Denver coffee manufacturers pay homage to their roots

Jose Cristian and Keila Castorena founded SelvaSur Coffee in 2016, a family-owned coffee manufacturing company, with the vision of bringing the highest quality coffee beans and Latin American products that are ethically and lovingly harvested from Peru and Organic Chiapas coffee beans from Mexico, to the Denver area. It wasn’t until 2019 when their products became available to the public, after dedicating years to ensuring a smooth process of harvesting, importing, and becoming organically-grown certified coffee manufacturers.

Keila, currently a full-time academic, and Jose Cristian, launched SelvaSur with the objective of paying homage to their roots. Jose Cristian, previously a college professor in Mexico, grew up watching his father work in the coffee industry as an expert coffee taster in Mexico and had the connections to get the coffee beans from Mexico, Peru and various parts of the world. 

A few months prior to the start of the pandemic, Jose Cristian and his wife considered the possibility of launching a coffee shop to increase their brand awareness within their community. He shares they applied for a loan to purchase inventory–and today, that inventory still sits somewhere in their warehouse. He explains, “We’re at a point where we can’t afford the rent of our warehouse, let alone afford a new lease on a brick and mortar shop. Our hands are tied and worst of all, we’re accumulating debt that we don’t know how to pay.”

Jose Cristian says they’re essentially starting from scratch. The COVID-19 pandemic set them back–they lost contracts with local supermarkets, and they’ve tried to get their products in retail giants but unfortunately their small business is still not there yet.

As the only two employees at SelvaSur, Keila and Jose Cristian have sought federal relief funding from various national, state and local programs, but haven’t had much luck in that arena. Keila attributes this misfortune to the fact that their payroll expenses and overall losses aren’t as significant compared to much larger businesses. 

She says, “It’s been a tough year and a half for smaller businesses like mine, especially those who are still starting out and are struggling to make a footing in the industry. The pandemic has put entrepreneurs to the test, but through it all, it’s made us more resilient and pushed us to thrive.”

Keila and Jose Cristian have reached out to their network to find alternative avenues to continue to grow their business and have found some success at farmer markets by selling their products and offering coffee to-go.

They’re currently looking for ways to get their products in other local supermarkets, and are looking for grant opportunities to keep their business afloat. She shares, “I’m confident that through our network, we will be able to sell our products widely very soon.” In the meantime, Keila and Jose Cristian have submitted their application to participate in Small Business Majority’s digital holiday gift guide, an online directory that freely promotes small businesses and their products during this holiday season.

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