You can find Sergio Molina and his Esperanza Coffee Collective booth each Saturday at the Kenosha Public Market, plus Sunday through Friday at his coffee drive-thru, located at The Branch, 1501 Washington Ave. in Racine.
While business is good — and growing all the time — he hopes to keep expanding.
“I’ve got big dreams for the future,” he said during a quick break from serving customers Friday morning. “I’m hoping to have more locations in Kenosha and Racine and continue to build links with other businesses.”
As part of this strategy, Molina took part in the TV show “Project Pitch It,” a Wisconsin TV show that follows the “Shark Tank” format. Each week, three entrepreneurs make their business pitches to judges, vying to win one of three awards. The sixth season airs 10:35 p.m. Saturdays on WISN-Channel 12 in Milwaukee, and reruns on Sunday mornings.
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Those awards include cash and mentoring opportunities, and it was a mentor who encouraged Molina to make a pitch to be on “Pitch It.”
“I was working on getting loans for my business and was working with a WWBIC consultant,” Molina said. “She suggested I try out for the program.” (The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. is an organization focusing on assisting women, people of color, lower-wealth individuals and veterans with loans, coaching and business training.)
Luckily, Molina already had a “Pitch Deck” presentation he had created for a WWBIC Business Accelerator Class.
A “Pitch Deck,” he explained, “is an explanation of your business, like you would take to potential investors.”
His pitch worked, and he was chosen for this season of “Project Pitch It.”
He filmed his episode in December and, when asked how his pitch to the TV show’s judges went, Molina laughs and says, “I might have blacked out a bit.”
Once he made his presentation, “the judges then ask a lot of questions, and it takes off in a different direction.”
Overall, he said taking part in the TV show “was a great experience.”
Roots in coffee
Molina was born and raised in Kenosha — graduating from Tremper High School and from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in 2014, where he studied business and accounting — but his family’s roots are in the small town of Acatenango, Guatemala, where his grandfather started growing coffee beans.
“My mom grew up on the coffee farm, and we visited a lot when I was growing up,” he said, adding “in that town, everyone is connected to the coffee business in some way. We would come back to Kenosha with two suitcases filled with coffee.”
After college, Molina worked as an internal auditor at Modine Manufacturing in Racine “where I learned a lot and developed a lot of business skills.”
Still, he had dreams of running his own business.
“I started doing a lot of soul searching,” he said. “I moved to Guatemala and lived with my uncle on the coffee farm and learned a lot about growing coffee beans.”
Back in Wisconsin, he worked as a barista for two years to learn the coffee business before launching Esperanza Coffee Collective in 2018.
“I love connecting the business to my family — and to other local businesses,” Molina said. “The coffee beans come from our family’s farm in Guatemala, and the beans are roasted by Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. in Milwaukee.”
Even the company’s name, Esperanza, has a special meaning.
“Esperanza was my grandmother’s middle name,” Molina said. “It means ‘hope’ in Spanish, and we have hopes for business.”
The “hope” theme carries through to the company’s butterfly logo, created by Brittany Parshall.
“I see a lot of opportunity here, in the Kenosha and Racine area,” Molina said. “Working with other entrepreneurs is a key, along with having patience and perseverance. That’s what I tell people about starting a company: It’s hard work, but just keep going.”