A Tucson female veteran is taking a crack at breaking into a male-dominated industry and helping veterans find support through the power of coffee.
Cracked Armor Roasting Co. is a female, veteran-owned coffee roasting company based in Oro Valley that is dedicated to giving back to veterans in the community.
The company was officially opened last year by Lauryn Dougherty, who served eight years with the U.S. Air Force.
Cracked Armor aims to raise funds for programs that help veterans find a sense of belonging after leaving military service, while also providing veterans and civilians alike with freshly roasted coffee beans for that perfect cup of coffee every morning.
When Dougherty left the military in 2015, she said she noticed a lack of support and struggled to find a sense of community.
“You go from this community and you serve so long surrounded by colleagues and people that completely understand you and you go through some life-changing events and things with them,” Dougherty said. “And then when you leave the service, you lose that sense of community and you lose that support system.”
As a result, Dougherty turned to coffee roasting as an outlet and began roasting coffee in a popcorn popper for her close friends and family. An outlet that she called “healing and enjoyable.”
Around 2017, she began taking online courses on coffee roasting and learned about the fair trade coffee industry, which was important to her because coffee farmers are some of the most exploited farmers in the agricultural industry.
“I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t contributing to anything (exploitive) like that,” she said.
Now, she air-roasts coffee beans in a glass chamber and offers eight types of coffee beans that she ethically sources from small coffee farms in Bali, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Guatemala. Each roast is fully customizable, including three roast levels and two grind options. Dougherty also offers alternative packaging in glass jars for veterans who suffer from heavy metal toxicity.
Cracked Armor has teamed up with three veteran nonprofit organizations, The Elk Institute, Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio and local organization Women Warriors, to sponsor events that help veterans find mental health and community resources.
“I got this idea to use fair trade organic coffee to help support and maximize access for veterans to mental health programs and services,” Dougherty said. “Because, I mean, everybody needs a little help and so I kind of just thought that would be a good thing to contribute to, especially because it brought me so much peace.”
Cracked Armor regularly contributes coffee to Women Warriors’ monthly “Croissants, Coffee & Camaraderie” meetings. According to Women Warriors founder and executive director, Karen Kuciver, bags of the roasted coffee beans will also be sold at the organization’s boutique, Wendy’s Collection Boutique, 5851 E. Speedway Blvd Suite 121.
The coffee can also be ordered online at crackedarmorroasting.com.
Cracked Armor is working to obtain another air coffee roaster and a mobile unit to expand the business and reach more veterans.
Kuciver hopes that Cracked Armor will eventually expand nationally because supporting female, veteran-owned businesses helps veterans’ mental health and the economy, she said.
“The big picture would be to build a large facility where I can employ veterans and teach them the art of coffee roasting while providing them with mental health programs and services,” said Dougherty. “Being able to have some of my resources come in and basically just help give them some of their life back, help them get on their feet and, you know, give them something to look forward to and a community that they belong in.”
The name Cracked Armor refers to veterans that leave the service a little cracked, Dougherty said. The armor, she said, is subjective and can mean anything from their mental armor, resiliency or physical armor.
“But with the right help, the sense of community, access to resources and other veterans who just understand their experience, we can be more like a coffee bean, who only becomes drinkable after going through what’s called the ‘first crack.’ That’s when it becomes its best version of itself.”