1000 Faces Coffee was established in Athens, Georgia in the spring of 2006. A group of ecologists and social entrepreneurs founded the company with transparency in the supply chain as the guiding principle. Ownership and management is now shared amongst Jay Payne and the Kozak family.
The company has had a wonderful family tree of great people contribute to its development – Dave Delchamps, Laura Humphrey, Emily Brock, Ben Myers, Christine White, Dut Goodman, Erin McCarthy, Jed Baxter, Alex Reubert, Jason Mann, Jess Dunlap, Don Young, Hunter Garrison, Daniel Anderson, Amanda Stephens, Zachariah Acquaviva, Anna Karlsson, Raleigh Saperstein, Tom Eisenbraun, Lindsey Walsworth, Sabeth Jackson, Rachel Eubanks, Nicky Jones, Christy Deor, Sammi Eubanks, Kaela Horne, Neal Warner, Ben Bowdoin, Ben Mueller, Juli Bierwirth, Chris Silvestro, Tara Watkins, Hank Carlton, Jess Wolf, Mike Young, Taylor Cotton, Sam Johnson, Molly Stokes, Carolyn Bresnahan, JJ Posway, and countless others, have contributed their unique energies to the business.
How it all got started: After graduating with a degree from UC Berkeley, Benjamin Myers knew he needed to live abroad for two years to expand his cultural horizons. To do so, he volunteered for the Peace Corps. His assignment took him to a remote village near the Ural Mountains in Russia for two years. It was during this time that Ben first made contact with the community of agrarian artisans whom were living primarily off the fruits of their local economy. It wasn't easy living, but Ben learned some great lessons about what it takes to commit to a project and how he was skilled in connecting with people from all over the world.
Upon completing assignment, Ben returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and took a job as a counselor and social worker with Seneca Center. During this time he also returned to Berkeley where he taught nights at the School of Environmental Science and Policy Management. Ben deepened a fascination with how systems intersect with ecology. He decided that he needed a medium to integrate his philosophical viewpoints and began searching for a new road.
In 2005, Ben traveled to the South for the first time. Through a connection at the Odum School of Ecology at UGA, he came into contact with a non-profit organization working with coffee growers in northern Ecuador and the seed to work with coffee was planted. Ben decided drive across the country to move to Athens, Georgia to begin a roasting business. In his own words:
“I was 30, had no experience with coffee, no experience running a business, and yet somehow it seemed to make perfect sense. Coffee connected everything: the land, ecology, commerce, people, culture, trade, the kitchen, science, art...when the coffee spirit speaks to you, it's impossible to ignore."
1000 Faces was born. Ben moved to a little home in the woods. In 2006 he bought a Diedrich Roaster, a load of specialty coffee from Ecuador, and began experimenting with the complex process of roasting coffee. The early days were spent making mistakes and learning from them. Ben points out that, “Taste and quality measures emerge from long hours of work. You gotta get outside the influence of the industry or a pressing need to turn a profit. It's important to go into the forest and work your dream until it gets hot.” He continues, “Coffee is a gift. To be the same gift that others already give would be derivative. 1000 needed to be something that was alive and rare, like no other roaster. A special quality unique to a place.” Ben spent his time roasting the coffee, making designs for the bags, bagging the coffee, and spreading the word. He spent nights working in the ER as the on-call psychiatric clinician.
From the beginning, 1000 Faces was about the myth of coffee. That it’s more than brown crumbs in a can you buy at the store; that the process of producing good, responsible coffee would be a journey of heroic proportion. 1000 Faces, the name, comes from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which Campbell describes the “Monomyth” as a central thread to every great story. Through a journey replete with struggles seemingly insurmountable, the hero reaches new heights of knowledge and accomplishes the heretofore impossible. The names of blends, too, were formed in honor of heroes of feminist prose, ecological activism, and freedom of speech.
During these formative years at 1000 Faces, there was a strong sense of purpose but less so on fiscal responsibility. In 2008, the company moved to their location on Barber Street. During this time Ben’s interest in all countries of coffee origin grew and the business cut its teeth in the community and in the world of specialty coffee. In 2010, in an effort to build a more pragmatic business model, Jan Kozak was recruited from the Athens Farmers Market. Around this time, Ben took the leap to visit countries of origin. He explains, “I spent all my money traveling to Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil, and Indonesia learning about where coffee came from and building relationships with coffee producers.” This knowledge would continue to be paramount to the 1000 Faces business ethic.
In 2012, after his personal debt became overwhelming, Ben moved to New York City and took a job with Stumptown Coffee Roasters. He loved NYC and its extensive coffee culture. Working for Stumptown was a great opportunity for Ben to learn more about the business of coffee while also becoming more financially stable. Back in Athens, Jan Kozak was heading up a small team that carried on the daily running of 1000 Faces. They were working hard to sustainably produce good coffee. The business underwent a renovation of its space and staffing changes while retaining a foothold in the local Athens community. After a year at Stumptown, Ben found himself ready to return to 1000 Faces.
Upon his return from New York, Jan and Ben were united in a renewed motivation. Over the next year, Jan Kozak became part of the ownership of the company. During the same restructuring period, the company welcomed Jay Payne as an owner of the business. 1000 Faces had developed a close relationship with Jay through the farmers market, which was founded in part by Jay and for which Jay serves as President of the Board of Directors. Jay was looking for an opportunity to move his investments out of Wall Street and into the local community.
In Ben, this renewed an interest in countries of origin and in 2012, he found himself in Ethiopia. His time in Africa renewed and inspired a better love of coffee built on strong relationships, particularly with high quality Ethiopian coffee producers and importers. This connection would go on to directly impact 1000 Faces via winning the Good Food Award two years in a row, 2013 and 2014, with two wonderful Ethiopians coffees discovered while at origin.
In 2016, 1000 Faces continued its sourcing and roasting success by receiving a third national recognition of quality with the award of a Silver Medal at the Golden Bean North America roasters competition for the Guji Jet from Sidamo, Ethiopia. This coffee was sourced via a relationship with Yisehak Awel, a multi-generational coffee farmer making headway in the US by working directly with roasters.
The leaders of 1000 Faces have the rare gift of a wonderful working partnership filled with differences of perspective and opinion. These men are able to mesh a shared vision while counterbalancing different points of view into a harmonious and rewarding partnership. While Ben has recently moved on from the business entirely to put down roots once again on the west coast, the business pushes forward as Jan C. Kozak, the father of the aforementioned Jan A. Kozak, steps into the fray and brings with him yet another point of view to add to the greater whole. The Kozak family brings with them a more aggressive approach to growth, and the means to undertake capital investments in capacity building, new business opportunities, and quality career development for new and existing staff.
1000 Faces has matured greatly over the past twelve years and its professionalism and service are a testament to that growth. Still, the business remains a seeker on a heroic journey, forever on a quest, searching for the great coffee boon to help restore place, people, and product to state of delicious well-being.