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November 23, 2011

Coffee to go

Motobean puts a fresh, fair-trade spin on your morning java.

How do I share my life and work with my children? That's the question that led Marc and Sandra Perez to start their organic mobile coffee business, Motobean. Marc, a senior strategy consultant for Microsoft, realized his sons, Aidan, 7, and Lucas, 5, believed that all work took place behind a desk, because that’s where they always saw their dad. "It’s very hard to make my work tangible to a child," he says. So, in 2010, the Perez family kicked around the idea of starting up a family business. For Marc, it was a way to build something. For Sandra, it was an opportunity to teach their sons that a simple idea can grow into something positive for the community.

Getting started "The idea began on a trip to Denver," says Marc. "I saw a farmer's market with food trucks, specifically organic and gluten-free." Sandra is especially conscious of food choices, because Aidan has food allergies. Marc sent back photos and a video from his trip, with a special emphasis on a family-owned coffee business. The next month, the family flew out together on an information expedition. "The kids don't get excited about what I do for a living, but they got excited about scouting a farmer's market."

A family affair At Microsoft, Marc's focus is collaboration, helping people work with technology more effectively. It was a different kind of collaboration that brought Motobean from concept to reality. A friend of the family and freelance graphic artist, "Uncle" Art Henson, came up with the name for the company and the logo. The chief operating officer, Clayton Bellmor, has lived with the Perez family for the past year and is like another member of the family.

Sandra's passion for natural products led them to find an organic roaster that would meet fair trade or direct trade requirements. "When you sell a product like a cup of coffee, the mission is to provide a conscientious option," says Sandra. "You can charge what [a chain would charge], but at the same time you can tell the customer about the woman who actually grows the beans." The family toured Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters in Atlanta and found their wholesale partner. "That's the point when it became real," says Marc.

On the move The goal for the Perez family was to remain grassroots, small enough that they could converse with customers buying products, leave a small carbon footprint and still share their product with all parts of the community. "We want to go all around Charlotte and find people and bring them joy and smiles," says Sandra.

The solution came in the shape of a converted horse trailer, now a high-end mobile café. Motobean has a pushcart business license, allowing it to park at metered spaces and work special events, such as farmer's markets. Motobean has worked with Showtime, providing java options on site for the cast and crew of “Homeland.” They were invited to the Bank of America 500 in October as well as GanttFest. The Perez kids even served some of their friends and classmates at the "" event held in front of Blythe Leggette Elementary School. In November, Motobean took up residence on weekdays at the Met(ropolitan) in Uptown, preparing coffee for the community and businesses in the new development.

For the boys With Motobean, Sandra and Marc have built a lasting legacy for their children, one cup at a time. "Motobean is their business," says Marc. "After almost two decades in corporate America, I believe [our sons’] hearts and ambitions are the only enterprise worth establishing and the only market worth winning."

The boys are at every event they can attend, when they aren't in school. Motobean’s corporate office is the family's dining room table. Aidan and Lucas are a part of every decision, including what employees are hired. One of their favorites is the company’s head barista from Seattle, Amber Johnson.

"What the boys are learning from Amber isn’t just how to make coffee; they’re learning a trade recognized around the world, by which they can pay for college and eventually pass to another person," explains Marc. "They can't pull a great espresso shot yet, but they can hand out hot cocoa!"

Like their motto states, this family is "motovated." Marc says, "Now [the boys are learning] that they can shape their future – not with computers and virtual education – but with their own hands."

Want to go?

To learn more about Motobean and find their current location, visit Facebook: Motobean Twitter: @motobeanCLT

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