Fire Department Coffee founder Luke Schneider.
Firefighter, paramedic and Navy veteran Luke Schneider is able to support and give back to his fellow first responders through his company, Fire Department Coffee. — Fire Department Coffee

As a firefighter, paramedic and U.S. Navy veteran, Luke Schneider knows the importance of teamwork.

“A ship doesn't sail on its own,” he said. “It takes a crew.”

The idea of curating a stellar team was a big inspiration to him as he began his path toward entrepreneurship. Schneider’s other source of inspiration? Coffee.

He recognized the major role coffee played in helping firefighters and paramedics stay alert and awake through their long shifts. In 2016, Schneider partnered with Jason Patton, another full-time firefighter, and founded Fire Department Coffee.

“I wanted to create coffee that spoke to my roots as a firefighter and supported firefighters,” said Schneider, who is also the business’s CEO. “[We’re] passionate about roasting high-quality coffee.”

Each coffee is roasted to order and shipped out of its home base of Rockford, Illinois, within a few days so it’s as fresh as possible.

Nurturing and caring for your team

Fire Department Coffee is certified by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association and run by both active and retired firefighters. For Schneider, it’s working with this team that makes all the difference in building a profitable, sustainable business.

“Build a team, nurture your team, care for your team,” he advised other aspiring entrepreneurs. “Remember you are on the team, so lead by example! We support each other and take care of each other.”

We overcome [challenges] together as a team, learning from our mistakes. We work hard and give our best. That's all you can ever do.

Luke Schneider, firefighter, paramedic, U.S. Navy veteran and founder of Fire Department Coffee

Even when challenges come up within the business, Schneider looks to his team for support, guidance and hope.

“We overcome [challenges] together as a team, learning from our mistakes,” he said. “We work hard and give our best. That's all you can ever do. The rest is out of our control.”

[Read more: MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat Founder: ‘Never Give Up on Your Business’]

A passion for supporting fellow first responders

In addition to roasting coffee beans from around the world, Fire Department Coffee is passionate about giving back to the community and supporting first responders through its charity, the Fire Department Coffee Foundation.

This organization helps injured first responders get the physical and mental care they need to get back on their feet by providing financial resources to aid in recovery. It also works with organizations that support firefighters in need.

The most rewarding part of the business, said Schneider, is “getting to speak with and develop relationships with some of the people we have been able to support,” as well as building relationships with other like-minded people and companies.

“We are a team that is closely connected to the fire service in many ways,” Schneider told CO—. “Serving others who enjoy great coffee and care for our first responders makes our community and customers one and the same.”

[Read more: How to Become a Certified Veteran-Owned Business]

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