A Family Business Emerges as a Stronger Company Post-pandemic

Operating as a family business since 1995, FreshBrew found strength as a company post-pandemic. But this only scratches the surface of the true leadership that kept it afloat for so many years. Keep reading to learn more about FreshBrew and Al Ansari, President and CEO and the family business he keeps running today.

How It Started

After graduating from Second Baptist School, Houston native Al Ansari attended Stanford University on a tennis scholarship. Even though his parents drank coffee at home, he never had a cup until college, when he discovered not only that he liked it, but that it could also help him balance a full course load with playing competitive tennis at an elite level.

His father founded FreshBrew in 1995 to sell coffee and single-serve coffee machines to office buildings, many of which were at the time developing “coffee programs.” The company expanded by acquiring clients such as Sunoco, which operates Stripes convenience stores, and launching a vending division, which sold coffee from standalone kiosks, many of which were located in office buildings.

Graduating with a degree in economics in 2002, Ansari returned to Houston but stated that he had no plans to enter the family business. However, a job offer from Enron was rescinded as the company went bankrupt and plans to relocate to New York were thwarted by hiring freezes at major banks.

Meanwhile, Ansari said, his father encouraged him to join FreshBrew, which had one roasting machine and one packing line at the time — and, as he saw it, a need for direction. Clients were primarily interested in coffee that was “basic, dark, black, and cheap” at the time — an efficient caffeine delivery mechanism, in other words.

But he wanted to focus on specialty roasting, sensing that American coffee consumers were becoming both more discerning in their tastes and concerned about sustainability. Coffee production—growing and processing the green beans—is labor-intensive and resource-intensive, requiring a lot of water.

Coffee Beans | Coffee Roasting | Sustainability

How It’s Going

Fast-forward 20 years, Ansari was proved right. FreshBrew’s clients became more selective about their coffee, more involved in developing custom blends, and more curious about how and where beans were grown.

95 percent of the business includes airlines, conveniences, restaurants, and retailers. The warehouse boasts hundreds of boxes stacked for shipping to various national and international locations, which leaves the impression that you’ve probably sampled FreshBrew without realizing it, maybe while traveling by air, stopping for a cup of coffee at a convenience store or drinking sweet tea at a fast-food restaurant.

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