Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Emilio Daniel Vasquez, founder, and CEO of Coffee Cart Boys, located in Monrovia, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We're a group who had 90s childhoods, and we all just happen to really love coffee! We're a black and minority-owned small business on a mission to change the perception of black coffee in America by serving Specialty Coffees from around the world.

"Traditional" black coffee in America is either bitter, or it's just the first ingredient in a sugar bomb cocktail, which is then marketed as "coffee" for over $5/cup. As many of us know, coffee has become just like any mass-produced fast food: unnecessarily quick, poor in flavor quality, the opposite of natural, and more often than not is unhelpful to global agriculture ecology and labor standards.

Coffee brought people together as a joyful social experience and was never meant to be mass-produced. But, the need for people to fire on all cylinders at any given moment never fades, as we're a fast-paced, health-conscious society in an age of multitasking and instant gratification...

Our customer is someone who:

  1. Wants a delicious and convenient coffee experience they can share with their friends and family.
  2. Believes there's something better than drive-through coffee packed with copious amounts of sugar, syrups, whipped cream, and overhyped loyalty of poor quality.
  3. Wants to fight for a healthier planet, small businesses, and a positive impact on their local community.
  4. Thinks coffee farmers, pickers, and other producers outside the US deserve higher wages so they can enjoy better standards of living.
  5. Wants to see more approachable entrepreneurial opportunities available to those who are hungry enough to achieve independent success.

Taste the difference with us as guides on your journey to better flavor in your cup!

Tell us about yourself

I started this business because I no longer wanted to be just another cog in the corporate retail machine. I began to build relationships with my business partners with whom I met at my retail job (where I actually did really well for myself). All of us but one I had met there, and I recruited them with the idea that they were better than this current situation too. So, after one of the partners introduced me to the owner's son of a Nicaraguan coffee farm, Ernesto, he and I hit it off.

We started talking non-stop about being fathers and quickly bonded, unlike most friendships I've had. I decided that this was it: this is the industry where I wanted to take my passions for people, business, and philanthropy. I decided to bring my friends from retail aboard because I knew they were destined for something greater, and then Coffee Cart Boys was born.

My motivation every day is my son. He's everything to me, and the legacy of this business will hopefully one day be his to own and continue. I started this business not just because of my current career or son but also because of my community. I was raised in a less-than-fortunate living situation amongst several siblings and, at one point, was couch surfing with my single mom because we couldn't afford a place of our own.

The work we do with the local non-profit, Learning Works Charter School (LWCS) in Pasadena, California, is all about ensuring at-risk youth stay off the streets and in the classroom to get their high school diplomas, something I did fortunately receive. I don't want any child to experience the homelessness I did or the multitude of other troubles they're facing without a stable home life, which is something LWCS does its best to help prevent.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

This has been taking an idea and turning it into something tangible. It's a humble idea: serving coffee from a coffee cart around town. It's not something that sounds BIG on the surface, but it's definitely more than just a cart. It's a vehicle for change and revolution. Soon, when the cart is completed and ready, that will be our next biggest win since starting the company. Until the cart is done, we've been setting up food booths, which was not our original vision, but we've had to do what we've had to do.

I also recognized the need to work alongside smart and talented people and maintain the partnerships established. Also, I find it rewarding to continuously work as a team towards a mutually-agreed-upon set of goals. Not only all that, but I'm especially proud of learning more about the coffee industry and adapting our business to our environment while evolving into the best possible barista service we can be. Some ideas and concepts have changed drastically, while others remain a core part of our business: uplifting our local communities, whether they're beneficiaries of our donations or fellow small business collaborators.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

There's no time to complain or be negative. Naturally, as an owner, I'm responsible for keeping a solutions-focused mindset. No matter what, I have to keep finding ways to pay the bills (both my own and the company's). Keeping the team focused and energized means I must also always be focused and energetic. As we all know, this is a challenge in itself.

At the end of the day, I want my company to thrive, grow and be a force for change. However, if my team isn't happy or on the same page about the company's vision, I have to ensure they are heard and understood so we're all feeling positive about doing this together.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Strategy
    As a new business owner, there are decisions made on a daily basis that need to be strategically executed. Taking the time to strategize can not only save time in the future but also offer a better experience for all involved.
  2. Preparation/Organization
    Being prepared means putting in the work that comes with your industry. Learn your business from top to bottom. Learn your business inside and out and learn your craft. Being the expert helps others around you become just that, and it brings value to your customers, which ultimately enriches their lives.
  3. Willingness to listen, learn and grow
    Staying a "student" of your craft helps you become a master. This is about trying to stay objective and utilizing our strengths while allowing failures to be opportunities for growth. So, you must always listen to and stay open to new ideas without discriminating against new opinions or different problem-solving methods. This opens the door for success because we're all human, make mistakes, and have egos.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Entrepreneurship is a full-time effort and doesn't pay (holds breath)…until it does! It's rewarding and exciting, but it also requires going beyond putting in the standard eight daily hours or a bit of overtime like you would at a stable salaried job. It's a relentless hunt for opportunities to grow the business, and unpredictable opportunities are discovered throughout the day-to-day efforts. With a strong work ethic and many 60+ hour work weeks, paths that were never considered or noticed eventually become completed goals on a journey toward success. It's not just a career; it's also a journey of self-discovery.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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