New supplier diversity program focuses on alumni entrepreneurs

Products from a local cold-brew coffee company will be available on campus thanks to a new supplier diversity program focused on Grand Valley alumni entrepreneurs.

Soldadera Coffee, owned by siblings Mario Rodriguez-Garcia and Gabriela Rodriguez-Garcia, made its debut on campus October 6 during a tasting session in Kirkhof Center.

Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, who earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 2016, described their products as coffee-tea fusion that is unique to the coffee drink market. 

"A few years ago, I made a trip back to Mexico and had my grandmother's coffee," he said. "That solidified it. I came back and said, 'Let's figure this out, how to make a cold brew.' So, we started mixing recipes."

from left are Gabriela Rodriguez-Garcia, Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle and Mario Rodriguez-Garcia standing behind a table with their coffee drinks and sample cups
From left are Gabriela Rodriguez-Garcia, Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle and Mario Rodriguez-Garcia at a tasting event October 6 in the Kirkhof Center.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

There are three different flavors of Soldadera Coffee. The products are available in 112 locations in six states, including Meijer.

Gabriela Rodriguez-Garcia earned a degree in information systems in 2018. She said the recipe of coffee, tea and spices originated with Mexican women during the country's revolution in 1910.

The siblings have boosted their business by winning competitions by Start Garden and Local First. 

Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, vendor relations manager for Procurement Services, said the alumni program is another branch of the university's supplier diversity program. Soldadera Coffee is an example of researching diverse alumni-owned businesses with products or services that could benefit the campus community.

"Grand Valley produces entrepreneurs and now we want to bring them back to campus," Rhodes-Sorrelle said, adding this could be the first university program to highlight alumni this way.

Two students at right drink coffee samples from a plastic cup, student at left in green shirt and backpack smiles at woman handing out samples
Students, from left, José Medina, Subhiksha Ravichandran and Durga Sharanya sample the drinks during a tasting event in the Kirkhof Center.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Last year, the university was recognized by Insight into Diversity Magazine for its efforts to engage and retain suppliers from underrepresented groups.

Soldadera Coffee products will be in three campus locations: Lobby Shop in Kirkhof Center, The Blue Connection and Kleiner Commons.


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