Grounds for Change celebrates 10 years with party

Mike Williams, Stacy’s brother was the company’s first employee. He is Grounds for Change’s head roaster.    - Megan Stephenson / Herald
Mike Williams, Stacy’s brother was the company’s first employee. He is Grounds for Change’s head roaster.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — Ten years ago, Stacy Marshall was on a student trip to Costa Rica with Poulsbo-based EcoTeach. Her husband, Kelsey, joined her on the trip that ended up changing their lives.

While on the trip, they met and talked with coffee farmers, who were transitioning from the standard cultivation of coffee to organic operations. Stacy said the transition is a three-year intensive and scary process, where there is substantive crop loss.

“We saw how committed the farmers were,” she said, and how organic agriculture benefitted the farmers financially and physically, with no more exposure to chemicals.

The Marshalls are fans of coffee and organic agriculture, and Stacy said their trip “fueled the idea for Grounds for Change.”

Grounds for Change is an environmentally-sustainable coffee roastary based in Poulsbo. The Marshalls and their employees are celebrating their 10th anniversary on July 12 at their roastary in the Agate Pass Business Park on Highway 305.

The party, from 5-9 p.m., will feature local vendors with food, beer and wine, tours of the roastary and live music. All proceeds from the coffee swap and raffle will go to Kitsap Community Resources.

The Marshalls feel strongly about supporting local businesses. They had difficulty finding funding to start their business when no bank would loan to them.

Luckily, they had very supportive parents. Stacy said her parents loaned them $10,000, while Kelsey’s parents also pitched in some physical labor in that first tough year.

“That $10,000 was like a million dollars,” Stacy said. The funding bought a cottage on Bainbridge Island, packaging, small roaster and coffee, and the Marshalls worked 80 to 90 hours a week.

The Marshalls are from Iowa City, Iowa, and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1996 after graduating from college. They have been together for 22 years and married for 17.

“Working together is not for newlyweds,” Stacy said.

By 2003, they knew how to work together and lean on each other. “We know now how to problem solve, troubleshoot, bounce ideas off each other.”

Grounds for Change has become a family business. Stacy’s mom, stepfather and brother moved to Kitsap from Iowa, and Kelsey’s grandmother, mom and stepfather also moved here. Stacy’s brother, Mike Williams, was their fist official employee, and is now head roaster.

They were awarded “Washington State Family Business” award for Community Involvement by Seattle Magazine in 2012.

Grounds for Change moved in 2004 to its current facility, which was recently expanded and renovated. The company now has two roasters and a retail space for tastings. Wendy Churchman, one of the office managers, said they’ll soon offer a schedule for tasting tours.

The company was certified by B-Corp in 2010, a nonprofit that endorses based on standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Grounds for Change means to promote change, as well as support growers of specialty, high-grade organic  coffee, Stacy said.

“We support, and our customers support, environmental sustainability, and social [and] economic justice,” she said, which is “highly relevant” 10 years later.

“We see how the economy was shifting, and it was becoming increasingly important to support the farmers — their livelihood, their ability to send their kids to school, and how chemicals [caused a] detriment to their quality of life,” Stacy said.

Kelsey said one aspect of growth for the company would be the ability to travel more in the future.

“The personal connection to be formed with coffee growers, there’s inherent value in that,” Kelsey said.

Starting the company was “A matter of finding something to live out our values in terms of a business that actually helps ... Doing something beneficial for the world.”

Grounds for Change can be found in many local cafes and restaurants — Tizley’s Europub in Poulsbo, Hi Lo’s in Bremerton and Pleasant Beach Restaurant in Lynwood Center on Bainbridge — and in stores such as Town and Country/Central Market and the Indianola Store.



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