The Trials of the Small Business Owner

Welcome to Brand of Brothers Coffee Company. My name is Bradley Ellis and I am the Founder, CEO, CFO, Coffee Picker, Exporter, Importer, Inventory Manager, Ordering Manager, Product Design Specialist, Financier, and the Floor Sweeper of BOB Coffee. 

This journey of mine began so long ago, I dont even remember when I first dreamed of becoming a coffee magnate, but neither the dreams nor their persuit has ended. I first came to Colombia in 2017 as a backpacker to look around and get a feel of Colombia and Latin America in general. I was pure Gringo(still am) on an excellent vacation, falling in love with the newfound beauty, diverse climates, warm oceans, and rich coffee that Colombia has to offer.

I returned to the United States in the Summer of 2017 to "live the American Dream" or at least a version of it. I took my welding skills to Northern Wisconsin and sat down in a few fabrication shops to "earn" a good wage. While I did in fact make good money, living that way only made me lonely and miserable, driving me deeper into my PTSD and isolationist way of living.

I have a complicated relationship with the United States. I served for 7 years in its Army, and I endured 2 combat tours to Afghanistan. I made alot of lifelong friends and brothers during my time of service and it was an absolute honor to serve my fellow Americans, regardless of the weight it left on my shoulders and my heart. 

Many of the symptoms of my PTSD were compounded by the death of my father in August of 2011. At the time I was on a training mission in Germany. My First Sergeant woke me up at 0230 in the morning directing me to call home, saying that there was urgent news I needed to hear. I dressed myself and walked from the barracks to the bank of pay phones at the end of the block, where I called home to receive the worst news of my life. My father had a heart attack. . .  and had died.

I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and insomnia ever since, to the point of voluntarily hospitalizing myself two times to prevent my own death from suicide. I have been analyzed, therapized, medicated, and under treatment of the V.A. for many years, to little or no effect.

Im sure these words are as difficult to read as they were to type. They are an important part of my story and bring alot of meaning and purpose to my business endeavors because I know that I am not alone. I know that there are countless brothers of mine that are in similiar situations to my own that are in need of a helping hand. This is the reason I am so generous in the distribution of my earnings to Non Profit Organizations that are aligned with my mission to combat veteran homelessness, veteran joblessness, providers of NON VA(Veterans Administration) mental/behavioural health support, alternative Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapies, and other veteran causes, like bringing veteran suicides down from 22 per day to 0 per day. Brand of Brothers Coffee company was created out of my need to be a caretaking member of my veteran community. A building block of my company is based on the Army Values, and that is "No one gets left behind".

I returned to Colombia in December 2018 for another 3 or 4 month backpacking adventure. On a whim, I decided to apply for a visa to live here and I was awarded a 3 year visa! This came as a nice suprise, as I had no idea if I would even be approved. I used my return flight to make a quick trip home and pack 2 more suitcases, preparing for my new life in Colombia.

I have had many unique experiences here in Colombia. I became a much more stable person through the use of shamanic rituals and plant medicines. I have developed a healthier lifestyle for myself and I have become an excellent speaker, reader and writer of Spanish. I participate in weekly therapy sessions and I am even a part of a community of veteran expats that also enjoy living in Colombia.

I met my girlfriend, Yeny, in April of 2019 while in Bogota D.C., Colombia's Capitol, and we started dating a few months later. She has been and continues to be a blessing in my life. When Coronavirus threatened the world, Yeny and I left the city of Bogota for her family's farm, Finca Nelly. Finca Nelly is in the small pueblo of San Francisco, Cundinamarca, where just about everyone who lives there grows coffee! Finca Nelly, too, is a coffee farm, with about 3000 coffee trees. 

This is where my true love and appreciation for coffee began. I spent countless 12 hour days working in those trees. Harvesting, fertilizing, planting, trimming, and maintaining 3k coffee trees on a mountain is no small feat, nor is it cheap. After a bit of research, I discovered that Coffee is actually such a strong commodity, that its value is actually determined by the New York Stock Exchange rather than the cost of production. This was quite alarming to discover, and as I did the math, I made another shocking discovery. 

Growing coffee in Colombia and allowing the New York Stock Exchange to set its sale price means that this community of coffee farmers, or "cafeteros", all pick up secondary work in order to operate their farm. The sale of their coffee does not bring enough money for these farms to rely on their coffee crop alone to survive, in fact its just the opposite. Accepting the NYSE price for coffee turns this community of cafeteros into slaves. Learning this made me sick to my stomach, as it is taught that slavery was abolished in most parts of the modern world. 

This is when I decided to act.

I decided to start a Fair Trade/Direct Trade coffee export business in the midst of a pandemic. Colombia at the time was under a full quarantine. Arcane government policies and actions killed roughly 80% of the Colombian small business sector. Simply creating my business took over 8 months due to unreliable agents and governmental office closures. I have since had to pay to renew my company, even though I have not even had permission to export a single bean of coffee. 

By the time December came I was disheartened and broke. Yeny and I were expecting our baby son to arrive, so I shelved my project for a few months and took a well earned break. This break allowed me to give my full attention to my girlfriend and my newborn son, Sebastian, as well as enjoy the holiday season with my new Colombian family.

As we skip forward a few months, I now have all of my paperwork completed, paid for, and submitted to the appropriate government divisions. I am waiting on what is essentially Colombia's FDA, called INVIMA, to register my company and give it a number; and I am waiting on my export license to arrive. These processes have unfortunately been delayed due to government closures in response to the pandemic. 

So I wait. . .

After a lengthy conversation with my sister, I have decided to move forward and open my online store. I have a few wonderful collections of apparel for sale, as well as a few classy coffee mugs; though I regret to inform you that all of the Premium coffee I have harvested from Finca Nelly is still stored in my garage here in Colombia.

I invite you to browse our tasteful collections of gear and I want to thank you for supporting my mission to help my brothers and sisters. Every customer who places an order of $50 or more during the month of April will receive an email coupon for 20% off their first order of coffee once it becomes available. 

P.S. The photo is of my beloved but previously unmentioned best friend, Itzel, named after the Mayan Rainbow Goddess.