This article appears in Summer 2015 B2B.
You can tell there’s something different about Green Beans Coffee when you walk in.
The west Omaha store, open since April, is devoid of the two-person tables and fancy French presses. Green Beans is spacious, not cramped. It has comfy couches and a children’s play area.
But it’s not until you reach the counter and notice the American flag paintings and pictures of people in camouflage that you realize this is more than just a coffee shop.
Green Beans Omaha manager John Sievers served in the Air Force for 26 years, traveling all over the world as a meteorologist. While on assignment in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Sievers was first introduced to Green Beans Coffee Company.
Founded by Jason and Jon Araghi in 1997, Green Beans opened its first cafe in a Saudi Arabian furniture store. Military personnel began to frequent the shop, and Green Beans started opening stores wherever they could in combat zones, converting shipping containers into coffee cafes if necessary. The company also created a program called Cup of Joe, where customers could buy a cup of coffee and send a letter to a service member.
When Sievers retired from the Air Force last year, he had no idea what he wanted to do, but Green Beans’ coffee was already running through his veins.
“I started thinking deeply about what I really enjoyed about the military, and my number one thing was serving my country and the people who fight for our freedom,” says Sievers.
Green Beans popped in his head one day, and Sievers began to wonder if the company had cafes in the United States.
On a whim Sievers applied for a license to start his own Green Beans cafe. His request came back approved, and suddenly Sievers had a business to open.
“When he first told us, I didn’t think it would actually happen, so after he started doing all of the business plans, I got really excited,” says Sievers now-18-year-old daughter, Kirstyn, a shift leader at Green Beans. With the help of his wife Angela, and his three children, Sievers began making his Green Beans shop, a place “where community happens,” a reality.
But the transition from military member to small business owner wasn’t the easiest. He still uses the same documentation and long book system at Green Beans that he learned in the Air Force, but he’s also learned to break away from the military’s rigid structure and embrace flexibility.
“Sometimes he’s almost too nice,” assistant manager Jenn Reed says with a laugh. “But he’s really let me take control, which I really like.”
For Sievers, taking a leap of faith like handing the management reins over to an employee is all part of the process to truly make his store a place where community happens.
“What we stand for—helping the military, the Cup of Joe program—that stuff is the reason why I do this,” says Sievers. “If I don’t make a penny off of this, but I get heavily involved in the community and be a part of helping our nation’s heroes, then at the end of the day I’ve met my goals.”