One morning in August 2019, Minnetonka resident Kym Jolstad got a call from her sister Kelly. “I said, ‘Hey, Kelly, what’s up? I’m at breakfast. Is everything okay?’ and she said, ‘No,’” Jolstad says. “... It was just like my heart sunk.”
What came after that “no” was the news that Jolstad’s (now late) mother, Kathie Kemi, had been admitted to the hospital that morning with jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. “And by five o’clock that night, they had found a mass on her pancreas,” Jolstad says. Kemi’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer came as a complete surprise to her family. Besides jaundice, she had no other obvious symptoms.
Kemi’s story is not unusual. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, there are no reliable screenings for early-stage pancreatic cancer. More than 60,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, and of those people, only 11 percent are diagnosed with a more treatable, early stage of cancer.
When she first found out about her mom’s diagnosis, Jolstad was determined to find a way to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, including research on early detection and screenings. Most of the fundraisers she found were one-time or annual events that raised money sporadically throughout the year. For Jolstad, those fundraisers weren’t enough, and she wanted to do something more ongoing to build awareness.
In January 2020—nearly five months after her mom’s diagnosis—Jolstad was walking her dog and drinking a cup of coffee when she got an idea—Kathie’s Coffee. To Jolstad, opening a nonprofit coffee business was the perfect way to raise money for pancreatic cancer research while also incorporating her mom’s individuality. “[My mom] really truly did build her relationships over cups of coffee,” she says.
Kemi had a lifelong love of coffee; she remembered tasting her parents’ coffee as a child and drinking it with friends after church. As an adult, she treasured her daily coffee breaks.
Jolstad imagines customers buying her ground or whole-bean coffee to brew for their friends and family and sitting down for meaningful conversations, just like her mom did for nearly her whole life.
By April 2020, Jolstad had a sample blend ready to ship to her mom, who lived in Cloquet, Minn. With Kemi’s approval, Jolstad began selling ground and whole-bean coffee that month. With each bag, she donates $3 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), in addition to supporting other fundraisers and nonprofits. In the first year of operation, Kathie’s Coffee has sold over 2,200 bags of coffee and donated over $10,000 to PanCAN.
Jolstad kept her mom updated on the business and would call her as she mailed checks to PanCAN.
All the beans from Kathie’s Coffee are sourced from Ethiopia and Colombia and are roasted in St. Louis Park. The nonprofit offers medium roast blends, both caffeinated and naturally decaffeinated.
Kathie’s Coffee, 612.245.1139
Minnesota Makers, 261 Water St., Excelsior; and Homespun, Ridgedale Center,
12401 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka