Karen Beiler — Coffee With a Mission
Karen (Dickey) Beiler, ’07, believes that missions and coffee go hand in hand.
In a quaint and booming area of downtown Springfield, Missouri, Karen and her husband, Justin, own a renovated historical building that houses their coffee company, a boutique hotel and coworking space. The building is home to Eurasia Coffee Company, a missions-centered business that invests in missionaries and ministry projects in Eurasia.
With numerous years spent overseas as missionary kids, Justin and Karen realize the significance of giving back to missions. Karen spent the majority of her life in Japan before returning to the United States for college. Justin grew up in Austria. She met Justin while they were working as staff members at a missionary kid retreat in Colorado in 2014. Karen started helping with Eurasia Coffee Company while they were dating and soon found her international business degree to come in handy.
Finding Her Niche
Following her parents, Jim, ’75, and Brenda (Johnson) Dickey, ’72, Karen decided to attend Southeastern University. She enrolled as a business major with a dream of traveling and seeing the world.
“I wanted to travel. I was very thankful for my upbringing. I really enjoyed being in other cultures, and I thought a degree in international business was a good way to combine my passions,” said Karen.
Karen remembers that Southeastern did not have an international business degree when she first arrived. She jokes that she pestered Dr. Lyle Bowlin, now dean of the Jannetides College of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, about adding the program until it was offered as an official bachelor’s degree.
Fresh out of college, Karen went to work at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., a Japanese financial institution in New York. “I really liked being with Japanese people and using my language skills, but working in finance didn’t feel like where I wanted to be long term,” added Karen.
During that time, Karen started to pick up a knack for taking photos. She purchased her own camera and started out taking wedding photos for friends. After six years of working at the financial institute and getting tired of the commute, Karen left to start her own business.
“I left my international business world to work for myself as a wedding photographer. Wedding photography allowed me to travel,” she said.
In the midst of her growing wedding photography business, Karen met Justin. At the time, he was living in Springfield, Missouri, and had started what used to be known as Eurasia Cafe. Six months later, Karen left Brooklyn, New York, for Springfield to move closer to Justin, and started helping with the company even before they were married. The two were married in 2015. Since then, Karen has taken over several responsibilities within Eurasia Coffee Company from overseeing branding and marketing to helping manage the day-to-day business operations.
“At the time we met, Justin was developing a “business as missions” company that would utilize coffee to share our story, bring awareness, and give back to missions projects happening in the region of Eurasia,” said Karen.
Coffee as a Bridge to Conversation
The vision behind Eurasia Coffee Co. transpired between Justin and his father, Omar Beiler, ’98. Omar has been with Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) since 1992 and has served as the Eurasia Regional Director since 2007. As a missionary, traveling to different churches in the United States, Omar noticed the growth in coffee bars at churches. He frequently saw a coffee bar on one side of a church and the missions board on the other. Omar looked for a way to combine them. That’s when Eurasia Cafe, now known as Eurasia Coffee Company, was started.
“We wanted to take advantage of the growing coffee culture. Our vision was to tell our story by providing coffee, consultation, and missions stories to churches who wished to partner with us,” said Omar.
A few years later, the coffee company was transferred to private ownership under Justin.
“When church congregations see what’s happening on the mission field and the great need that is there, they are inspired to come and, in the very least, support through prayer or giving financially,” said Karen. “In a region as sensitive as Eurasia, you have to be innovative in how you minister. We know one family working as architects; others have chosen coffee. We hope to develop a curriculum to assist fellow coffee wallahs, as we call them, to successfully run their business as missions initiative.”
Eurasia Coffee Co.’s coffee comes from all over the world. They have a partner who roasts coffee beans for them. Their signature blends include coffee from Ethiopia, Jamaica, Indonesia, and throughout South America. Although their flagship coffee shop is located in Springfield, they sell wholesale coffee to more than 200 churches and businesses across the United States.
“We try to source single-origin coffee from places our partners are working in. The churches who purchase our products have coffee shops or some kind of coffee ministry in which they share stories from the mission field, stories of hope and change,” added Karen.
Eurasia Coffee Co. has contributed to projects in more than 44 countries and territories in Eurasia. One of the nonprofit organizations that they contribute to is Project Rescue in India. Project Rescue was founded by David Grant, ’68, and his wife, Beth, with a mission to rescue and restore victims of sexual slavery through the love and power of Jesus Christ. Another example is Uttam’s Place, which is a tutoring center for girls living in extreme poverty located in Bangladesh.
“We give back 10 percent of our sales to organizations and projects that are fighting human trafficking and poverty through working alongside people who are spreading hope, change, and opportunities for others,” said Karen.
In addition to owning and managing Eurasia Coffee Company, Karen and Justin also own the Culture Boutique Hotel and a coworking space called Social Inc. The building used to be an opera house and is located right next to a railroad. They gutted the entire building, renovated it and repurposed materials for the hotel rooms, such as using wood from the old floors to build bed frames. The hotel has six bedrooms on the top floor that are themed after different cities in Eurasia. The coworking space takes up a portion of the first floor of the building. The Beilers wanted to create a community where people could share resources and ideas. In addition to the coworking space, they also have two event rental rooms.
“We want to engage locally to share what is happening globally,” said Karen.
Passion Turned Career
Every day looks different for the Beilers. Though Justin is the director of development and Karen is the creative director, some days consist of anything from maintenance on the building, hotel room turnovers, packaging coffee, checking in guests, and even making meals for the cafe.
“Once you start doing work that gives back and has a greater purpose behind it, you don’t really want to go back. We don’t always make a huge impact — there is always more to be done. But, if we’re able to do something, we are thankful,” said Karen.
Their future goals include continuing to grow their businesses and developing coffee farms in Nepal and India. “We would love to work with local farmers as a ministry tool. There is a lot of potential in those countries; they just don’t often have the resources to farm good quality coffee,” said Karen.
Outside of their businesses, Justin is working on a home renovation for Karen’s parents. Karen enjoys cooking new recipes that they can use in their cafe. In the midst of their busy schedules, they make spending time with their two-year-old daughter a priority. They also take one big international trip a year to connect with their partners in Eurasia.
“Somehow we are able to turn our passions into our careers, and every day we’re so thankful that we are able to do that,” said Karen. “We don’t take it for granted. Through it all, one thing I’ve taken away is how important community is, and we have been so blessed with the community around us. Finding community and having the mentality that we are all in this together — that’s when there’s real growth.”