Jason Araghi has lived an international lifestyle, so it’s somewhat fitting that he and his brother Jon now run a company with locations around the world.
“By the end of 2007, we should have 60 international locations, which includes about 20 in Iraq,” said Jason Araghi, 43, president and CEO, Green Beans Coffee Co., Larkspur, Calif., which operates coffee cafes on U.S. military bases throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia and Africa.
Jason, a chiropractor by training, got into the coffee business by accident. He moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after being recruited to open a large chiropractor and sports clinic in the Gulf City. Personal injuries brought an end to his chiropractic career, and he was managing the business aspects of the clinic when a former patient—a princess—presented him with a new opportunity: the chance to open a cafe in her new furniture showroom.
Joined by his younger brother, Jon, also a chiropractor but with a longstanding interest in the coffee business, the two men opened a Seattle-styled coffeehouse in Riyadh. U.S. military personnel from a nearby base became regular customers.
“We entered into discussion with the military to open a cafe on site at the base, so that soldiers wouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes for a good American cup of coffee,” Jason said.
Within a few months, Jason and Jon opened the first Green Beans cafe, at Eskan Village, in Saudi Arabia.
The concept was an immediate hit, providing far-flung military personnel with a taste of home and a place where they could relax. More locations followed, with the business growing in tandem with the footprint of the U.S. military. The company now serves thousands of soldiers a day, from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, in different branches of the service.
Green Beans Coffee Co. Larkspur, Calif. Annual sales: $20 million (2006)Type of business: Coffee cafesNumber of stores: 65Areas of operation: Global
The overwhelming majority of Green Beans outposts are not traditional bricks-and-mortar facilities. Instead, the company has a self-contained unit, similar to a shipping container, which it can drop into even the most remote locations.
“It’s good to go—all you have to do is plug in the water and power,” Jason explained. “It is basically a 44-ft. trailer container that is totally redone inside, with tile, marble countertops, tables and chairs.”
Wherever they open, the cafes always generate the same positive reaction,
“Some soldiers have said that Green Beans is the best part of their tour,” Jason said.
In March 2007, Green Beans opened its first location stateside, in Vacaville, Calif., near Travis Air Force Base. Several others followed. Unlike the overseas cafes, the U.S. locations are open to the general public.
“As we expand domestically,” Jason said, “our biggest challenge will be to grow brand awareness. Unlike military personnel, the general public is not familiar with our brand.”
While Jason oversees the company from its California headquarters, his brother Jon is based in London and is very involved in international operations. Looking back on his career to date, Jon, 37, said the top lesson he has learned throughout all of his experiences with Green Beans is that “the U.S. soldier is the best customer in the world.”
Jason and Jon have made it a priority to give back to their customers. A portion of the gross sales of all Green Beans locations is donated to charities that support the U.S. military and their families.