American Service Dog Magazine Featured Company
By Kayla Calix-Hestick | Photos by Delia Engstrom
The summer of 2016 brewed a nonprofit company by the name of Coffee Vets. Founder Kip Nicely, Capt. USN (Ret), is from a military family. His father served in the Army Infantry during WWII, so his childhood was spread across army bases. PTSD wasn’t a phrase used back then, Nicely remembers hearing about it from his father as, “shell shock” or “combat fatigue.” Nicely followed his family’s path and entered the Annapolis academy proceeding to fly in the Navy for nine years. Another 16 years in the Navy Reserves and Nicely moved on to work in the House of Representatives. Nicely says that with a life lived in the military and surrounded by vets returning home, that PTSD was always a part of his world’s landscape.
Nicely served 27 years in the Navy after graduating from the U.S. Navy Academy (Annapolis, MD) in 1976. During his military career, he flew 2800 hours in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE (VQ-1) between 1978 and 1981. From 1981 to 1985, Nicely flew “Cast Glance” optical training flights for the first 8 Space Shuttle missions, while simultaneously serving as Military Liaison (West Coast Operations) for former President Ronald Reagan. Before retiring in 2003 Nicely served one tour as the Executive Officer and two tours as the Commanding Officer in the Naval Air Systems Command.
Coffee Vets sells whole bean and ground coffee online and select grocery locations. You don’t have to buy coffee to help, however. In addition to launching Coffee Vets, Kip and his team also launched 22 Heroes to Zero, a crowdfunding campaign to fight PTSD. 22 Heroes to Zero joined forces with the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their national convention in 2016, with the goal of raising funds and encouraging veterans to seek help. Nicely’s team has carefully selected 22 organizations that are working to help veterans with PTSD. 22 Heroes to Zero will help by financially supporting those 22 organizations that live and breathe to defeat PTSD. They encourage Heroes suffering from PTSD and their loved ones to seek help. 22 Heroes to Zero spreads the message that Heroes are not alone or weak for having PTSD. Their short-term goal was to raise 220,000 dollars by December 31, 2017; a new goal will be set for 2018.
American Service Dogs Magazine had an opportunity to interview Kip recently about his passions and how he started his business.
When did your company begin?
Nicely – In July 2016 at the annual 117th VFW National Convention in Charlotte, NC, Coffee Vets was debuted. Our veterans, service members, and their families sacrifice so greatly and ask for little in return. When I started Coffee Vets, the 22 Heroes to Zero campaign also came to life. The campaign is focused on helping Veterans suffering from PTSD to live a better life and to combat an illness that is taking the lives of 20 plus Veterans a day. Coffee Vets and 22 Heroes to Zero raise funds that are donated to nonprofit organizations involved in service dogs, retreats, therapies and more, all over the US. As the Official Coffee of the VFW and Veterans around the globe, we are on a mission to help those Veterans with PTSD through our 22 Heroes to Zero initiative. We provide our ultra-premium, organic, fairly-traded, mycotoxin-free, kosher, hand-picked coffee to America’s finest—they deserve it!
Prior to starting Coffee Vets, did you have previous business experience?
Nicely – I have had two businesses as an entrepreneur, the first business I ran was with my brother, a pro golfer. We had a golf apparel company for a short time. In May 2003, my wife, Evelyn and I created Nicely Done Kitchens and Baths, one of the most successful kitchen, bath remodeling firms in the Washington DC area. We are very proud of the work we’ve done and joy we’ve brought to many homeowners in the area.
Can you describe the manufacturing process?
Nicely – Coffee Vets grows and supplies one of the world’s most exquisite, rich, 100% Arabica beans that are perfectly ripened and roasted to perfection. Fairly traded, shade grown, 100% organic, kosher, toxin-free, spring water washed, sun-dried and roasted in small batches. Our farm is part of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve; it is the second most important mountain reserve in the entire Central American region after the Amazon. Our coffee is packaged with pride at Virginia Industries For The Blind, in Richmond, Virginia, by Combat Veterans blinded by their injuries.
What has your qualities has your business brought to your life?
Nicely – Coffee Vets has made me feel enabled. I feel like I am able to fulfill my purpose in life by helping veterans and trying to make a difference. I live a “Purpose Driven Life”, not to steal the book’s title but it is how I have chosen to live my life. The biggest reward that I get is being able to help the organizations, which are front and center, doing it all. Coffee Vets is my way of giving back and helping others give back to our service men and women.
What is your vision for the future of Coffee Vets?
Nicely – My vision for the future of Coffee Vets is simple, bigger and better. I see no change in our mission. With the on-going advancements in technology and the know how to “fix” brain injuries, I want Coffee Vets to be able to help fund research to get the number of suicides down to zero. I want to be able to continue to help with resources that sooth and comfort those with PTSD. I want to bolster organizations that help and continue doing the work that they do.
Do you have any advice for our readers who may want to start their own business or nonprofit?
Nicely – I wake up every morning and think about how I can make this day count, what do I need to do. Find your passions and your talents to go for what you want. Everyone has a unique talent or passion. Use it! Make a difference for you, for others. Tomorrow is gone, make it count.
Always remember… it’s HEROIC to seek help! And it’s our DUTY to help those who are suffering from PTSD. They have fought for us and it’s time we fight for them.
Coffee Vets proudly provides the coffee to the more than 6,600 VFW Post worldwide and is available to the general public and offered at a special, discounted price for veterans and service members at www.coffeevets.com. For more information on 22 Heroes to Zero visit www.22heroestozero.com.