Koko Crater Coffee Roasters is brewing up success

Sheryl Nelson
Sheryl Nelson
Chuck Braden
Chuck Braden

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Koko Crater Roasters, there's no time for coffee breaks. The company has been brewing up new ways to keep pace with demand for its products. In our continuing series called Small Business Works, the woman heading up Koko Crater Coffee Roasters has a vision all her own.

Sheryl Nelson has been blind since birth, but disability didn't stop her from sniffing a good opportunity. "There were a lot of naysayers around. 'It's not going to work and whatever, whatever'. And I just said, 'Either help me or get out of my way'."

In the 13 months since Nelson bought Koko Crater Coffee Roasters, sales have increased $60,000. Master roaster Kamaka Hoopai is a big part of the company's success. He slow roasts and handcrafts the beans that originate from around the world - experimenting with flavor profiles, especially for coffee connoisseurs.

"Chocolate, vanilla, spices, hints, it's a lot like wine in the fact that it can have a lot of aromas and flavors. It's just dependent on the way it's taken care of," explains Hoopai.

Chuck Braden is one of those coffee connoisseurs. He buys directly from their warehouse behind Ward farmer's market. "I used to get my coffee, have it shipped in from the mainland, from one of the other companies," says Braden. "But I was finding it was coming in, like, it was almost a week old by the time I got it."

The focus is on freshness. Everything is made to order, and the goal is to deliver roasted coffee no more than 72 hours old.

Nelson acquired the company after tragedy. Her friend, Karen Ertell, once owned the business, but in 2007, Ertell was strangled at her Ewa Beach home by teenage neighbor, Vernon Bartley. Bartley was later convicted of her murder. Nelson and Hoopai now feel a responsibility to carry out their friend's legacy.

"Anyone who came around her, all of the sudden, decided to see coffee in a different light," Hoopai says, remembering his friend and mentor. He says Ertell taught him everything he knows about coffee.

Nelson also thinks fondly of her friend – who first introduced her to the coffee business. Nelson pays Ertell's kindness forward by giving advice to others, disabled or not, looking to open a small business. "Follow your heart and try it. Because if you don't try it, you might always wonder: what could I have done?"

The coffee is sold in cafes around Hawaii, and the company is hoping to expand its retail operation. Every Saturday, they can be found at KCC farmers market, and all the time, on the web: www.kokocratercoffee.com.

For Koko Crater Coffee Roasters, success is in the bag.

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