By 2004, the war had ended and the refugees were all back on the Nicaragua side of the Coco River. The school program, Project Ezra, was now the official school in nine villages, working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. Enrollment had grown, more teachers were hired, and Michael had a wild idea that importing coffee from Nicaragua and selling it in the U.S. would be a good fundraiser for the project.
About that time Mike Remedios, a good friend from Raleigh NC, came to the Coco River for a visit. When Michael shared the coffee idea, Mike told him he knew a coffee roaster in Raleigh.
A few months later Michael & Laura traveled to Raleigh, where Larry Larson offered to help import and roast coffee from Nicaragua. In February 2005, Larry took Michael and Laura to visit a cooperative outside Managua where he purchases coffee. In May Rio Coco Bean purchased 4000 lbs of this delicious Nicaraguan coffee.
Mike had a friend, Leesa Brinkley, who designed a logo for Rio Coco Beans.
Another friend designed a webstore and by December Rio Coco Beans was selling coffee and sending money to the schools in Nicaragua!
A percentage of the daily sales goes directly to the school project.
In 2008, Rio Coco Beans purchased a 12 kilo Diedrich roaster, and began roasting coffee in Vero Beach Florida.
In 2008, Laura and Michael visited their friends on the island of Utila, just offshore from La Ceiba, where they had lived from 1987 to 2000. Utila is a mecca for scuba divers - they come from all parts of the world!
They returned each summer with their family, and in August 2011 they launched the first Rio Coco Café. Arriving back in Florida, they began work on opening the Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach, which began service in December of that year.