Sometimes it’s those unassuming life moments that inspire the best business ideas. That’s exactly what happened to Marko Sosa, co-owner of Terra Verde in Chilton.
“One day, I was dropping off my kids at day care, and one of the girls that worked there was drinking a latte, and I asked her where she got it,” Sosa says. “She said she had driven 10 miles one way to go get it. She said that she did that every morning because we didn’t have a coffee shop or anyplace here in Chilton that would offer coffee drinks.”
It was then that Sosa, who worked as a dairy consultant at the time, really got his wheels turning — in fact, he canceled his appointments for that day and immediately began scouting for a coffeehouse location.
“The location we’re at now had just opened up, and so a week later we signed the lease. A month later, we were open,” Sosa says.
While Sosa admits it was a speedy process, he had a lot of familiarity with business planning and other logistics thanks to his master’s degree in economics. He and his wife Melissa, who co-owns the business with him, received a lot of coffee-specific training ahead of and during the store’s opening, becoming master baristas and master coffee roasters.
That roasting piece of the puzzle has been a key part of Terra Verde’s success. They started roasting coffee about a year after they opened in August 2007. Sosa says it’s something that sets them apart. They focus on high-grade, organic coffees that are imported from all over the world and work exclusively with farms and co-ops that meet very specific criteria.
Their roasting process itself also emphasizes quality.
“We use the long approach of roasting, which a lot of roasters don’t like because it takes a lot of extra time,” Sosa says. “The people that we receive these coffees from, they take extreme care — that’s their pride and joy that they’re sending to us. We want to make sure that we’re taking extra care of the coffee in return.”
That attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed, and selling their roasted coffee wholesale now makes up a good chunk of their business. That wasn’t Sosa’s original intention, but after a shop in Rhinelander expressed interest in offering Terra Verde to its customers, the wholesale side grew from there. In addition to offering Terra Verde’s products wholesale throughout the Midwest, Sosa provides consulting services to other coffee shop owners.
And why the name Terra Verde? Sosa’s vision for the company was to be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. He landed on the name “Green Earth,” but wasn’t in love with the way it sounded. Originally from Honduras, Sosa decided to throw in some Spanish and Italian for good measure.
“Terra means earth in Italian, and verde means green in Spanish,” Sosa says.
If running Terra Verde wasn’t enough, Sosa runs another business in Chilton: Scoops, an ice cream spot that’s open year-round. With both businesses, his commitment to customers remains high.
One of those customers is the day care worker who was sipping a latte on that fateful morning.
“She comes just about every day,” Sosa says. “And I tell her it’s her fault that this whole thing happened.”