Be Kind Coffee: Where Coffee Meets Community in Waco
Be kind. That’s the motto Alex Sanchez chooses to live by every day, so when it came time to name his coffee shop, that’s exactly the name he chose: Be Kind Coffee. After opening his first coffee shop in 2021, Sanchez has been able to scale his company into two locations.
Although he has found success in the coffee industry, owning a coffee shop was not originally planned. He worked as a professional photographer for a startup, photographing all different types of restaurants, from Mexican to fine dining, and that included coffee shops, marking his introduction into the coffee shop business.
“As a professional photographer, I found my way in the coffee industry. Working with coffee shops for a couple of years made me realize coffee people were so much fun. They were always the coolest people to talk to and had genuine sincerity,” Sanchez said.
Familiarity with the coffee industry led Sanchez to a new passion: coffee shops. In 2020, after photographing coffee shops, he made it his goal to start one of his own, and he accomplished his goal by 2021.
“I used to work for a tech company. I worked for a startup where I was a photographer, and at the end of 2019, I was laid off, and so…I had an opportunity to take a pause in my life and try to figure out what I wanted to do without being rushed into it,” he says.
When deciding on a name for his coffee shop, Sanchez wanted the name to represent his company’s philosophy. Be Kind Coffee was born out of the desire to spread kindness in the community.
“We try to help make our community better. I think there’s too much negativity in the world right now, so it felt right for us to create a company that tries to embody spreading positivity in the world because I think that’s something that people always need and will always need more of, and it’s just kind of makes you feel good about supporting something that makes other people feel good,” Sanchez said.
Another way Sanchez supports members of the community is by providing a menu that accommodates different diets. They offer vegan and gluten-free options at their coffee shops to show inclusivity to their customers.
“[The coffee shop’s name] definitely came from us wanting to create a safe space, so a big inspiration for that was that my fiancé is vegan, and I wanted to create a space for her to be able to walk in and feel not intimidated by the coffee menu but also to be able to order anything on the menu that she wanted,” he said.
The desire to create a safe space for community members has allowed Sanchez to form a special bond with his customers. At least half of his customers know him by name and know his family.
“[Building relationships] is everything, so I really don’t think we can survive, and we couldn’t have gotten this far if we didn’t go out of our way to be a part of the community and have genuine conversations with people in the community,” he said. “[Customers] definitely know a little too much about me sometimes.”
These relationships with customers have allowed Sanchez to grow his coffee shop. Be Kind has been in business for two and a half years and currently operates two locations, one on Lake Air Drive and another downtown on Washington Avenue.
“It’s always hard to scale a company. One quote that I try to live by is ‘You don’t always go out of business, but you grow out of business,’ so we are in no rush,” he said. “We focus on doing what we do well, and natural opportunities will arise. We would love to see expansion for the long term, but we’re trying to focus on the fundamentals first before we get to do that.”
Despite the tough competition, Sanchez feels optimistic about his company’s growth in the Waco community.
“Waco is a really interesting place. It has definitely proven to be very small business friendly, and I think people in Waco love supporting small businesses. We generate kindness in our community one cup at a time,” he said.
Gennesis Gonzalez is a communications intern at the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She studies professional writing and rhetoric at Baylor University. Her areas of focus are writing, research, communications, and marketing. Originally from Houston, TX, Gennesis has previously worked as an administrative assistant at EIC Surveying and a communications intern at Advance Economic Strategies.
As a professional writing student at Baylor University, she has helped nonprofit organizations with their communications needs. Working in the nonprofit sector fulfills her need to help the community. As a writer for the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she finds fulfillment in meeting members of the community and writing their stories.
When Gennesis is not working or in school, she's out in the community trying new restaurants or spending time with her two chihuahuas, Francesca and Camila.