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Never Give Up, Anything is Possible

To make this business even more unique, they wanted their coffee to be different and only first class and environmentally compatible. They sponsored a grower from Guatemala to do a presentation on Fair Trade Coffee and became convinced this was the logical step. They would serve only shade grown organic coffee.

 Jose Torres, co-founder of the Copy Bean proudly serves the best coffee available any where in the world.

I have never considered myself any type of coffee drinker because I usually don't like coffee, but I had the best cup of coffee the other day! I thought I would check out the unique copy center in Watsonville called the Copy Bean and I got a great cup of coffee and an interesting story about an interesting man, Jose Torres, founding partner in a combination coffee cafe/print and copy center. Before I continue with Jose's story, I have to describe the wonderful cup of coffee. It's called Mayan Mocha and it's their version of a Mexican Coffee Mocha. He uses powdered Mexican chocolate and since I have a lactose problem with cow's milk, he used soy milk instead. It was incredible, all those different flavors. Of course, if you prefer a regular Coffee Mocha, he uses only the best Ghiradelli chocolate, and only Grade 1 coffee, which is also Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown.

 Cafe portion of the  Copy Bean

Living homeless the first ten years of his life, Jose and his migrant family followed the crops that grew in the central valley. He remembers transients asking his mother for food, and that she never turned anyone away without giving them something even if they had little to eat themselves. He still gathers strength in remembering that his mother never said that something was impossible.

He learned at a very early age that the only way out of this kind of life was to get an education. He couldn't afford college after high school yet Jose wanted to challenge himself. He was afflicted with chronic asthma and some days he could not even get out of bed. A powerful drug called Tedral helped to temporarily allievate the chronic symptoms. He could no longer endure this kind of life, he adopted a “Can Do” attitude, willing to take a major risk to find out if he could make a significant change in his life in 1963 he joined the Marine Corps. He relied on his mother to send him crushed pills in the mail to help him breathe more normally. Sometimes an asthma attack would strike while standing in formation, but Jose would not give in and survived it with controlled shallow breathing for as long as it took. Occasionally, he would pass out and he'd be taken to the infirmary, but he was never diagnosed with this disease. The intense physical training appeared to make a positive change in his overall health, about six weeks into Boot Camp. After Boot Camp he was sent to language school to learn Vietnamese, then trained in Counter Intelligence. He would use these skills in conducting special operations in Vietnam. The Southeast Asian climate is considered to be the worst environment for asthmatics. He says that the asthma never affected him there. It took the same will-power demonstrated in Boot Camp and the “Can Do” attitude for him to survive one man operations in the jungles of Vietnam.

After six years in the Marine Corps he studied at Fresno City College taking advantage of the GI Bill. He took a break for a while, then finally transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he graduated with a B.S. Degree in Economics and Community Economical Development in 1983. He decided to stay in the area, and took a job with the Strawberry Co-ops training employees in payroll procedures and general bookeeping. Then for 3 years worked as a Loan officer for the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union. He also managed Farmhill Inc. owned by Tom Driscoll, Driscoll Strawberries. He was asked to join the Central Coast Small Business Development Center at U.C. Santa Cruz as a consultant for minority owned businesses, women owned businesses, agriculture related businesses. At that time, his own company Diversified Business Services was already busy counseling numerous small businesses. Jose Torres helped people secure more than two million dollars in financing for local minority owned businesses.

During this time Jose began to specialize in women-owned businesses. “At that time, and possibly even to some extent now” Jose explained, “women have had a more difficult time getting seed money for their businesses and being taken seriously by banks, etc. I've felt strongly about how women could run a successful businesses just as easily as men,” continued Jose. When asked “How do you treat women-owned businesses differently” he responded, in three ways, “I have to treat women tougher than men; no excuses no matter what, they must be willing to take smaller steps; one day at a time, and more patience is required; that is, repetition.” To clarify he recounts the personal story of a woman, an employee of an offset printing business for many years. The business owner, one day offered to sell her the business, she came to Jose for his advice. He asked her three probing questions, “How much do you want this business?” she said, “more than anything, but my husband objects to my owning a business.” Jose immediately asked the tough question that she didn't want to hear, “Are you prepared to go through a divorce?” followed by a second tough question, “Are you willing to do it alone?” These questions would probably never be asked of a man. In terms of smaller steps; Jose began to prepare her to obtain the mindset of business owner one day at a time. In terms of patience; when the dollar hit the cash register, it had to stay there.

She did purchase the business, she did go through a divorce, and many years later sold the business for a profit. Since then she has confided to him that the episode enabled her to know that she could do anything she wanted.

The following success story demonstrates the extent to which Jose Torres will go to salvage a business and thereby salvaging a family. The Morales family, strawberry growers with 35 acres were about to lose the farm and their home and in a final desperate attempt would seek out Jose's advice. Jose restructured their loans and was able to secure a favorable commercial/government loan. He eliminated the cost of bookeeping by personally training the wife, Conception, to take over that job. Her training lasted about one year. He helped them purchase their first computer to do the payroll. Then trained the husband in management skills and employee relations while cutting back on his field supervisors. He says that some hours were paid by the Small Business Development Center, some hours by the grower, and many hours were donated. He helped their daughter gain admission and obtain a scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley, the first in the family to continue a higher education. Part of his strategy is to convince the whole family that they can do it. So the whole family participates in making the enterprise a success. The grower is still in business and has purchased an additional 10 acres taking advantage of Jose's advice to extend their growing season by also growing raspberries. Their daughter has graduated and found a job with the University, her services are not required on the farm. Only recently has Jose crossed the line between consultant and client and visited their home as a friend.

He uses all of his background to instill in business owners “Never give up, anything is possible” while the path may vary the end result is success. After 18 years of work with minority businesses, in 1997, Jose was honored by the U.S. Small business Administration as Minority Business Advocate of the year. U.S. Congressman Sam Farr presented him with a commendation for his work.

During his consulting years, he met his current business partner, Carmen Rivas. She had run her own desktop publishing business for ten years, Jose helped her with a business plan to obtain a loan for expansion. Together they came up with an idea to diversify her business by combining the graphic design/print business with a coffee shop where people can linger over a cup of coffee as they wait comfortably for their print project, or just take a break after delivering or picking up their projects

 Local Artists display their  artwork down town on the  walls of the Copy Bean.

To make this business even more unique, they wanted the coffee to be different and only first class and environmentally compatible. They sponsored a grower from Guatemala to do a presentation on Fair Trade Coffee and became convinced this was the next logical step. In learning the effect of paying fair wages to coffee growers they also learned that coffee grown in areas under trees would preserve rain forests, and that it is also possible to grow coffee without the use of pesticides. It was decided to serve only shade grown organic coffee. Carmen invited Jose to join her in this business venture and with Jose's acceptance of her proposal, the Copy Bean was born. He credits Carmen for allowing him to focus on a single goal, he says “You can be successful in many things but to be fulfilled you have to focus on just one thing. For me fulfillment means obtaining a measure of inner peace and tranquility.” Reminiscent of his joining the Marine Corps he says, “I want to see if I can do it” and adds “just focus on internal business forces and not allow external forces to negatively impact the business.”

Not discussed so far, are the business ventures that Jose embarked on and sold for a profit. After leaving the Marine Corps he studied to be a chef and opened an Italian deli and later a Taqueria in Salinas, a Mexican restaurant, pizzeria, and grew strawberries. He often ran one or more of these businesses while working as a consultant. When asked “how can you have so many things going on at one time?” he says, “I was taught that there are 24 hrs in a day and that nobody guarantees you sleep.”

Jose has been successful in many things but now he says “Carmen has offered me an opportunity to grow.” He can go to a place he's never been before fulfilled, obtained by focusing on just one thing.

The only coffee served at the Copy Bean is Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown coffee and is also available for customers to purchase by the pound. If you find yourself in Watsonville, California Jose and Carmen invite you to stop in for a cup of coffee at the Copy Bean located at 550 Main Street. END

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