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A passion for roasting coffee enables a firefighter to help fellow first responders

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Editor’s note: Here’s the story of how Luke Schneider--a firefighter, paramedic and business owner--used technology to grow his coffee business and share his passion with others, while also giving back to his community. Learn more about Grow with Google--our initiative to help create economic opportunities for all Americans--here, and hear more about how we are supporting First Responders Day here

Like so many Americans, seeing the heroic efforts of first responders in the aftermath of September 11th struck a chord with me. Their willingness to put their own lives in danger to save others, their tireless efforts over the following weeks and months, and their dedication to each other inspired me to become a firefighter myself.

The life of a firefighter can be stressful, and no single day is the same. But I always felt like a part of a family, especially when we gathered around for one consistent ritual: brewing a pot of coffee to get us through long shifts. That comforting, communal feeling was something I always cherished.

My wife Kate and I decided to start roasting coffee for our friends and family. This shared passion drove us to start our own business: Fire Dept. Coffee.

Like many small businesses, the beginning wasn’t easy. We didn’t know a lot about marketing and building a brand. But things really took off about two years ago, when we took our store online and started using Google My Business. Our online reviews helped more people find our website, and now almost 100 percent of our sales are online. We’ve also doubled our production in the past 12 months, and we currently employ seven people--half of them former firefighters or veterans themselves.  

As our business grew, we wanted to do more for the community that had given us so much. After meeting Damien Pereira—a firefighter who was told he would never walk again after a serious spinal injury in the line of duty—we’re starting the Fire Dept. Coffee Foundation. We’ll donate 10 percent of our proceeds to supporting injured firefighters, first responders and their families.

With Fire Dept. Coffee, I want to continue to serve great tasting coffee to hard working people. But my highest honor is that our business growth allows us to give back to the ones who devote their lives to helping others.

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