As a young boy in Nicaragua, Martin Mayorga caught iguanas, collected bullet shells from revolutionary battles and sometimes slept in the car after major earthquakes.
What stuck with him were the trips his father took him to visit farmers who grew coffee and other products. Years after his family settled in the United States, he and his wife, Kerry, founded Mayorga Coffee, making it part of their mission to help those farmers.
“I focus on developing direct and close relationships with the farmers and their communities,” said Mayorga, 41, of Derwood. “The typical coffee conglomerate has exporters, brokers and distributors. I seek to cut out the middlemen and understand the farmers’ needs as fellow humans. Farmers in Latin America are facing a systematic cycle of poverty. I’m trying to help change that.”
Mayorga’s family later moved to Florida, then the local area. He graduated from Churchill High and attended Montgomery College.
He started a cigar business while studying business and finance at Georgetown University and became so consumed with the business, he left the university before graduating.
His cigars were praised in magazines. The brand reached sales of about 3 million cigars annually. Along the way, Lew Rothman, who operated a large national cigar business, became a mentor. Mayorga later sold his cigar business to Rothman to focus on coffee.
He and Kerry were still dating when they started Mayorga Coffee in 1997 through a credit card she had with a $1,000 limit. Soon after they married in 2001, Costco agreed to distribute their coffee. The business took off and had revenue of about $21 million in 2012.
Quality and caring for the environment are important to Mayorga. Beans are organic without genetically modified organisms.
He has about 50 employees, maintaining a lean operation.
“I still head sales myself,” said Mayorga, who often is on the road in Central and South America.
Mayorga last year established the Mayorga Latino Leadership Scholarship at Montgomery College. The gift will cover annual tuition for one student per year for at least five years.
Mayorga plans to move its headquarters soon to a larger facility on Gude Drive. The 11,500-square-foot present home is on Southlawn Lane in an industrial section of East Rockville, near scrap metal yards and concrete plants. The business also operates several retail outlets, including in Wheaton, National Harbor and airports such as Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Mayorga has grown from the ninth-largest Hispanic business in Maryland in 2011 to third last year. It was the lone one among the top five last year to grow in revenues, according to the magazine Hispanic Business.
But such growth isn’t what is most important, he said.
“I don’t think it is enough to say you are growing revenues,” Mayorga said. “It’s important to make a difference in people’s lives.”