Caleb Benoit ’06 is the founder and owner of Connect Roasters. He lives in Bourbonnais with his wife, Cody, and their daughter, Winston.
Looking back at your educational experience at Olivet, were there any moments of growth that connected the dots for your career trajectory?
I was a journalism major, so I spent a lot of time in the communications department, and most of the upper-level classes for my major were with Gregg Chenoweth. He’s someone who has been a huge encouragement to me, not just in my time as a student but in the years since. He saw potential in me and invested time and energy in me, and I think everyone who goes on to be successful—or just grows into being a healthy, mature adult—has at least a couple people like that in their lives.
You’ve maintained a strong connection with Olivet since graduating. Why?
I spent four years at Olivet as a student. In a lot of ways, the people of Olivet invested time, energy and resources in me. I think I’m a better person and a better professional for that. Whether that’s speaking to a class or speaking on the Createur podcast, I enjoy finding ways to give back.
What is something you know now that you would tell 22-year old you?
When it comes to business, count the cost. Entrepreneurship and starting a business get romanticized. People don’t often see the sacrifices that need to be made and the downsides. We don’t see the failures. If you want to own your own business, you should really consider: am I wired for this? I’ve also learned in general, that your reputation matters. How you treat people on a personal level, on a business level, it all matters. It takes a lot of work to earn someone’s trust, but not much time to lose it. Character truly matters.
What have been some highlights or growth moments in your career thus far?
I was fortunate to be able to work in journalism while at Olivet and for several years after graduating, and as far as work goes, that will probably always be my first love. But since then I’ve been able to travel a ton and I lived in France and Canada—I’ve had some great experiences. For the past few years, I’ve focused on operating a coffee business called Connect Roasters. That has been the most difficult thing I’ve done, but also the most rewarding.
Share a bit about Connect Roasters: What was the original vision? How have you seen that blossom over the years?
When I started the business in 2016, the primary focus was roasting great coffee. The original vision was to build a company that would use coffee as a vehicle to improve people’s lives, and I’m proud to say that we are still doing that today.
I think of our partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository as an example. The organization operates as the food bank for the city of Chicago. They supply more than 700 Cook County food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. We started working together at the beginning of the pandemic, and to date sales of Connect coffee, we have provided about 25,000 meals through the Food Depository network to those in need. We’ve also supported the work of our coffee-farming partner in Guatemala.
You’ve opened a brick & mortar coffee shop location right across from campus! Tell us more about the new Connect Roasters retail location.
For the past seven years, our customers have experienced Connect through our website, farmers market, wholesale, Wrigley Field (through our partnership with Cubs player, Ian Happ) and other pop-up events. This is a new way for customers to experience brand and product.
We wanted to open a physical location for some time, but it really came down to finding the right opportunity in the right location. The Connect Roasters café is located at 141 South Main St., right next to the Bourbonnais Dairy Queen. It’s great to be located right across the street from Olivet—we’re looking forward to serving the community.
Our retail location operates with a similar give-back model as the roasting side of the business, but the money will support a different local partner every quarter. We’re excited to continue growing our support of organizations in this community.
Photography by: DJ Herring