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Putting farmers first: How one small coffee company kept their mission in 2021

Learn more about the driving force behind Progeny Coffee

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Maria Palacio knows coffee. Her family has been farming beans in her native Colombia for five generations. “I am from a coffee belt, which means we only grow coffee there. Growing up on a farm was very different from where I am right now, There was a lot of nature, but you get to face a lot of realities. You know, farmers just fall into this deep poverty loop and usually tend to produce 15 percent below margin,” says Palacio.

In 2016, she and her husband co-founded Progeny Coffee with a mission to bring Colombian coffee farmers out of poverty. Progeny works to cut the middleman out of coffee supply chains, offer farmers a fair rate for their product, and act in a spirit of transparency. They also, incidentally, want to provide really good coffee: the beans aren’t blended, so customers are getting a bean-to-cup product from specific farmers.

But when Progeny lost 97% of its sales overnight in March 2020, that mission was put in serious jeopardy. Progeny had to adapt – and quickly. They moved from supplying brick and mortar wholesalers to using social media and focused marketing to target coffee consumers. It was a big pivot – one that business tool QuickBooks helped Palacio with enormously. She needed a business software that could reliably manage payments – an increasingly important tool as Progeny began running a subscription service.

“One of the great things about QuickBooks is that it sends you alerts when you’re getting paid,” says Palacio. “And being a mom of two little girls, I’m definitely juggling things.” Her daughters are a constant presence in Palacio’s work life, even as she logs onto her laptop to handle the business of the day. Maybe that’s a bit of a given – her connection to coffee comes from her family, and Progeny is very much a family business.

Progeny Coffee co-founder and CEO Maria Palacio.

“Being a small company, we don’t have a financial team that’s able to interpret our data. So we really need software that’s able to do that,” says Palacio.

After pivoting so successfully, Progeny continues to be a business with big goals and big ideas. These are all underlined by an even greater commitment: to become the world’s largest buyer of Colombian coffee.