Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Brewed with Purpose

Ben Hoyer, 42

Owner, Downtown Credo coffee shop; Credo Conduit co-working space promoter; COO, Rally social enterprise accelerator, Orlando

Ben Hoyer has always been drawn to the “big questions” in life. It’s the reason he started out studying philosophy at the University of Florida and ended up majoring in religion. “I felt like it was philosophy with a direction,” he says, and it was deep contemplation that led him to launch Downtown Credo, the name-yourprice coffee shop he started 12 years ago in Orlando after returning to the area to settle down with his wife and young family.

The Lake Mary native says it all comes down to finding fulfillment. “I think this is a typical driving question for the Millennial generation — even more than what am I going to do, or how am I going to make money, or what am I going to get — it’s what kind of a life am I going to like? I don’t want to look back on my life and not like it,” he says.

Hoyer says he found joy working with non-profits on an array of projects — from building vegetable gardens to hosting end-of-summer parties — in Parramore, a neighborhood west of downtown Orlando. But he says he also realized that if he was going to do that kind of work on a long-term basis, he was going to have to spend all his time raising money, which he didn’t want to do. He started thinking about what he could sell to advance the mission. He decided on direct-trade coffee.

A friend of a friend from Gainesville connected Hoyer with some “micro growers” in a remote region of Guatemala. Hoyer flew there to figure out his business. He came back with a plan to buy coffee directly from Guatemalan growers and sell it to Orlando customers for whatever price they were willing to pay. “I thought, if we could hack the supply chain and pay growers directly, then your morning cup of coffee could be a step toward impact. Rather than just buy something, you’d think: ‘What kind of impact am I going to make this morning with my cup of coffee?’ ” Hoyer says.

Today, Downtown Credo has two Orlando locations — one on Rollins Street at AdventHealth’s campus and another inside the North Quarter Market on Orange Avenue. While the original Credo’s location in College Park closed in May 2020 amid financial challenges brought on by COVID-19 and rising rents, the java chain has given rise to other ventures, including a co-working space known as Credo Conduit just north of downtown.

“Rather than just selling desks, we interview people and then extend invitations to join this community of co-workers in Orlando,” Hoyer says.

Hoyer has also been working to mentor other budding social entrepreneurs as COO of Rally, a social enterprise accelerator. Launched in 2017 as an effort between Downtown Credo, Rollins College and the Central Florida Foundation, the group runs a four-month accelerator twice a year, with participants from around the globe. The group also helps them find seed money.

At the end of the day, Hoyer says, he’s found the joie de vivre that so many Millennials are chasing. “My parents are solidly Baby Boomers, and watching them follow prescribed career paths for a long period of time, driving toward a retirement period, is something I think my generation really reacts against. (We’re interested in) how to integrate the life we want with the way we make a living,” he says. “I feel like I have tailor-made this life that I really enjoy.”

Millennial Migration

Post-pandemic, Millennials (and Gen Xers) have been leaving states like California, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois in droves and flocking to Texas, Florida and other states in the Southeast. According to a 2022 SmartAsset analysis, Seattle — once the second favorite destination of Millennials — dropped significantly in the rankings after the pandemic, going from a net migration of almost 6,200 to a loss of 670 Millennials. In 2021, New York lost nearly 79,800 Millennials — six times as many as any other place. Chicago followed behind, losing more than 13,300 Millennials. Two Florida cities, Jacksonville and Tampa, ranked among the top 10 cities to which Millennials are relocating.

Bryon White, 36
Co-owner, Yaupon Brothers American Tea, Edgewater

Bryon White, a Volusia County beach safety officer, was walking through the woods near his home in New Smyrna Beach 13 years ago when he noticed some green foliage sticking out among the brown vegetation that had been killed in a storm surge. “I was like, what is this plant that got totally flooded with seawater and didn’t care?” White recalls.

After discovering it was a yaupon holly, he “went down a rabbit hole,” reading everything he could about the plant. Through his research, he learned that the plant is the only native caffeine source in the United States and that Indigenous people in the Southeast had been drinking tea brewed from yaupon leaves for more than 8,000 years and using it in sacred ceremonies and rituals.

In 2011, White brewed his own batch and persuaded his family and friends to try the herbal-flavored concoction. “Not only did every-body tolerate it, but they actually enjoyed consuming it,” he recalls. “I was like, man, I’m going to get instantly rich off this.”

That didn’t happen, but by 2019, the tea company he formed with his brother, Kyle, and their mentor, Mark Steele, was doing well enough that White quit his full-time job as a law enforcement officer to focus entirely on their tea business.

Today, Yaupon Brothers American Tea is available at about 1,000 retailers, including all Whole Foods stores in Florida and Walmarts nationwide for in-store purchase or at-home delivery. It is also the exclusive tea provider to Orlando’s Foxtail Coffee shop chain.

And while Yaupon Brothers doesn’t have its own tea farms, it has helped build a commercial supply chain of the once forgotten plant from scratch.

The company processes approximately 15,000 pounds of yaupon each year at its Edgewater factory and gets most of its supply of yaupon leaves foraging for the plant where it grows naturally. Working with an Apopka-based plant tissue culture lab called Agri-Starts, Yaupon Brothers has also developed its own two “cultivars” of yaupon that are optimized for food production, and they’ve been working with farmers across the Southeast to help them grow it as an alternative crop. “In the past year, we’ve planted 100,000 trees across three states, and we manage about 80,000 acres under some form of company management,” White says.

White and his business partners contribute 5% of online sales revenue to North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), a non-profit started by Lakota Sioux Chef Sean Sherman that focuses on re-establishing access to Native traditions and Indigenous goods.

According to historians, the tea was popular among Spanish settlers in Florida during the 16th century and by the 18th century had found its way into some European markets before fading into obscurity. “You fast forward to now, and nobody even knows it exists — and what that is, is a direct consequence of the erasure of Indigenous cultures in America,” White says. But he believes the tea’s rebirth is a step in the right direction. “We’re bringing this integral cornerstone of civilization back to the fore, and that’s where it belongs.”

The White brothers also are committed to helping other entrepreneurs launch their businesses through their work with the Arlington, Va.-based “idea accelerator” called Builders + Backers.

While shows like ABC’s “Shark Tank” have “hopelessly romanticized” the world of venture capital, he says, Shark Tank-type investors are only a good fit for about 2% of startups. Builders + Backers helps entrepreneurs to “build diversified capital stacks, to be scrappy, to not be excessive or distracted, and to really focus on the scalability and the repeatability of their idea,” White says. “We feel like we’ve done that with Yaupon, and we want to help other people like us do that, too, because when we started, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing and there wasn’t anybody to tell us. We want to be the people that we didn’t have.”

Millennial Snapshot

FLORIDA TREND dug into the state's generational data. Here’s some of what we found:

  • The Generation Defined — Calculating the size of Florida’s living generations is more complicated than it seems, especially when it pertains to Millennials. Researchers differ on what marks the end of the generation, with some putting it at 1996 and others up to 2000. Nationwide, the estimated 72 Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) as the largest living generation in 2019. In Florida, Millennials; Gen X (born 1965 to 1980); and Baby Boomer counts are within a few hundred thousand people of each other — leaving the state essentially with three generations impactful in their own ways.
  • Nationwide — Millennials make up nearly 30% of the electorate. Now 44% minority, Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in American history.

In Florida, there are roughly …

  • 2 million Silent & Greatest Generations
  • 5 million Baby Boomers
  • 4 million Gen X
  • 5 million Millennials
  • 4 million Gen Z
  • 2 million Gen Alpha

Things to Keep in Mind …

  • Coming of age amid the Great Recession has had ripple effects on Millennials, who’ve delayed home buying and major milestones such as marriage and kids. Their preference for experiences over assets has made them major drivers of the so-called “sharing economy” and on-demand services.
  • Millennials have spent most of their lives surrounded by digital devices but many are also devoted to fitness and eating right. Their active lifestyle influences where they live, how they work and how they're raising their children.