Islander Alumna Starts Online Coffee Company with Assistance from TAMU-CC Business Innovation Center

By Darrell J. Pehr | Published: January 14, 2021

Islander Alumna Starts Online Coffee Company with Assistance from TAMU-CC Business Innovation Center

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A love of exotic coffee flavors led a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi alumna to launch an online coffee company despite the challenges of starting a business during a pandemic.

Brenda Rodriguez started her company, Café Latina, in March 2020. The 2009 graduate of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi felt there was an unfilled niche in the coffee market and hoped her knowledge and experience with Latin flavors would appeal to coffee fans.

“I grew up with both my parents drinking coffee in the morning while reading the morning newspaper,” Rodriguez said. Family trips would often include stops at coffee shops in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and other cities.

“We made sure to stop by a coffee shop when we had a chance to experience the different coffee each shop had to offer,” she said. “We enjoyed the different origins of coffee, such as Mexican Chiapas, Costa Rican, El Salvadoran, and Guatemalan. I decided to start an online coffee shop. I wanted to bring the flavors of my Hispanic American culture to my brand of coffee.”

As she was getting Café Latina started, she was referred by the Small Business Development Center at Del Mar College to the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center at A&M-Corpus Christi.

“CBBIC helped me by providing the tools I needed to get started,” Rodriguez said. “I created branded, custom flavors of coffee and received help through CBBIC with designing my artwork for my coffee bags.”

CBBIC graduate assistant Marisa Garza applied her graphic design expertise to help with the designs and CBBIC is helping Rodriguez market her company through social media. She was referred to Sew Bonita and Taco Gear for a future podcast to generate publicity for the coffee business through their podcast, “Sew Taco.”

College of Business Dean John Gamble feels Café Latina is an excellent example of the type of assistance CBBIC can provide.

“The work of the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center provides societal impact by connecting students and faculty with small businesses in the area,” Gamble said. “This engagement allows students to gain hands-on business experience while our team provides valuable business expertise to new startups like Café Latina. We are glad to have the opportunity to assist Corpus Christi-area businesses from launch through maturity.”

Russell Franques, CBBIC director, said the uniqueness of her business coupled with the ability to scale up her operation were the key factors for Rodriguez becoming a client. 

“Her business is unique in that she curated a set of distinct Latin-inspired coffees, developed a supplier to produce them to her high-quality standards, and is driving her model via e-commerce,” Franques said. “All of this was in the midst of a pandemic.”

Café Latina is a perfect fit with the mission of CBBIC.

“At the core, we empower businesses that are unique to the Coastal Bend, have potential to scale, and develop employment opportunities to have a positive impact on the community,” Franques said. “Business types vary greatly at The Center, particularly due to the fact that we try to assist novel/unique businesses. Our current clients range from a company that is the leader in gang tracking software for law enforcement, a digital media marketing company that focuses on national real estate, to a company trying to bring to market a new form of variable transmission, and many more.”

Café Latina’s coffees are made from South and Central American coffee beans, which produce medium-bodied coffee.

“These flavors are commonly associated with cocoa, nut, spice, and chocolate notes,” Rodriguez said. “I decided to create six flavors to start: Café de Olla, Mexican Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, La Gran Fiesta, Texas Rum, and Pan de Polvo (Mexican Wedding Cookies).” The website, cafelatina.net, gives a description of each coffee and its background.

Rodriguez is working on a few more coffee flavors this year and has a goal of opening a coffee shop in the near future in the San Antonio area. She plans to continue to market Café Latina to increase sales through marketing, social media, networking, and word of mouth, and plans to add events such as the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio and others in the Coastal Bend.

Rodriguez said Café Latina is growing slowly by marketing to friends and family, word of mouth, and social media, so far.

“I would highly recommend CBBIC to those entrepreneurs starting a new business,” Rodriguez said. “There are so many questions to be answered and help that we need when starting a new company. Getting through the different phases of opening a new startup company is important and difficult. I received the help I needed, from creating my web page to branding and registering as an LLC, marketing, and creating a social media page. It’s a full-time job when starting a new company. It is also challenging at times. CBBIC has helped me a lot.”