Lehman Alumna Graduates from Coffee Drinker to Coffee Entrepreneur
Graduating with a double major in psychology and philosophy was a lot of work for Lehman alum Kaylynn Lopez (’17). But she made it through a few all nighters, many early morning classes and most postprandial lectures thanks to the help of one constant companion: a hot cup of coffee. After graduation, stuck in a retail job she didn’t like, Lopez decided to combine two of her loves: coffee and philosophy, and launch an online coffee bean-selling business: Kudaimonia, where the beans are named after some of the West’s most famous philosophers. Here Lopez talks about what got her started as well as some of her future goals.
How did you decide to launch an online coffee business?
I was online looking for jobs and not seeing anything that looked interesting. I had friends who were starting an online clothing business. My friend asked me if I’d ever thought about creating your own business. It was never was something that I thought about doing but it sparked my interest. He said, “You should, and you can incorporate philosophy, since you love that too.” It actually sounded like a great idea. I could enjoy two of the things that brought me happiness.
I thought to myself, OK, I can do my own coffee business and incorporate philosophy into it. I thought there must be many others who are struggling and in the same predicament as me. I could share with others what makes me happy, and then share a few interesting theories that challenge them to discover what makes them happy.
Did you have any business management background? Did that at all become a hurdle for you?
It wasn’t easy, especially when I was still working at a full-time job, and I’d have to go home and fill orders and ship them. And I also make candles and soap to sell on the site too.
How long has the shop been open?
Since January 2019. It’s doing pretty well, I’m getting a lot of orders from different states. I have even gotten email from people in other countries asking how they can buy my coffee.
When did you start drinking coffee?
It was at a very young age, 12. I would go over to my grandma’s house and she would whisper “Would you like some coffee?” when my mom wasn’t listening.
What made you want to apply a philosophical theme to your coffee business go?
As an undergraduate I double majored in psychology and philosophy. Philosophy was actually going to be my minor, but it became my second major once I fell in love with the different philosophical theories at my disposal.
In my philosophy class I remember that we learned about different theories about happiness. And I was thinking about how people could start off their day with some positivity. It’s more than a cup of coffee—it is a little reminder in the morning that challenges you to think about what makes you happy and what you can do to create positivity in your life.
How did you decide which coffees paired with which philosophers?
That took some time. With each theory—some are lighter, so they go with a lighter roast, and some are heavier and more complex, so I paired them with darker roasts.
For Aristippus, happiness is pleasure, so I used a lighter roast. But for Aristotle, happiness is an activity, and you really have to work to put it into practice, so I used a darker roast.
How do you think your brand’s focus on philosophy sets it apart from others?
Because it challenges you to think about what happiness means to you. It’s a little more complicated than just drinking a regular cup of coffee.
If you could tell people why they should try your coffee what would you say?
My coffee isn’t the regular deli coffee. It tastes better!
Do you think about expanding the brand at some point to include other types of non-coffee products in addition to soap and candles?
I am thinking about doing a body scrub, or a body lotion or mist in the future.
What was your best experience at Lehman College?
Lehman is where I met the [then] chair of the Philosophy Department, James Mahon, who has always been supportive. He gave me suggestions and feedback. The fact that advisors still take time out of the day for me even though I’m not in college anymore means a lot.
How did your experiences at the college prepare you for this endeavor?
My philosophy classes definitely did. And the environment, meeting other people, growing toward goals, helping each other. A lot of people who I never met when I was at Lehman are very supportive, contacting me on social media. There are a lot of great, supportive people there.
Anything else you want to mention?
A lot of people ask why I named my company Kudaimonia. In Greek, eudaimonia means happiness, or “having a good indwelling spirit.” I used the “K” from my first name, Kaylynn, to make it Kudaimonia. And also the company would be easy to find in an internet search that way. (We’ll make it easy for you: Check out Lopez’s online shop, Kudaimonia.)