IF ED SCHULTZ, 43, WERE A CUP OF COFFEE, HE’D BE THE BOLD VARIETY. That’s because bold coffee has more coffee jammed into one cup. It’s simply got more going on and so does Schultz.
The young entrepreneur already has successfully owned two coffee businesses, LatteLand in Kansas City, Mo. and Honolulu Coffee. Now, he’s lending his talents to reinvigorating two well-established-isle businesses, the chocolatier Hawaiian Host Inc. and macadamia nut company Mauna Loa. The Kahala resident also is husband to Cathy, a former art gallery owner, and father to daughter Sophia, 12, and 10-year-old son Charlie.
Schultz took on the role of president at Hawaiian Host/Mauna Loa in November 2018—the leadership position was an outgrowth of his role on the company board.
“I went from being on the board to president,” says Schultz. “The board was looking for a succession plan for the CEO, when we began talking about candidates a few board members realized that it might be a good fit.”
The reason it’s a good fit is that Schultz introduced the first farm-to-cup coffee experience at Honolulu Coffee, which he bought in 2008. At the time, Schultz was already seven-stores deep in LatteLand, but was drawn to Hawai‘i, which at that time was the only state in the nation that was growing coffee.
Having previously worked as an investment banker in New York, where he analyzed Starbucks and its suppliers and competitors, Schultz says he knew that he needed a niche if he wanted to give his company “a chance to be the best in the world.”
In 2012, Schultz sold LatteLand, the company that he had founded when he was just 28 and only five years out of Vanderbilt University, where he earned a degree in civil engineering. While he never worked as a civil engineer, he used those problem-solving skills as an investment banker in New York.
He later applied these skills to the coffee industry, where he found a way to deliver coffee that came with a story and a sense of place. Schultz knew that personal connection would be important from his experiences growing up in small town Longmeadow, Massachusetts— population 15,000.
“It’s important to get out ahead of the trend and find a story that appeals to customers,” Schultz says.
After selling LatteLand, Schultz was able to concentrate full-time on Hawai‘i, where he purchased a farm in Kona to grow and process locally sourced coffee. That farm has grown today to 225 acres and the business has grown from 5 to 37 stores in Hawai‘i, Japan, Canada and Guam. There’s also a 9,000-square-foot Honolulu Coffee Experience Center, where customers and potential partners can learn how the coffee that they enjoy is grown and processed into the perfect cup.
“We roast in our experience center. It was a huge investment—the equivalent of 10 stores, but it’s an amazing tool for customers to learn about coffee and our brand,” Schultz says.
Schultz, who still owns his Honolulu Coffee shares, says he recently transitioned from running the day-to-day coffee operations to serving on the company’s board. He’s excited about the chance to identify new opportunities that he sees for chocolate and macadamia nuts—local products that like coffee are rooted in the agriculture and tradition of Hawai‘i.
“Hawaiian Host/Mauna Loa is my new baby. I’m full in. We are Hawai‘i’s largest consumer products company based here on the islands. We have great products that we want to make sure the world continues to enjoy for decades to come. The opportunity here was to guide and modernize the company to achieve that— the roots of Hawaiian Host go back to 1927 and Mauna Loa goes back to 1949.
Now he’ll look for ways to distinguish Hawaiian Host/Mauna Loa from the competition. He already has a successful playbook from Honolulu Coffee, an early adapter of the direct-trade model, where coffee roasters buy directly from the growers.
Schultz and his team are working on developing new meal products with macadamia, which he says are a staple of the keto diet. They hope to go to market on 2020. It would be the first major development for Mauna Loa since the company partnered with Hershey’s Kisses in 2004.
Whatever direction Schultz ultimately settles on, it won’t be staid. On the coffee side, he says he was known for “running a million miles an hour.” In order to find a high-performing team that wanted to run at his well-caffeinated pace, Schultz built a culture where “brutal honesty” was okay.
It’s clear that he’s ready to shake up Hawaiian Host/Mauna Loa, too. During one of his recent slide presentations, he displayed a quote from Austrian composer Gustav Mahler—“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
“The quote fits Hawai‘i and what we are doing here. We love where we came from, but to keep the tradition growing, you can’t worship the past. You have to find the fire—it’s the mana, that’s the important stuff.”
His dad, Ed Schultz, was a maverick, too. The elder Schultz was just 19 when he was sent to Normandy to attack beachheads at D-Day plus three. He earned a purple heart from that experience, which made him what the younger Schultz calls “relentless.”
“He went from no college degree through the ranks and ended up being the senior vice president of global sales for Zero Corp.,” Schultz says.
Schultz says seeing that kind of leadership in action rubbed off on him
“I don’t take a ‘no’ personally in business, but I don’t take a ‘no’ easily,” says Schultz, who describes himself as kind of a “laid-back type A personality.”
Of course, that’s probably before his first cup of coffee. Get him on his second cup and he’s likely on his way to starting another business. Hey, he’s an entrepreneur—that’s how they roll.