Meet Jesse and Mayra
Founders, Back of the Yards Coffee Co.
Jesse Iñiguez and Mayra Hernandez are co-owners of Back of the Yards Coffee Co. in Chicago: a specialty coffeehouse and roastery serving the historic southwest side of the city.
The Back of the Yards story is a culmination of several distinct moments. The first was in summer of 2016: Mayra had just been laid off and wanted to take another career path. She started making home-brewed cold coffee and selling it at local events. It was a hit, and she started getting big orders—to her complete dismay.
Her childhood friend, Jesse, realized Mayra was on to something. He was familiar with the industry since he’d owned a cafe in the past (which closed during the recession), so they joined forces.
Around the same time, Jesse met a woman whose family owned a coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico. Soon BOY was roasting that farm’s beans and selling wholesale to other cafes. Not long after, a local connection told them about a space for rent in the neighborhood. The rest is coffee history.
“We had a series of ah-ha moments and I thought, ‘All right, it’s a sign from up above that something needs to happen,’” Jesse said.
Jesse’s previous experience helped him weather the ups and downs. “Having started a previous business during the recession, I learned some hard lessons about failure.”
People didn’t always believe BOY was the place for artisanal coffee. Jesse has heard people say “Mexicans won’t drink good coffee.” His reply? “They’re not drinking it because no one’s serving it.”
Overcoming challenges is nothing new for this duo. Both Mayra and Jesse come from families who emigrated from Mexico and joined the long-standing blue color tradition of BOY’s neighborhood. “We want to honor the working class,” Mayra said.
BOY is one of a growing number of B Corps: for-profit businesses who measure success by their social impact as well as their bottom line. For every bag of coffee Mayra and Jesse sell, they donate $1 to support economic development and training programs in their community. All of their products and supplies (except the beans, of course) are bought locally, and they’ve already created 8 jobs in the community.