three keys coffee
KENZEL FALLEN and TIO FALLEN
As told by Kenzel and Tio.
Three Keys used their Big Idea Grant to focus on operations, including installation of solar, switching up their packaging and donating their chaff to local BIPOC farmers.
THREE KEYS LED TO THREE KEYS
I played trumpet from third grade up through college in the marching band. I take those experiences, and that discipline, and apply it to something else that I am passionate about: coffee. With Three Keys, we want to build a legacy and show our kids the value of work and commitment.
WE’RE GOING ALL IN ON SOLAR
The Big Idea Grant allowed us to think big in bringing to life a sustainable roastery. We’re in the process of going solar. We want to be able to produce our own electricity, operate equipment, and sell electricity back to the grid, too. It makes sense because so much of what we do involves using power. And with solar, we want to create a model that can be replicated across the industry.
“No one will succeed at sustainability in this climate crisis if we don’t share what we learn so the next person doesn’t have to start at square one. Our plan is to create a blueprint that can be replicated by other small cafés and businesses looking to be more sustainable…”
Houston is tough! Without having a blueprint, you learn as you go. And, in trying to go solar, we’ve run into regulatory and permitting challenges that have stifled our momentum. You would think the city would be receptive to it and there wouldn't be any challenges for implementation, but, one year later, we’re still working on that permit.
IN THE MEANTIME, WE KNOW WE CAN DO CHAFF RIGHT
Chaff is what’s left behind from the coffee beans in the roasting process. We collect it, along with all the used coffee grounds and all the coffee grounds of all the cafés we supply coffee to, and send them to a local urban farm where it all becomes compost and fertilizes their soil.
HOW WE SEE COFFEE AND SUSTAINABILITY
Coffee is one of the most traded commodities, and one of the most consumed beverages, in the world, but you can only grow it within a particular geographic band. And if you think about the coffee supply chain, from seed to cup — all the processing, transport, shipment, manufacturing, roasting — you see a lot of opportunities to put together a sustainable infrastructure. We can do so much better.
“Ever since I was a little kid, the phrase that’s stuck with me is ‘Reach for the stars. You may land on the moon.’ It means think big, but take small steps. If we want to attack climate change, it’s up to us.”
FAILING IS FINE
With failure, or any set back, you still have movement. Sometimes moving backward lets you learn, just as moving forward has its own set of learnings and experiences. Movement, in any direction, lets you take some kind of lesson. It can help you shift, or reevaluate things. Movement helps you keep going.
I wouldn’t discourage anyone from dreaming big, but sometimes success is based on how resilient you can be when things don't go your way. Stack up your small wins and realize that with sustainability initiatives, it’s a marathon. A bunch of marathons.
Kenzel and Tio’s 5 ways to successfully
cut through bureaucratic red tape:
MAKE IT POLITICAL!
Get a city councilperson or another elected official involved. We were grateful to have support from our councilperson and her team, to help push along city reviews.
Find someone who has done a similar project as yours. Then find another, and another. Follow their plans closely but understand your municipality will likely still throw you unanticipated curve balls.
Whatever timeframe you planned for, you should probably quadruple it.
Tell everyone you know about the issues. We had so many people along the way who shared our story on our behalf and helped us get the city’s attention.
Talk to the media to put a spotlight on issues and delays.
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Seriously, they approved this part. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can connect you with these amazing entrepreneurs so you can ask all about how to get going on similar sustainable projects of your own. Because sustainability info should be free and shareable for all, of course!