Desert Sun Coffee Company: Making the World a Better Place

Durango has seen its fair share of coffee shops and roasteries. So, what makes Desert Sun Coffee Roasters any different from the others?

New owner Zachary Ray says it best, “At Desert Sun, we’re committed to relationships with our small-scale farmer partners. We work directly with them on environmental initiatives, supporting: regenerative-organic practices, reforestation projects, and tracking and rewarding carbon sequestration in their fields. This relationship-focused model guarantees the highest quality sustainable coffee on the market. We’re setting the bar higher for carbon responsibility and transparency in trade.”

The company is so committed to this mission that it is pursuing B Corporation status, which will give it a legal obligation to uphold its values for its stakeholders. Currently, Durango only has one B Corp; Desert Sun hopes to be the second.

As if that isn’t enough, Desert Sun intensely focuses on taking care of its customers and fulfilling their needs. Their goal is to give their end-buyers peace of mind knowing that everything has been taken care of. “We really value our customers a lot; we strive to provide phenomenal customer service (just ask anyone), accurate orders, and timely deliveries. This is all part of our bigger philosophy,” Zach says.

So, what does this have to do with the SBDC?

Zach has been working at Desert Sun for twelve years. As a first-generation college graduate, he took a job as a bean bagger shortly after he graduated. Through the years, he worked his way up. After a brief hiatus to work with the Shanta Foundation in Southeast Asia, Zach returned and took the position of general manager at the company. Soon he became part owner, and as of one month ago, he is now the full owner of Desert Sun Coffee Roasters.

“The SBDC’s Buying and Selling a Business Workshop was EXTREMELY helpful throughout the process. It taught me how to look at the business and showed me what pieces needed to be put together. They put me directly in touch with a consultant who helped review my business plan. In the end, the bank was enthusiastic about what was put together, which made all the difference,” Zach says.

Zach is honored to lead a team of dedicated employees. Desert Sun is Thrive certified, and most of his staff have been with the company for years. “People love the work. Desert Sun is value-based, and they come to work because of this. I am very grateful for a team who believes in what we’re up to, wants to be here, and participates in our mission.”

Being in one of the world’s most competitive industries, however, is not without its challenges. As a manufacturer, Desert Sun’s growth comes from outside the region. Zach and his team continually have to ask themselves, “How do we get people who aren’t from here to identify with our brand?”

Another challenge that the company faces is well-known by local manufacturers—how do they make their large vision happen in a small, remote town? Try getting coffee shipped here. It’s not easy!

If you’re thinking about starting a business, Zach would tell you, “Don’t get into this industry. Coffee is the #2 commodity on the planet; it’s crazy competitive. But, if you are thinking of buying a business, attend the SBDC’s Buying and Selling a Business Workshop. It was so instrumental in helping me understand the logistical process we would undergo to make it happen. Then, find a small bank. We were fortunate to work with a great local bank—and all of that happened because of the SBDC.”

Zach’s door is always open if you want to chat. He believes that having people join the conversation pushes the industry higher. “It’s really about walking the walk. How do we engage people and challenge the industry? How do we become leaders for responsible business? How do we be that example? If we’re going to change lives, let’s do it collectively—because at the end of the day, we exist to make the world a better place.”

James Ranch Grill

Cynthia Stewart’s entrepreneurial story is one that brought her around full circle.   The values instilled in her childhood were reinforced and focused on the establishment of the James Ranch Grill.  Cynthia is the daughter of Kay and David James, the founders of James Ranch, and one of five siblings.  The ranch was established in 1961 in the Animas Valley north of Durango.  As a child, she was taught how to care for animals, as well

Read More »
Soundscapes International

By Malia Durbano Ross Barrable an acoustic sculptor attended the Leading Edge for Entrepreneur’s Class offered by the SBDC in the winter of 2010 because, “I wanted to learn about business and branding and how to market my wind harps.” Barrable doesn’t have a store front and recognizes that most of the sales for his high ticket items come by building relationships with potential clients. Barrable creates, “Contemporary sound sculptures, or wind harps, fabricated out

Read More »
Desert Sun Coffee Roasters

In the eight years since Glenn Lathrop started Desert Sun Coffee Roasters, he has reached out for help to Joe Keck and the SW Colorado SBDC numerous times. “I’ve worked with them since the beginning,” he explains. Lathrop, President and owner of Desert Sun, asked Keck to generate lists of potential customers for his coffee. Desert Sun is a wholesale coffee roaster. Lathrop buys imported green coffee beans, then roasts them creating custom blends. They

Read More »
Four Corners Guides

Lizzy Scully, CEO, and Steve Fassbinder, Head Bikeraft Guide, co-founded Four Corners Guides, a multi-sport guide service (bikepacking, packrafting and bikerafting), headquartered in Mancos, CO.  This dynamic pair incorporated their passion for adventure with the natural wonder of the Four Corners area to offer guided tours and upscale camping experiences (referred to as glamping, glamourous camping) at their Scullbinder Ranch.             Lizzy and Steve first shared their dreams with each other about teaming up to

Read More »
MUNIRevs: Creating a Nexus

In 2011, Erin Neer had finally found a solution. Erin, who is a CPA, was working as a finance director for a municipality in Colorado. During her tenure, she began to see that many municipalities, cities, counties, and states throughout the country were struggling to streamline their tax collection and licensing processes for businesses within their communities. Most jurisdictions were using antiquated methods that involved manual calculations, paper coupons, extensive mail processing, and frequent runs

Read More »
San Juan Trading Post

By Malia Durbano Ryan, Tom and Ellen Beavers are all partners in San Juan Trading Post, a new business that opened in Pagosa Springs in October of 2013. Parents Tom and Ellen live in Pagosa and develop properties there. Son Ryan was managing a pawn shop in Ohio. When Tom and Ellen looked around, they realized there wasn’t a pawn shop in Pagosa and thought it might be a good place to open one. Ryan

Read More »