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How a former Green Beret brewed his coffee passion into an $80M business

Evan Hafer is passionate about coffee — so much that, as a soldier deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, he modified his Humvee to fuel his companions.

After 15 years of military service, he co-founded Black Rifle Coffee with some of his fellow veterans, and turned it into an $80 million coffee empire.

“We're all special operations veterans... I just so happened to be the guy that really loved roasting coffee,” Hafer told Yahoo Finance in an interview this week.

Whatever’s in the brew, it seems to be working: Black Rifle said they earned $1 million in revenue in 2015, which exploded to $30 million in 2017. They now expect to end 2019 with roughly $80 million.

In 2020, Hafer plans on opening 20 more brick-and-mortar locations across the U.S., and is planning new products to launch.

The former Green Beret is driven by his passion for coffee to “people around the U.S. that love America,” he told YFi PM. Hafer plans to give back to the veterans who “carry the heavy load… at fighting the global war on terror.”

Evan Hafer, co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee (Credit: Black Rifle Coffee)
Evan Hafer, co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee (Credit: Black Rifle Coffee)

Black Rifle’s core identity is about veterans, which is why they set a goal to eventually hire 10,000 veterans. Right now, the company is currently 205-people strong.

Hafer believes the mass expansion next year will help catapult them toward their ambitious target.

“It's not PR, and we'll continue to hire and support veterans' causes at a 10 times rate the national average of all the other businesses” in the coffee sector and beyond, said Hafer.

The founder believes his company is a “counterculture” when compared to other veteran-heavy companies like Boeing (BA) or Raytheon (RTN), when it comes to the environment for ex-military transitioning into the civilian workforce.

“When people understand the type of company you are — when we have above 40% hire rate of veterans, which is about 10 times the national average — they know that they're not going to have to conform to a corporate or a more corporate culture,” said Hafer.

Black Rifle Coffee
Black Rifle Coffee products include "AK Espresso" and "Silencer Smooth." (Credit: Black Rifle Coffee)

Much of their success is also in how they communicate to customers about their veteran identity. Its Youtube channel has nearly 450,000 subscribers, where they post humorous and serious videos about coffee and military service.

Black Rifle also features snippets of their charitable missions, which includes donating 30,000 lbs. of coffee to troops serving overseas, as a part of their "buy-a-bag, give-a-bag" initiative.

Grete Suarez is producer at Yahoo Finance for YFi PM and The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter: @GreteSuarez

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