Justin McLaughlin believes in the power of a cup of coffee. In his mind, it can bring people together to have conversations.

“Coffee is like something that, socially, we do a lot as Americans,” McLaughlin said. “Even around the world, folks do it. And so, to me, some of those tough conversations or some of those what I call ‘across the tracks conversations,’ coffee is kind of a medium to have that exchange take place.”

In 2020, McLaughlin, 38, established Xenia Roastery with the vision of bringing specialty coffee to all. He sources the coffee beans from all over the world, from countries such as Kenya and Panama. 

McLaughlin placed second this year in the Fort Worth Rotary Club’s Minority Business Awards, which recognizes businesses with the Rotary’s values of truth, fairness, building goodwill and being beneficial to all. 

Working in the City’s Economic Development department at the James E. Guinn Entrepreneurial Campus immersed McLaughlin in conversations and resources that gave him the encouragement to start thinking about starting a business.

He also wanted to find a way to give back to the community, particularly on the east side, where he did a lot of work while at the economic development department. And he said he loves coffee, which he drank copious amounts of when his kids were first born and was limited to two or three hours of sleep a day.

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During the day, McLaughlin works for the city of Fort Worth’s Neighborhood Services department. At night, he’s roasting coffee. He serves coffee from a truck that travels to different parts of Fort Worth on the weekend. He posts on social media when the truck will be at community markets.

The best part of the roasting process, he said, is that he can control it. 

 “You can’t control people. You can’t control life,” McLaughlin said. “But coffee roasting, you can control it.” 

McLaughlin said his work days are similar to what he watched his father do as a single dad of three children. His father, Joe McLaughlin, worked several jobs. He worked in law enforcement and worked extra security jobs at places like bowling alleys and hotels. 

Joe McLaughlin said he’s heard his son talk about coffee and community and said he has a big heart and really cares about helping people. He wouldn’t be surprised if he formed some sort of committee or organization to uplift the community. 

“We’re shaped by past experiences,” Joe McLaughlin said. “And I think that Justin is … just ideally built to give back.” 

Alan Stoddard, the lead pastor of Imagine Church in Granbury, met McLaughlin while working in a small group when he was a pastor at Cornerstone Church in Arlington. After knowing him for 15 years, Stoddard said he considers him family. He describes McLaughlin as someone who loves people, his family and his faith. McLaughlin also is filled with energy and is a hard worker, Stoddard said. 

“He’s like the Energizer Bunny, man,” Stoddard said. “He’s just got energy.”

Stoddard said he’s excited that McLaughlin has started Xenia Roastery. His knowledge of other cultures and service-oriented business approach will help the city, Stoddard said. McLaughlin is not purely running the business to make money, and serves coffee in communities that big coffee shops don’t reach, he said. 

“He’s got more in mind,” Stoddard said. “He’s in it for people. And then, you know, the business part comes along with it.”

In five years, McLaughlin imagines expanding his one coffee truck to multiple so he can serve communities across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with a staff of all different backgrounds. 

McLaughlin said he gets to know a community by spending time in it. Fort Worth is a very diverse place with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Part of staying in touch, he said, is being involved in different parts of the community and interacting with different people.

“If I want to walk it like I talk and represent what our company is saying we do, as the founder, we have to be able to kind of participate in different organizations and opportunities across the different spectrums of the Fort Worth community,” McLaughlin said. “Because then it kind of gives us a chance to really be a fabric … and not just a fabric in one place.” 

Justin McLaughlin bio:

 Birthplace: Dallas  

Moved to Fort Worth: 2015

Family: Wife (married 12 years); Kids, 6-year-old twins, a boy and a girl

Education: Master of public administration, bachelors in economics, both at UT-Arlington, associates of arts, Tarrant County College.

Work experience: Taught in Crowley ISD for 5 years, fifth and sixth grade, various subjects; currently working in municipal government, seven years total in four different roles. Entrepreneurship background: investment property, duplex (2016, sold 2022), coffee roasting company: Xenia Roastery, LLC (established 2020), several failed ventures. 

Volunteer experience: Mission Arlington, Habitat for Humanity, WORTH next Gen, Fort Worth Rotary Club

First job: Traditional first job was at Burger King. First hustle: mowing grass and shoveling snow in Ohio. 

Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “It sounds cliche, but I believe that in order to be a good leader, you have to know how to listen. Also, leadership is not about being recognized as a leader. Leadership bears fruit by others being elevated by your influence. Leadership is selfless.” 

Best advice ever received: The effect of your leadership is reflected by your alignment as a leader. Therefore, constantly critique/evaluate yourself as an individual, particularly your humility and integrity; if you are constantly out of alignment, you aren’t in a place to lead others. 

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.

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Seth Bodine

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....