Empowering Latin Americans in the Coffee Industry: The Story of Proyecto Diaz
“I want to be able to contribute my insight & experiences to help future entrepreneurs succeed as employers and business owners. “
Fernando wants more Latin Americans involved in the coffee industry, empowering them to
tap into the $95B US coffee market. He’s hired a diverse background of Latin Americans
living in the Bay Area and using Proyecto Diaz Coffee as a model for other Latin American
Fernando Diaz’s remarkable story is one of passion, purpose, and perseverance. He is a fourth-generation coffee producer from Oaxaca, Mexico, who has witnessed firsthand the devastating impact that environmental, economic, and cultural issues can have on small-scale coffee producers like his grandfather, Juan Leovigildo Diaz. The Diaz family’s legacy in coffee production began in the early 1900s when they started growing coffee in the lush hills of Oaxaca, Mexico. Despite the challenges, his grandfather’s unwavering dedication and love for his farm and the coffee it produced inspired Fernando to take action and revolutionize the industry.
In 2013, Diaz took a bold step and began selling his own coffee, Proyecto Diaz, on the sidewalks of San Francisco’s Mission District, and a successful weekend pop-up at the famous Ferry Building. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and two loans from Pacific Community ventures (PCV) in 2018 and 2020, he was able to expand his operations and transition towards a more sustainable business model. The PCV loans provided the much-needed capital for Fernando to secure his own space and equipment to grow the business and fulfill larger orders. Additionally, the lending team paired him with a free business advisor who helped him navigate the complex landscape of entrepreneurship.
Through his tireless efforts and commitment to sustainability, Fernando not only revitalized his family’s legacy but also created a new path forward for small coffee producers in Mexico and beyond. The six advisors Fernando met through PCV’s Business Advising program in recent years have been instrumental in his success. They have provided valuable assistance in developing his marketing plan and pitch deck, refining his sales strategy, and receiving sales training, as well as in balancing his books and expanding strategically. Currently, Fernando’s advisor Cindy Kaczmarek, who happens to also be Board Chair at PCV, is providing invaluable support in the process of hiring new personnel, demonstrating the breadth of knowledge and resources available through the PCV Business Advising program.
Fernando emphasizes the importance of meeting with his advisors regularly in person, as this has provided him with a tangible mentorship that has helped him grow his business with confidence. Fernando’s story is one of inspiration, determination, and the power of individual action to impact his family legacy and share it across borders, with the world.
Good Jobs Good Business
In April 2023, Fernando was selected as a PCV Good Jobs Entrepreneur Fellow, joining a cohort of 14 exceptional PCV clients dedicated to providing their employees with high-quality jobs that promote racial and gender wealth building outcomes. “I want to be able to contribute my insight and experiences to help future entrepreneurs succeed as employers and business owners,” he said. Drawing upon his expertise and experience, Fernando is actively contributing to uplifting other small businesses and advancing the creation of good jobs.
Over the past eight years, Proyecto Diaz has undergone significant growth, expanding from a one-person operation where Fernando wasn’t even paying himself a salary to an enterprise with a team of seven members and a range of benefits, including retirement plans and other perks. Fernando’s vision is to make the Latinx community an integral part of every aspect of the coffee roasting industry, spanning from roasting and marketing to management.
“There are individuals within the community who are interested in developing their skills,” he explains. “They can establish their careers here, but I also want to equip them with both hard and soft skills so that they can succeed outside of Proyecto Diaz.“
Empowering Latin American Coffee Farmers for a Sustainable Future
Fernando’s mission is to bring the Latin American community into every part of the coffee roasting sector. He wants to create a model that empowers Latin American families to benefit from the $95 billion coffee market in the U.S. Diaz plans to hire from the Bay Area Latino community and hopes that Proyecto Diaz can serve as a model for other Latin American coffee farmers to follow. His family’s goal was to make coffee farming a viable livelihood for his grandfather and others like him. To achieve this, they started by putting 10% of their profit back into the farm, with the hopes of rebuilding both his grandfather’s farm and the Diaz legacy, and creating a direct bridge between coffee producer and coffee drinker. Diaz’s bold and innovative approach is paving the way for a more sustainable and equitable future for coffee farming communities.
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