. Now, now it's Roasterie. And then it [00:07:00] became Minneapolis and Milwaukee. So the, the job became very big and there was a moment, I actually remember this moment very clearly in September of 2021 we were doing it. An ERP installation and, and it was brutal and it was really hard.

And we were losing customers and employees. And, and I about had to call it, call it quits for a moment. But in that moment I gave myself the, the, like the freedom to like separate from the, from the brands a little bit to take a step back and say, What's the most important thing here. So since that moment, I've had a lot healthier relationship with what work means.

It's not about me anymore. We're for a long time. I was like, well, if I'm not here and I'm not working my butt off for people, then it might not work out. But now I feel very, you know confident that. If tomorrow I decided to go do something else or I needed to go do something else, everybody over there would be fine.

Aaron Heim: Yeah, it's a, it's definitely a balancing act when it comes to, you know, especially if, if whether you're dual income or whether [00:08:00] you're single income family, you know, especially during the pandemic.

Yeah. Making sure you're able to pay your mortgage to, you know, every decision counts. Every move matters in that moment.

Yeah. You know, I hope we never have to go through that type of experience again. Being a parent on my side of it too, you know, again, And being a, I'm an editorial director, storyteller, writer kind of person, but a lot of that same anxiety sets in like, okay, am I spending too much time over here? These guys aren't growing any slower.

Yeah. What am I making the right decisions? And Jonathan has a great, great quote that he and I've talked about some life things in the past that you do the best you have with the information you have at the time. And so it's, yeah, the work life balance thing is, is especially with, you know, having three plus kids.

Jonathan had, he's had multiple. kids too. It's, it's tricky and it goes down to, you know, you don't, at the end of, at the end of it all, you'd want to look back and say, your parent, your kids can say, [00:09:00] yeah, my parents did the best they could with the information.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah. And I, I, that phrase, the work life balance thing I've struggled with for a long time because there's never a balance of the two.

So I, I've, and I've told this to our employees a lot, especially as we think about being an authentic version of ourselves at work. It's that they should not balance each other out like a scale. You separate the two and you give it an equal amount of time so that they find an equilibrium. It's that they actually cohabitate together, that they are empowering one another.

And so when I think of work life rhythms and I think of empowerment, am I, am I a better version of myself because of how my family influences me and how is my that I'm in? And some of that is I have to bring them into work. And if I separated the two and like created that, like, well, I'm not going to take work home with me.

That's impossible in my role. I cannot, I can't not take home, work home with me just because of this, the, the stress of the nature of, especially if you're operating 16 cafes in [00:10:00] Kansas City, then over support of cafes. Cafes are a seven day thing. There's always going to be something that comes up. But if I can create space throughout my days and my weeks that allows my family to have a version of me, that's a healthy, present good father, good husband and they can actually empower each other and be a, be a much more balanced version of that.


Jonathan Jones: Yeah. That's, it's, that's always a challenge. So I want to go back to coffee. So talk about, and I think back to your presentation when you were here at Gather KC, and the history of coffee. So talk about why coffee is so important, and in particular, talk about why coffee should not cost $0.37.

Isaac Hodges: Great question, two great questions.

The first question is a fun one because I think coffee for you is different and it's an importance than it is for me. And so I think there's a beauty about it. [00:11:00] Coffee is a part of people's lives in so many ways. There's a routine, there's a cathartic thing with coffee.

The industry though at large, it's one of the top traded commodities in the world. So it is a livelihood for producers and farmers around the world. So think about agricultural crops. You know, climate change is impacting that now, so coffee as a food product that's being grown across the world, shipped across the world, you know, it's took its rise in prominence especially in America after the Boston Tea Party, they were like, we're not going to drink tea, we're going to do coffee.

We're Italian coffee culture coming more to the United States after Starbucks and Howard Schultz brought that language, the latte language. And, you know, there's there are always kind of those waves in coffee. What is it? What is the new generation think of coffee? We actually have this really cool psychographical breakdown of who the coffee consumers are and there's.

There is definitely a rite of passage consumer where coffee is an identity piece. It's not just my energy. It's not just my wake up or my fuel. It's I need to be seen with a cup of coffee. It's beautiful. Lots. I need to be seen at, [00:12:00] you know, a three story coffee shop downtown. I need to be seen with coffee.

So coffee is, is an important part of people's lives for different reasons. And it is a beautiful product. I mean, there, we just hosted US Coffee Champs in Kansas city this past weekend, which we had coffee competitors from all over the United States at Messenger and at Roastery. So I got to talk to many people.


Jonathan Jones: So for those of you not in Kansas city Messenger and the Roasterie are two longtime coffee shops here that are both now part of Fairwave Collective. And the three story coffee shop he referred to in downtown Kansas City, Messenger, it is it is a wonderful sight to see. And it is, it's an experience being in there.

Yeah. Yeah. So anyway, you hosted the competition, got your train of thought.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah. But it's talking about the value of coffee and where coffee is going, where it's been over the last, so 37 cents for a cup of coffee. You think of now we're paying [00:13:00] farmers. You know, depends on the value of the coffee, where it's coming from, what processing methods, all those kind of things that are nuanced.

But coffee farmers can make a good living in doing coffee if the buyers that are part of the purchase of the coffee care about the supply chain. Right. And where those dollars are going. They can be eaten up along the way by... You know, import, export, brokers, all these kind of things. But if we, and that's, that's a lot of the premise of what Fairwave is about, is being able to send more dollars back to the, to the farmers and the producers.

So 37 cents, you know, is no longer okay. A dollar's not okay for a cup of coffee because we should be paying three to four dollars a pound for this green coffee.

Jonathan Jones: So, so tell someone why that, why that's justified.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah. Well, you the product itself, if you buy, if you went to the coffee commodities market, you would see coffee today.

I just checked it. It's about a 1. 50 a pound green for commodity grade coffee. So that's nothing that you would actually really enjoy drinking a cup of. So you take that [00:14:00] price point and you go up from there. So a dollar, let's say about a 1. 50 pound of coffee and I brewed a pot of coffee for us to drink at the table.

Each one of our cups would probably then cost at that point, you know, anywhere between 30, 30 to 40 cents for what was in, what's in that cup. So actually that doesn't include the roasting labor and the packaging and all that stuff, our overhead, the people that we want to pay a better, a better wage to.

Wages are going up all over the world. We want our farmers to pay their workers a better wage, living, working in living conditions. In those, in those areas are not great. And so we, we want to see those things all become better. We want to see families that pass off farms to their children.

Their children's children have sight lines. They're like, this, I can do this for a long time. And I want to do this. Because those newer generations of... Farmers have some better options at their fingertips now. They can convert their coffee farms to other product they might make more money on. So we're trying to like reinvest in the idea of more than just sustainable coffee farming [00:15:00] practices that create higher value for those coffees.

I just had a coffee that was co fermented with yeast from a roaster out in Carolina over the weekend. So they take the pulp, the coffee is the seed of a fruit. And that's why, you know, that you think about fruits and you care for the acidity, the juiciness, the sweetness, better, higher graded coffees, the ones that cost more money actually taste more like fruit.

And you think about that. Whoa, that blows your mind. It's more like wine. The scale of coffee and wine are very similar. Acidity, fermentation, all those things are kind of becoming part of the nuance of great cups of coffee. And those costs a lot more money. So, you know, going down just to get it, get a good, good, good espresso, a latte, a drip coffee, you should expect to pay and know that paying three bucks to 5 to 8, there are reasons why those are justified. And, and, you know, we've given good wage increases over the past several years. We want to provide lifelong opportunities in careers in coffee. And [00:16:00] those are just part of the ways that we can do that.

Jonathan Jones: So is there a similar situation or model like that?

So, you know, DEMDACO, we manufacture amazing gifts and home decor products. And we have retail, retail partners, you know, around the country, and we distribute around the world. So from a retail standpoint, when you go in and see something on the shelf, sometimes people go, why does this cost so much? Really what you're paying is one, you don't have the tools, equipment, skill, or knowledge to make the thing yourself.

And then you're paying for the convenience of walking into a store or getting online and clicking and all of the people and steps to get it there. Is there is a similar thing there?

Isaac Hodges: Absolutely. But it does kind of all go back to the very original purchase price of the product, the agricultural product itself and everything goes from there.

So we receive a coffee for. 5. 00 a pound green or 5. 50 or [00:17:00] it came in at 6. 00 or 4. 00 or 7. 00 and everything's like just a scale from there because we know we cover our costs here, but every time we do make an agreement and a commitment, which we're making contractual commitments to these farmers and producers, and we're able to leverage the relationship and give a little skip that broker and make another 30 cents per pound go back to the farmer. It is an amazing impact on the people that live and produce those coffees. .

Jonathan Jones: So that's one of the reasons I wanted you to be on this podcast because I remember a couple of years ago, I actually interviewed you and one of your colleagues for a video that we just wanted to show and you know, the business here in Kansas city.

And I remember I mean, if I remember right, like, you knew the name of the grower. Oh yeah. And, and so, you know, our podcast is Lift the Spirit and we're looking for those stories. So talk about what it, 30 cents more a pound for a grower, what that means for their family.

Isaac Hodges: Well, and even, even that 30 cents a pound, most coffee farmers in the world [00:18:00] own about an acre of land that grow their coffee on.

That's about it. They're mostly small shareholder croppers. They, they're usually, they're business owners in the right that they would harvest and they would sell to a mill. And usually at the mill, they lose the ability to control any more quality. So what we do, and what we like to work with is, is that those people that are more invested, that want to create a cooperative and work with all the other farmers in the area to produce higher quality coffees.

So we work with a lot of cooperatives. And when you invest back in the cooperative, they buy better equipment next time. They have we can teach them cleaning practices. We can actually teach them more of those progressive experimental things in coffee like that yeast fermentation or throw in, you know, other things close it off for 24 hours. Let it ferment and set it with no oxygen all these kind of wild things and if it works They get to charge more and we don't buy it. Sometimes we don't buy all of it. So they get to charge more to other people too because of the work that we did Our goal though is to buy all the [00:19:00] coffee at some point.

So the more that we can build a collective of, you know, American coffee companies, we can spend, take more of those dollars that are being spent on coffee around the world and send them back into relational buying practices that impact more people on the ground. There's so many, we call it redemptive buying in a lot of ways.

Right. You know, Brazil produces over 30 percent of the world's coffee, and almost 100 percent of all of Brazilian coffee was built off of the slave trade. And there's still a lot of slave activities that are happening in Brazil regarding coffee right now. And so when we make decisions about what coffees we buy and who we partner with...

We dig in deep into where are they buying, and how are those people being treated along the way. And so if there's, if there's a moment where those farmers and those workers are stuck we try to find a way to work with others to build a system where they can get out of those kind of work environments and move into a, a place of healthy relationship with coffee.

Every, every purchase makes a difference. So, and it's not [00:20:00] just on our shoulders. Every coffee company needs to be playing a role in this redemptive process of the supply chain. And but I think we're on to something there. And I think there are many coffee companies that are like minded.

Aaron Heim: So Isaac, you've spoken a little bit about it so far, but coffee shops specifically, and how they play a part in our daily lives, I think there's a quote attributed to another coffee brand president, rhymes with Blarblux, Blarblux.

I think they wanted to be the third place between work and home. . Talk about coffee shops, how important they are.

I live near a very important coffee shop in the community I live in. Yeah. And, but I'm curious, you know, your, part of your job is keeping those shops thriving. Yeah. So, so tell us your, your journey there and the importance.

Isaac Hodges: One thing I really love about coffee. Coffee shops is they do that they embody, or at least I think they should embody the community that is right around it.

And from my time working with Messenger as a wholesale person and developing and [00:21:00] supporting other coffee shops to us owning and operating our own coffee shops, each each business owner has a unique reason for why they're opening a coffee shop and a lot of times it is because they want to create a space for others to connect, to commune to relate.

It's when you're a fly on the wall in a coffee shop, you see first. time relationships, you see the ending of relations, you see business plans and deals and shook hands and arguments and reviews. You see an important, you see all of these things, you see an individual moment of study and contemplation.

You see. You see highs and lows and it's really interesting that the coffee shop has become a place where all of those things are okay and all of those things are not like you see knitters and painters and puzzles. And people feel like it is a place that they can be themselves. And that third place mentality is changing in some ways where convenience is driving a little bit more of the coffee purchasing patterns of a lot of people, Starbucks, Dutch Bros, all these people that are more driven towards Get it [00:22:00] quick, you know, use your app, come pick it up.

Don't really have to interact to get your cup of coffee. And where I think that those play a role in people's lives, I think that the coffee shop, especially coming out of the pandemic, we saw people kind of coming back to coffee shops in droves.

Jonathan Jones: Talk a little bit more about that, just the effect that you saw.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, people were longing again to get back out and a place that felt safe. And so safe, safety in the coffee industry, most coffee companies took a more progressive stance about how we would take care of our spaces and creating distance or cleaning practices, all those kind of things, though you still have to keep your business open and operating and financially viable.

There's all these, I think people came back to coffee shops because it felt safe, they could be themselves. And we see an even more reinforced role of the coffee shop that is not just a drive thru, more so than ever. So we've opened two coffee shops in the past couple months neither of them have drive throughs.

We've opened two [00:23:00] in twenty one that didn't have drive throughs. I think it's about the community where the coffee shop is going into. So if we thought about opening a coffee shop out here, where we'd love to open a coffee shop out, close to the DEMDACO hub. At some point. What would the community want to see in a coffee shop?

And you, we want to talk and listen, do they need convenience? And do they also need space to come in and be who they are in between their work and homework?

Jonathan Jones: There's actually a perfect plot of land in Raymore, Missouri. Oh, in Raymore, okay. For a coffee shop. There you go. I'll sit, I'll drop a pen on a map.

It's just waiting for a coffee shop. It would be great. Are there any... Using third place or even people coming back from the pandemic, any stories that you were included in on what it meant for a community to come back or just, again, the, and I know there's going to be listeners that aren't coffee drinkers, but just the importance of that because it is, it is a significant thing.

I mean, I. I was not a coffee drinker. I [00:24:00] started drinking coffee when I was 40. Yeah. And now I have coffee every day. And I love it, and it is a routine. So, any stories that you have, or...

Isaac Hodges: Well I think there's just a lot of... Stories that are more about the thank you for, especially the thank you for being open this whole time.

I heard that all the time during the pandemic, especially working at, you know, in the months of April and May of 2020, that when I was being a barista at Black Dog Coffeehouse at Lenexa. Into, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was just a reinforcement of, thank you for being here. Thank you for still letting me get my cup of coffee, or my toast or my loaf of bread.

All those kind of things. That routine and rhythm of, of people's lives. Interruption to that is, was another part of the, kind of the danger of the pandemic when people's lives could not maintain a sense of normalcy in some sort of fashion. And so bringing normalcy back into people's lives I think was really important.

But also the on, on my team side, the people that worked for us. [00:25:00] tO create a space that they could all come back to. I mean, out of those, I mentioned 120 people we laid off, we offered a job to 119 of them. Really? Yeah, and not all of them decided to come back because their own reasons. And and each, each business handled it a little bit differently, but to be able to bring people back into the fold.

And then, and then when Fairwave, this idea of collective work together, came together, we were able to do that with more and more and more people. And so I, I go back to like. The idea of creating a place of work and working in the pandemic was really hard for, for a lot of reasons. So people that could come and just be here for two months while they, while they could, or two years while they could however the long week it's been with us and same thing for a coffee customer, come here every day, come here every week, come here once a month.

And I hope you know, we can create meaningful experiences for all of those scenarios.

Jonathan Jones: . So Isaac tell us how Fairwave came to be. And there were coffee shops and [00:26:00] companies here in Kansas city who were once competitors are now partners and colleagues.

So just the approach to business. how you view your communities, ways you're involved in the community and so forth.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, good question. I would love to try starting Fairwave without a pandemic to in the middle of it. I would love to see how that would have played out. But you know, Messenger was growing.

We had, we had a lot of fun growth plans but it was a moment where our group of owners and some of, some of our ownership decided to retire and move on and, and there was a kind of a like minded idea around supporting local specialty coffee in Kansas City, but also across the state. the Midwest.

And so Fairwave was this idea. Obviously when we first heard that as, as an owner, but also as a, you know, a sales guy, business development for Messenger and, you know, always wanting to win an account away from the Roasterie. When we were told, yeah, we're gonna do this with the Roasterie. It was definitely a what?

How did that [00:27:00] happen? But then I, you know, for me personally, my teammates were a little bit, we all had different ways of accepting that news for me. I saw the brilliance of it fairly quick. Because I knew the brands were very different. And as long as the premise of fairway was not to homogenize coffee experience across these brands or even take one and overcome and overwhelm the other brand.

I saw the value in it because we were very, very inefficient. coffee roasting company. And you've been none of that three story Messenger on Grand. We were roasting coffee on the second floor and we didn't have great stores. The old freight elevator that broke all the time. And so we had issues with, with just getting coffee out to the people. And the Roasterie had been doing a full service model and coffee, you know, you could buy your syrups and sauces and your teas and cups and things, which Messenger was trying to kind of emulate in a lot of ways.

Best practice is to be a one stop shop as much as you can with both with product and then education and knowledge. And so those were [00:28:00] the two very similar models just with very different kind of coffee coffees that were in the menu. And so Fairwave came together as an idea of supporting those, those brands and with the idea of finding others in the region. Especially targeting kind of marketplaces that were potentially a candidate for a national brand to come in and overwhelm and find market share and You know, you see like Dutch Bros and all these other national brands bringing in and popping up, these drive throughs around town. People like us, especially pre Fairwave could not have afforded that land or been able to build a brand new building like that.

You know, we're doing smaller things and more flexible strategies. And now here we can go in and support a brand like Spy House out of Minneapolis and reinvest in that.

Jonathan Jones: I was going to ask, I saw that on linkedIn. You're in Minneapolis now.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, and Anodyne out of Milwaukee. Those are brands that are part of our collective and we're learning about what, what do they have?

What's their legacy? Why, why did they create such impact in their community for [00:29:00] 20, 24, 30 years? And why did the community rally around them so much during that time? What was it about those brands? And then how can we improve upon them? A lot of the improvements come in operations. Like, in cafe operations, how do you you know, clock in, clock out?

Are you using the best technology? Are you, are we, benefits? Are we being able to provide benefits to people? Some of these companies can't provide benefits. They don't have the scale to do that. Or offer a 401k or the full scope of dental vision. All those kind of things. Now that Fairwave is here. We can provide a much bigger platform for an employee to find sustainable wages, long term career opportunities, even, you know, mobility around the region.

I want to move to Minneapolis and work. We got that for you.

Jonathan Jones: That's great. That's interesting. I frequent different businesses, shops that are part of Fairwave. Yeah. And it is amazing how the personality, identity of each of those those coffee shops has remained intact. Yeah. Which is great for the, those local communities.

So, one of the things we talk about [00:30:00] here at DEMDACO we've talked about in the past and it comes up, is the responsibilities that businesses have to their communities. And so obviously coffee shops play a big role in a local community, but for Fairwave as a collective, how does how does Fairway view the communities there in not just selling, not just a transactional relationship?

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, well, it's a really interesting learning curve in some ways where you have a brand like the Roasterie, who at the time was 27 years old. Now that we're turning 30 this year, we're celebrating 30 years of being in the community. And you think about. Danny O'Neill, the guy who started that, and his connection to the community, and his kind of charisma with the community.

But if he's not there anymore, is it, what, is it the same? Is it is it different? Is, are those things okay? And I think that's the biggest, that's one of the biggest questions when somebody is wanting to, like, potentially join [00:31:00] Fairwave. Does my community involvement care? Does that legacy of community involvement live on?

And, and you think about... We're a three year old company as Fairwave. So we're on this entrepreneur thing. Many entrepreneurs say yes to a lot of things. We, we say, Hey, we need coffee this week for this 5k or you, can you give 10 percent off of this thing? And we were like, yes, yes, yes, yes. We'll do it. Do it.

Cause you want to get your name out there, but our names have been here. And so we have, we have this like very interesting, like struggle of, Hey, you've done this for 27 years. Will you kind of commit to continue doing this? But it's the first time we're hearing about that maybe and so it's like, well, tell me more about this organization and why it matters so much to you, to the community, to the relationship of roast with Roasterie or same thing for the Messenger.

And so what we decided to do with Roasterie, for example, was. Have the community and have our own employees tell us what mattered the most. And so we did this really cool survey this year about aligning with 30 non profits in our community to celebrate 30 years of being a business and having [00:32:00] $30, 000 go back to these 30 non profits.

So I think there are ways to kind of still reinforce the, the meaning around community engagement and involvement. And have it look a little bit different just because it's never going to be as innate to the brand as it used to be because of the founder may not look no longer be there. But I think it is critical.

I think and I love that about the coffee community. There's always a sense of giving and give back, whether it's because a disaster struck and let's give to this and fund, you know, support. Or whether it's, you know, the local elementary school is doing a food drive or all these little things matter and coffee companies and shops feel like their voice should be heard in those ways.

And it's fun to be a part of that.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I know that what your answer is going to be. But for people that are being hired at the coffee shops around Kansas City or Milwaukee and Minneapolis, how is it important to that new barista to know that their coffee shop is involved in the giving back.

Isaac Hodges: 100%? [00:33:00] It may not come up in the interview thing, but usually they're coming to that brand because of what they know and maybe admire about their impact in the community or their admiration for how they do work within the coffee supply chain. There's a barista that usually comes into that world having a knowledge about those two things.

What do they do in the community and is their coffee any good? Yeah, yeah, that's right. That's a good question.

Aaron Heim: , I'm gonna ask the, just to kind of parlay off of what you've been talking about with community, not necessarily community, but just lifting spirits.

So personally, you don't always have great days. What do you do to pick yourself up when a day gets hard, when a week gets hard, when life gets hard? What are some of the ways that you choose to refresh or step away or you go watch stand up comedians? You know, what do you, what do you do to keep your, you seem like a very positive person.

You seem very driven. I [00:34:00] know you can't be like that every single night, but we're all in that boat. So curious how you keep your spirit lifted for,

Isaac Hodges: That's a great question. I'll be honest. and candid in that I don't do a great job of this. I have a hard time, you know, saying what I need for me. I don't, I don't know what that is about me or my history and my upbringing, but it's hard for me to say I need time.

I need space. However, there's a few things in my life that do give me that. Music is one of those. I'm in a little indie rock band here in Kansas City, and we've been a band for 10 years. I forgot about that. So, anytime, Uh, Golden Groves.

Aaron Heim: Golden Groves. I'm a big indie rock guy.

Isaac Hodges: So... Anytime I get to get behind my, you know, my Johnny Mar Jag and sing some

music and...

Jonathan Jones: Is there... Are you on Spotify or... Oh yeah! You... Okay, there'll be links in the show notes.

Isaac Hodges: Ha ha ha! We're trying to finish up a new single right now. But those... That definitely gives me life. And there's and I don't, you know, I'm still learning my healthy, healthy rhythm from my own self. [00:35:00] But at one point, I literally drew it out on a piece of paper some orbits and spheres of like time and energy.

Like, I'm willing to give, especially with other people. And I was a yes guy for a long time. You want to go ahead? Yes. What are we doing? Especially that, that PET treatment. Let's go play wiffle ball. Let's go do anything. I'm down for it. I'm yes, I was with the family to create. Well, I can't go play golf.

You know, it's four hours or I can't just go hang out and grab a beer tonight. But I, I literally drew out. I'm willing to do, give my time one week to this a month, one, one hour a month, one year. And, and that allowed me to say no to something so I could say yes to others. I used to play basketball all the time.

I love getting out on the hardwood. Running up and down the court. That gives me life, but I've had to kind of say, find the time to do that before or after bed. Getting the kids down for bed. You know, just all those things. My wife would say, Isaac, tell me what you need, and I'm working on it.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I don't like sending late texts, but we had to reschedule this podcast.

So a [00:36:00] couple weeks ago, there was a late evening text and your response was can I call you back? We're getting the kids to bed. Yeah.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah, and bedtime takes a long time. I am generally a positive person and I think I usually do see things through that lens.

There's a lot of, obviously a lot of hardship in the world. My wife is a social worker in the emergency department at Children's Mercy Hospital. So she, her work always puts my work into perspective too. And obviously we're dealing with people, but she's dealing with Potential life and death, and she's dealing with abuse or neglect or those things.

And I sure hope that we're not dealing with those in an immediate basis, but when we dig deep, every person has a story, and every person, hopefully when they come to work at the coffee, well, that's a place where they can find it. feel like they can be themselves and find safety and, and a home. But her work has definitely put my work into perspective too.

And you know, you're only going to have a two year old for so much longer than they're, you know, they grow up and soaking those, soaking [00:37:00] those moments. And, and, you know, I step on raisins every day or Legos or shoes and trip over and she's like, you know, we're going to one day wish they were raisins back on the floor.

Look, I don't know. Are we?

Aaron Heim: . I think. This might be the most important question of the podcast, if I were a guessing man, but what's your favorite way to drink coffee?

Isaac Hodges: Oh boy! There we go. Well, I do drink anywhere between four to six coffee drinks a day, and it's almost starting with just a great cup of black coffee.

I love starting with a great single origin that's got brightness and that fruit acidity. I want to feel that pop in the morning. But throughout the day I definitely rotate my, my, my single, I'm going to coffee shops all the time. So I'm like, what are you serving up? What are you liking right now?

Cappuccino, though, is my great... Fluffy coffee. Fluffy coffee! Cappuccino is my, is my kind of my signature drink that I really like. A six ounce cappuccino. I love the balance of espresso to milk in that, the ratio of it. And as a, you know, great micro foam and you can really see the espresso pull through.

Pull through, but I'm always gonna, [00:38:00] I'm going to try Cortado. I'm going to try everything in our lineup at some point throughout the month just to make sure that, you know, I'm dialed into what we're, what we're making and trying to each seasonal drink once, once a, once a season as well. But you can't go wrong with just a great cup of man on my own heart.

Jonathan Jones: So I have a couple of questions cause we're, we're kind of wrapping up. Yeah. When are you going to open that coffee whiskey?

Isaac Hodges: Oh my goodness. Yeah. That coffee whiskey bar. Well, you know. I think what I, where I sit on that as, and I have this as part of my profile and some of the things that, you know, social medias.

Coffee and whiskey for me are beverages that I, it forces me to slow down. I, I, with a cup of coffee, once I get it in front of me, yeah, I might be doing stuff over here, but every time I take it, I'm like, I should just slow down with that cup. Same thing with just a glass of whiskey, just like a nice sip and just let that just sit, you know, in my palate for a long time.

So I really care deeply. It's about slowing down [00:39:00] even though it's really hard to slow down and find space and I mean I used to journal a lot, don't journal anymore, I used to write songs a lot, don't write songs

Jonathan Jones: anymore. You have three kids. I have three kids

Isaac Hodges: but so the idea of it is still what matters a lot to me and reinforcing that the reason why I thought of that idea, that business.

Was because I wanted to create space where people could slow down and enjoy high quality things whether it's by themselves in the moment they need or with somebody else and whatever life story they have going on.

Jonathan Jones: It's so interesting that you say that because most people think of coffee and caffeine and they're getting that energy boost or whatever but you're absolutely right.

I mean for me and even, like I love weekend mornings and we're empty nesters so we're not stepping on Legos unless the grandkids leave them out. Yep. But it is really a slowing down process. Yeah. We sit on our front porch a lot and just we're in the living room. You know, we were talking the other day [00:40:00] that it's a fireplace season coming.

And it's coffee season. Yeah. And so it's just interesting that it's, it really is about slowing down.

Isaac Hodges: Yeah.

Jonathan Jones: Isaac, anything else you'd like to share? This has been great. Coffee is a big part, I think, of a lot of people's lives and Fairwave, Black Dog, Messenger, Roasterie is really providing a lot here in Kansas City.

Isaac Hodges: Well, you know, my, my, my professional journey has definitely taken me through, I guess, torrential moments of work, work, work, work, but also life giving moments of seeing a partner that I worked with open their coffee shop for the first time, you know, cutting the ribbon, all those kind of things.

Same thing with our own businesses. This newest version of my work in coffee is about bringing more members into the collective, finding those local brands that mean so much to their communities, whether it's here in Kansas City or throughout the Midwest or East or West Coast, whatever that looks like.

So I'm kind [00:41:00] of reignited again back into this idea of from day one in my work of coffee is is partnering with somebody and helping kind of their coffee dream come to reality. Now it's the other side of the coin where they're ready to either find the new partner to help them invest and build or to retire and be done with the business.

So it's a really interesting cycle of my role within coffee. I mean, if I could tell you some of the brands that we were talking to, it's like, I can't wait to like, I mean, I get, I can't wait to drink their coffee again. That's, that's, they're so great.

Tell us, this is going to the spirit podcast listeners. We get exclusive streams. We get the scoop. Yeah, the scoop. So.

Jonathan Jones: Well, Isaac, thank you for being here. You know this podcast, we are looking for different stories and just different ways people are lifting spirits. And, and so when you came to mind and I sent you that text and you immediately said, yes, I'd love to be on the podcast that it was, it was just a great thing because coffee is a big part of most people's [00:42:00] lives.

And it, I think it really does just individually lift people's spirits and just what, yeah. Your company's doing in the Kansas City community and now in other cities it is just more than, than selling a cup of liquid that you really are helping people have that job interview, you know, have that first date relationship or, or whatever it is.

So thank you for being here and thank you for the way Fairwave in your way is lifting.

Isaac Hodges: It's an honor to be with you guys. Thanks for the time.

Aaron Heim: We appreciate you.

Jonathan Jones: So thank you for listening to this episode of the Lift the Spirit podcast.

Our guest today is Isaac Hodges with the Fairwave Coffee Collective here in Kansas City. And Isaac, thank you for joining us and for what you're doing to help lift people's spirits with a cup of coffee.