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In carrying on the New Orleans cold-brewing coffee tradition, Ann Brainard has become known as the MOJO Mama, but she’s also a dedicated humanitarian and a former Wall Street warrior.
Brainard has gone from providing her signature “happy juice” to parent volunteers at fundraising events to making MOJO Cold Brewed Coffee available in 25 locations and four farmers markets across Massachusetts in three years.
The consistent expansion is no doubt due to the special recipe — that she has honed throughout the years, her method for cold brewing, the locally sourced ingredients that she uses, and the dearth of available “ready to drink” coffee options available in the market — and the energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, and determined MOJO Mama on a mission to “share the love.”
The cold-brewing craze hit Boston hard and fast within the past year, but the technique is nothing new to Brainard. For her, it’s the only way to brew and drink coffee. And her MOJO recipe has been flying off the shelves since going into business.
“In New Orleans, cold brewing coffee is the norm — the only real way to brew your coffee,” Brainard said. “When I moved to New England 19 years ago, I truly thought that everyone everywhere cold-brewed their coffee, but I realized that cold brew was unique to this part of the world. It’s a regional craft, used by most locals in New Orleans, but in New England, nobody knew what it meant and how much better it was as a brewing technique.”
Once she realized she had a viable business opportunity after providing her caffeine elixir at farmers markets and receiving rave reviews for two summers, Brainard’s New Orleans culinary lineage and approach as a professional helped the business take off.
“I grew up in a family filled with chefs and had several storied restaurants as my personal playgrounds/test kitchens, so my roots and love for sharing good food and fun runs very deep,” she said. “It’s how I roll.”
Brainard’s grandfather, “Diamond” Jim Moran owned the long-standing New Orleans landmark restaurant, La Louisiane, in the mid-1950s, and her father, Jimmy Moran Jr., took over the restaurant as owner-chef in 1958. In addition, Moran Jr. owned Acme Oyster House and Moran’s Riverside restaurants.
After graduating from Tulane University and working for another family restaurant for a short time, Brainard, never afraid of an adventure, moved to New York to work for Lehman Brothers on Wall Street.
“I approached landing a position there as an opportunity to throw myself into a challenging situation,” Brainard said. “I was excited to push myself and to try something completely new and outside my comfort zone.”
Just as Brainard is advocating for cold brewing and advertising MOJO Cold Brewed Coffee, her communications background helped her advocate for herself and advertise her skills in working her way onto the trading floor.
“I talked my way onto the trading room floor through a program designed specifically for prospective sales and trading employees who didn’t have a background in finance, like me,” Brainard said. “They bought my pitch and those eight years on Wall Street showed me that anything is possible with hard work, perseverance and the right attitude.”
As an entrepreneur running a small business, the willingness to work, persevere and carry a positive attitude has benefitted Brainard immensely. Being a first-time entrepreneur brought its fair share of challenges, but Brainard has met and overcome each with grace.
“I truly believe that obstacles are opportunities, forcing fresh perspective and allowing me to reconsider what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and how I can improve and adapt,” she explained. “There’s always a way to overcome a challenge. You just have to be creative and tenacious.”
The New Orleans native approaches her humanitarian efforts as creatively and tenaciously as she does her business. She’s been a Massachusetts resident for nearly 20 years, but Brainard is a NOLA girl at heart and takes every opportunity she can to give back to the city that is such a source of pride for her.
“After Katrina, I got busy finding ways to help my devastated hometown from afar,” she said. “Days after the levees failed, I, along with my neighbor and friend, organized donation drives that started at a lemonade stand and quickly turned into North Shore-based efforts that ultimately filled five tractor-trailer trucks with donations of food, water and essentials that we directed to shelters harboring dozens of families in Katrina’s wake.”
Her charity didn’t stop there, as she has organized five separate trips ranging in size from groups of 10 to 30 to rebuild homes in New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity and the St. Bernard Project.
It’s possible Brainard’s charitable efforts are bringing on the good karma, because the MOJO train just keeps on rolling.
The company recently began a partnership with Seacrest Foods that will allow MOJO Cold Brew Coffee to grow its market presence, and local and regional availability, and Boston startup LeanBox is now carrying the product. In addition, Brainard and co. has plans to roll out an unsweetened MOJO blend later this fall, a Black Magic version in early 2016, and a non-dairy option in 2016.
If you’re curious how you can get your hands on some MOJO Cold Brew Coffee, check out their locations across Massachusetts to find one near you. And if you’d like to speak to Brainard directly regarding sales inquiries, feel free to shoot her an email at email@example.com.
Image via Ann Brainard