Being the founder of a startup is not as “shiny” as people make it out to be. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of weight. Frankly, it can be scary.
Talking with a friend, it hit me that Our Father, in His providence and magnificence, has been nurturing this dream for some time. I can’t begin to write down the countless ways in which the Holy Spirit has moved in intimate, yet powerful ways throughout the last few years, but I will give you the overview of how Bridging Tables came to be:
In the summer of 2007, my dad, brother, sister and I boarded a plane to Honduras and walked into an adventure that would forever change our lives and eventually the parish we grew up in, Holy Family. We spent summers serving in Catholic parishes, schools and centers for the disabled in the department of Olancho, Honduras. I witnessed parishioners return from Honduras chiseled, challenged, changed and encouraged. We grew as a parish — closer with Christ and with one another. We gained perspective, gratitude and understanding through the mystical Body of Christ we encountered in our Honduran brothers and sisters.
The seeds from that adventure have driven me deeper in my relationship with Christ and have taken me across the world, having visited or worked in Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Haiti and, of course, Honduras. In each country, I began noticing a common thread — there were so many gifted people and not a lot of opportunity.
I earn my living as a retained executive search and leadership advisory consultant. My whole job is based on finding, connecting, grooming, growing and advising leadership or “talent” for organizations. It’s my joy and honor to be a bridge between the world’s top talent and organizations.
So many of my friends from Central America, the Caribbean and Africa are full of “talent.” They are incredibly resourceful and hardworking. They are skilled. They are humble. They are driven. They are crazy smart. Yet, so many of them dream of the chance to come here to the United States. Not because they wish to leave their homes or communities, but because the abundant opportunities that are here don’t exist in the same way there — the same reason so many have come to America for generations.
I began throwing an idea around with my friends Agustín (Honduras), Reggie (Haiti) and Benjamin (Liberia). “What if we created a business based in Catholic social teaching? One that saw potential, giftedness and dignity, that created partnerships rather than pity, focusing on trade rather than aid?”
Bridging Tables began out of a desire to receive, respond and honor the love and gifts God has blessed me with. We knew we would work in food. The goal: to build specialty where previously only commodities existed, creating a business focused on doing right by the most important asset — its people. Think “farm to table” for the goods we have to import.
By starting with the farmers and creating efficiencies in the supply chain, we’re able to more directly connect farmers with those who enjoy their goods here in the United States — increasing access, quality, connection and opportunity for all involved. We began with specialty coffee. Where will we end up? Only God knows.
Matthew Hayes, a parishioner at St. Ann Church in Nashville, has been passionate about social justice advocacy since he was a teenager.
Since 2007, he has traveled around the world for mission trips and service projects to help the needy in third world countries.
His latest endeavor, Bridging Tables, provides outreach to struggling Central American coffee farmers to help them with trade and business opportunities.
Bridging Tables began when Hayes and his wife, Lindsay, were on a mission trip in Honduras to help local Catholic schools in the country. While they were there, they met and became friends with Agustin Acosta, a teacher at one of the schools.
In 2017, Acosta informed Hayes that many coffee farmers in his community were struggling to provide for their families because they couldn’t find consumers willing to purchase their goods. They were putting out high quality crops every year, but they couldn’t find a profitable market for them.
Matthew Hayes has combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his Catholic faith with his company Bridging Tables, which sells coffee from Central American farmers providing them with direct access to the market and better prices.
It was then that Acosta and Hayes went into business together to form Bridging Tables.
Acosta and his team of Honduran coffee farmers send their products to roasters in Nashville, with Hayes acting as liaison between the two. This ensures that the consumers can get direct access to the farmers’ coffee, thus enabling the farmers to have a profitable market and earn a much higher wage for their hard work.
Hayes has been a part of the business world for quite some time, also currently working as a consultant for The Human Capital Group in Nashville. But his business ethos is soundly rooted in Catholic social teaching.
“We want everything we do with Bridging Tables to be influenced by Catholic social teaching,” he said. “I firmly believe that if you center your business practices on people and treating people well, the results take care of themselves.”
To further increase their outreach, Bridging Tables has now started a subscription service where individual consumers can purchase coffee directly from farmers.
“Subscribers can purchase two bags of coffee at a time,” he said. “We’re also including a delivery service where it’ll be shipped directly to your door.”
The price is $28 for two bags of coffee and the delivery is free of charge.
“If you like good coffee and are looking for a place to buy it directly, consider buying from our subscription service,” he said. “You won’t only be supporting these farmers, but also helping them support their families and communities as a whole.”
For more information, visit bridgingtables.com. The company is offering a discount for Tennessee Register readers of 25 percent off their first order. Enter the discount code TENNESSEEREGISTER.