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by Brian Wiklem

The Crowd Funding Phenomena

Categories: 2015, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Continuing where the first part left off (a gen­eral overview), we’re now going to tackle two exam­ples of crowd fund­ing cof­fee projects that have turned bit­ter. Those two projects are the all-in-one cof­fee roaster, grinder, and brewer from Bonaverde, and the PID-Controlled (ensures con­sis­tent tem­per­a­ture dur­ing shot pulling) Espresso machine from ZPM Espresso. Both of these projects share four sim­i­lar­i­ties: they pre­sented an idea that hasn’t been com­mer­cial­ized pre­vi­ously; they both exceeded their fund rais­ing tar­gets by sub­stan­tial mar­gins; the cam­paign cre­ators have no expe­ri­ence in the cof­fee busi­ness or man­u­fac­tur­ing; and both have failed to deliver as promised on their fund-raising pages.

During the writ­ing of this arti­cle, the cam­paign by ZPM Espresso had a dra­matic devel­op­ment: it offi­cially ground to a halt. After rais­ing over $350k USD (with a $20k fund­ing tar­get), and almost exactly two years after promis­ing to ship six months after fund­ing, ZPM Espresso noti­fied all back­ers that they’ve offi­cially shut down. With claims that all parts had been ordered late in 2014, and the major­ity of issues resolved from Beta testers early in 2014, every­one expected to receive their units. What they got in January was notice that all the money had been spent on the devel­op­ment of the machine and parts, and that the major­ity of the team had quit the com­pany. In one sin­gle email, $369k raised from back­ers went poof! In response, some of the beta testers who received beta machines posted their results of the machines’ per­for­mance (spec­u­lated that less than 25 units were sent to beta testers), and stated that it failed to per­form as adver­tised across the board. Granted, it was a beta unit. However, it appears they received their units nearly one year after back­ing the project. We’ll keep every­one posted as the story devel­ops further.

On the other end of the spec­trum, you have Bonaverde, who promised back­ers “let’s change cof­fee together” with its all-in-one cof­fee maker. As of today, Bonaverde has a grow­ing back­lash from peo­ple who feel they’ve been mis­led, lied to, or even down­right conned out of money for a non-existent prod­uct. Bonaverde has done noth­ing to stem the tide of grow­ing back­lash, and in many cases, pro­vided more fuel for the grow­ing fire. How? Why? Quite sim­ply, through a num­ber of mis­cal­cu­lated posts and two addi­tional crowd-funding cam­paigns after com­ple­tion of the ini­tial Kickstarter campaign.

BonaverdeImmediately after the suc­cess of the Kickstarter cam­paign, Bonaverde started up a new cam­paign on Indiegogo (which was suc­cess­ful in rais­ing $124k USD with a goal of only $50k). With over $800k in fund­ing raised, over four times more than their tar­get, Bonaverde had more than asked to go into pro­duc­tion and ful­fill their quest of chang­ing the way peo­ple drink cof­fee. After all, they were using a com­plete unit, Korean man­u­fac­turer Happy Time & Java Coffee’s Java Pro machine, in all of their press demon­stra­tions. The Java Pro machine has been avail­able in Korea for quite some time, retail­ing for approx­i­mately $630 USD. The price dis­crep­ancy between the retail price of the Java Pro and the ini­tial offer­ing of $250 for a machine from Bonaverde defies logic. Was Bonaverde truly going to take a loss, or did they hon­estly nego­ti­ate a dis­count to account for the $250 offer­ing? Many appli­ances have between a 25–40% markup over whole­sale cost from the man­u­fac­turer, which would have put the whole­sale cost at over $300 USD. This doesn’t account for ship­ping the machines from Korea to Germany (or mul­ti­ple drop-ship loca­tions around the world), so how in the world would they ever cover this discrepancy?

Over the com­ing months sup­port­ers would real­ize they were in for a rude awak­en­ing. Every update that Bonaverde pub­lished would be filled with more claims that con­tin­ued to push the deliv­ery of the machine back, and that fur­ther improve­ments were required. Backers became frus­trated, because this was sup­posed to be a machine nearly ready for pro­duc­tion sans some final engi­neer­ing work.

Ultimately, it was dis­closed that an all-new machine built from the ground up would be required. But the updates for the next 6 months were sim­i­lar: we’ve hired some­one new, we have tool­ing and start­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing, we’ve hired some­one new, we have tool­ing and are start­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing. How had a machine that appar­ently had tool­ing mul­ti­ple times not com­pleted manufacturing?

To add insult to injury, another cam­paign – this time on the European crowd fund­ing site Seedmatch – raised over $1.6million USD. The same promises of an all in one machine, and chang­ing the way we drink cof­fee were stated. But after the $800k USD raised nearly a year ago, it begs the ques­tion: were the Europeans more fool­ish to invest twice as much as the U.S. sup­port­ers based on all the false updates pro­vided by Bonaverde thus far? There’s a phrase that rings true: Google is your friend. Type in Bonaverde into Google and the Kickstarter cam­paign page comes in as the sec­ond link, fol­lowed by a story of back­ers rebelling over the bro­ken promises of Bonaverde. Why would the Europeans not be sus­pect, espe­cially when the amount being raised was almost 10x the orig­i­nal amount sought with the first two campaigns?

Just as abra­sive to sup­port­ers was the (Google Translated) response on the Seedmatch web­site where Patrick Bales, COO of Bonaverde dis­tances the com­pany from the Kickstarter cam­paign by stat­ing “As our soci­ety (Bonaverde Coffee AG) legally not asso­ci­ated with the Kickstarter cam­paign is our view that actions against the Company and can not be enforced.”

It’s hard to read some­thing that claims that they aren’t asso­ci­ated with the Kickstarter cam­paign, yet on both pages the back­ers are the same, the goal is the same, but Bonaverde acknowl­edges and implies Kickstarter back­ers won’t be get­ting a sin­gle cof­fee maker by sug­gest­ing the two com­pa­nies aren’t con­nected, when all facts point to they are one and the same. Will Bonaverde deliver to its sup­port­ers in the end?

Sustainability

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Turn on the tele­vi­sion or open a news­pa­per, and you would be hard-pressed not to find infor­ma­tion on ‘liv­ing green.’ The green move­ment has embraced the global cof­fee mar­ket­place and cap­tured the atten­tion of con­sumers like never before. From sus­tain­able cof­fee pro­duc­tion prac­tices to eco-friendly cof­fee prod­ucts and water con­ser­va­tion, ‘going green’ is caus­ing spe­cialty cof­fee busi­nesses to take notice and change the way they’re doing business.

A Growing Trend

Consider this sta­tis­tic: According to the National Coffee Association, nearly eight out of ten Americans drink cof­fee. It’s clear that cof­fee is one of America’s favorite bev­er­ages. And as cof­fee con­tin­ues to heat up sales at cof­fee­houses across the nation, con­sumers are tak­ing notice of organic, cer­ti­fied organic, and sus­tain­able cof­fee programs.

Although there is still the con­sumer that just wants “a cup of joe,” most con­sumers expect more from their cof­fee and are will­ing to pay more for it. Today’s con­sumer knows the dif­fer­ence between “com­mod­ity” cof­fee (i.e., from a can at the gro­cery store) and spe­cialty cof­fee, and vote with their dol­lars for what they drink.

But what exactly do the terms sus­tain­able, organic, cer­ti­fied organic, direct trade, and direct rela­tion­ship, mean to pro­duc­ers, retail­ers, and con­sumers alike? And what effect are these ide­olo­gies hav­ing on the indus­try as a whole?

Reykia Fick, media rela­tions man­ager at Fairtrade International says that any effec­tive approach to sus­tain­abil­ity must start with peo­ple. “For Fairtrade, we start with the posi­tion of the farmer. For farm­ers to con­tinue to feed the world into the future, they need to earn enough to have a decent liveli­hood and rein­vest into their farms,” Fick says. “They need to farm in a way that respects their local ecol­ogy so their fields will stay fer­tile. They need to build strong busi­nesses and rein­vest in their com­mu­ni­ties to strengthen their posi­tion and attract the next gen­er­a­tion to farming.”

So how do organic and Fairtrade labels coin­cide within the cof­fee indus­try? “Organic” and “Fairtrade” are two dif­fer­ent but com­pli­men­tary cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that can be run par­al­lel or sep­a­rately. As Fick explains, organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion means that agri­cul­tural meth­ods to pro­tect the envi­ron­ment have been under­taken in the farm­ing of a crop. While Fairtrade  International has require­ments for sus­tain­able farm­ing tech­niques, empow­er­ment and improv­ing the liveli­hoods of farm­ers and work­ers is the core aim of Fairtrade.

For pro­duc­ers who lack resources, improv­ing their eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion through Fairtrade International can be a pre­req­ui­site for gain­ing organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. “Fairtrade deliv­ers ben­e­fits to small-scale farm­ers such as sta­ble prices and funds for devel­op­ment,” Fick says. “This brings the sta­bil­ity and invest­ment thou­sands of pro­duc­ers have needed to con­vert to organic. Once organic cer­ti­fied, Fairtrade farm­ers and work­ers ben­e­fit from higher prices for many products.”

According to Bill Fishbein, founder and pres­i­dent of The Coffee Trust, the var­i­ous com­mer­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and non-commercial efforts are all part of the effort toward sus­tain­abil­ity. “That said, com­mer­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are lim­ited, as con­di­tions of the trade are steeply tilted in favor of mer­chants over pro­duc­ers and com­mer­cial inter­ests are not nec­es­sar­ily always con­sis­tent with com­mu­nity inter­ests. Commercial inter­ests are always look­ing to ensure a fluid line of sup­ply. This is not a bad thing, and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions help to estab­lish a price that war­rants a con­sis­tent sup­ply chain. However, hav­ing a fluid line of sup­ply as a pri­or­ity for com­merce is not nec­es­sar­ily con­sis­tent with a community’s pri­or­ity for its own development.”

Direct Ties

Marilyn Dryke with the Café Femenino Foundation, says that direct trade was a mar­ket­ing term that was cre­ated to help roast­ers sell cof­fee. “Though a few roast­ers may have the knowl­edge or abil­ity to buy and import their own con­tain­ers of cof­fee, most roast­ing com­pa­nies rely on importers and exporters to get their cof­fee here and to hold the cof­fee until they are ready to buy it and roast it,” Dryke says. “With the term ‘direct trade’ peo­ple may be lead to believe that the seller is buy­ing and import­ing the cof­fee directly from a cof­fee farmer or a coöper­a­tive.  So from our per­spec­tive it is a con­fus­ing term that is loosely used.  There is no ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for this concept.”

George Kim, cof­fee qual­ity man­ager at Caffebene defines direct trade as the process where the buyer and the farmer agree upon cer­tain stan­dards and processes—from pro­duc­tion to cul­ti­vat­ing, har­vest­ing, dry­ing, and such. The buyer is directly involved in the process.

The trend is shift­ing away from buy­ing cof­fee beans in bulk through dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies. Rather, roast­ers are going directly to the farm­ers after sur­vey­ing the soil and the envi­ron­ment of the farm,” Kim says. “People believe this truly insures the qual­ity of the beans. Also, roast­ers use this unique story as a way of mar­ket­ing, inform­ing the con­sumers how and under what con­di­tions the beans that they are drink­ing were harvested.”

In Korea, Caffebene has a direct rela­tion­ship with the Ipanema farm. All cof­fee beans pro­duced from this farm are only exported into Caffebene in Korea. “The rea­son for doing this is to have a story with a spe­cific farm that pro­duces the cof­fee just the way we want,” Kim says. “There are no third par­ties involved. We cer­tify the qual­ity our­selves. As it is only imported to Caffebene Korea, we can guar­an­tee the quality.”

So how is the term “direct rela­tion­ships” dif­fer­ent from “direct trade”?

Dryke says that “direct rela­tion­ships” also is a mar­ket­ing term that was devel­oped to help move cof­fee. “Roasters can work with their importers to actu­ally go and meet the farm­ers they work with, and a few have the abil­ity to actu­ally buy a full con­tain in order to import them­selves,” Dryke says. “Some importers may also mar­ket their cof­fees as direct rela­tion­ship, and prob­a­bly many of them actu­ally do have direct rela­tion­ships, but there is no spe­cific cri­te­ria attached to this term, so it is a loosely used term with some com­pa­nies or indi­vid­u­als using it as they wish.”

While indus­try experts may have dif­fer­ing opin­ions about the ter­mi­nol­ogy sur­round­ing sus­tain­able prac­tices within the cof­fee indus­try, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are key tokens that ensure stan­dards and cri­te­ria are annu­ally sub­stan­ti­ated so that con­sumers know the claims that are being made are true and verified.

With these cer­ti­fi­ca­tions the expec­ta­tion is that the cof­fee or other prod­ucts will actu­ally gen­er­ate higher incomes for the pro­duc­ers who are hav­ing their cof­fees cer­ti­fied,” Dryke says. There are loans and funds avail­able for farm­ers who which to go through a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, or the coöper­a­tive or export com­pa­nies can also help the farm­ers with the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process.”

Most cer­ti­fi­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions are also will­ing to assist in this process even though they may not be pro­vid­ing fund­ing.  Consumers have a choice whether to buy a cer­ti­fied prod­uct, which are gen­er­ally more expen­sive because of the cost of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and even the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing can be more expen­sive.  “Today we see more organ­ics on main­stream store shelves, which would indi­cate that con­sumers are grow­ing more and more will­ing to pay the extra cost to assure that they are get­ting a prod­uct with the ver­i­fi­ca­tion that assures them the prod­uct is organic or fair trade or what­ever the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is for,” Dryke says.

Economic & Social Impact of Sustainability

Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee says that sus­tain­abil­ity in the cof­fee mar­ket encap­su­lates a com­bi­na­tion of eco­nomic and social impact. According to Toevs, eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity involves the use of var­i­ous strate­gies for employ­ing exist­ing resources opti­mally so that a respon­si­ble and ben­e­fi­cial bal­ance can be achieved over the longer term. Environmental sus­tain­abil­ity involves the main­te­nance of the fac­tors and prac­tices that con­tribute to the qual­ity of envi­ron­ment on a long-term basis. And social sus­tain­abil­ity involves the abil­ity of a com­mu­nity to develop processes and struc­tures that not only meet the needs of its cur­rent mem­bers but also sup­port the abil­ity of future gen­er­a­tions to main­tain a healthy community.

And it’s the role of many non­prof­its within the indus­try to over­see the sus­tain­abil­ity of the cof­fee indus­try, its prac­tices, and its pro­duc­ers. Experts agree that non-profits within the cof­fee indus­try have a vital role to play in build­ing a more sus­tain­able cof­fee sec­tor, while tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the eco­nomic and social impact that sus­tain­abil­ity has on the peo­ple and their prod­ucts. “We can act as a plat­form for farm­ers to tell indus­try what they need to have sus­tain­able liveli­hoods and deliver the sup­ply busi­nesses need,” Fick says.

Nonprofits also have an invalu­able role to play in sup­port­ing com­pa­nies to do busi­ness in a bet­ter way. For exam­ple at Fairtrade International, they have built an alter­na­tive way to do busi­ness, based on prin­ci­ples of fair­ness in trade. “We have devel­oped this over the years with the input of count­less part­ners, from farm­ers and work­ers on down the line to importers, brands, retail­ers and con­sumers,” Fick says. “By work­ing with Fairtrade, busi­nesses can live their val­ues, invest in the peo­ple and the sus­tain­abil­ity of their sup­ply chain, and be rec­og­nized for their good work via the Fairtrade mark, the world’s most rec­og­nized and highly trusted eth­i­cal label.”

Fishbein stresses that respon­si­ble non-profits are not lim­ited to com­mer­cial inter­ests. “They focus on com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties, such as but not lim­ited to, edu­ca­tion, health care, food pro­grams, alter­na­tive incomes and help­ing local com­mu­ni­ties take con­trol over their own future. However, while non­prof­its may be able to help a com­mu­nity chart its own course, which may include strength­en­ing its capac­ity for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, non-profits are out­side of the com­mer­cial process and should steer clear of inter­fer­ing in estab­lished com­mer­cial rela­tion­ships,” Fishbein says. “While both have essen­tial roles to play in the effort toward sus­tain­abil­ity at ori­gin, nei­ther by itself is any­where close to achiev­ing sus­tain­abil­ity. That can only be achieved over the long run—and it will be a very long run—as long as each respects the value of the other and nei­ther think they have dis­cov­ered all of the answers.”

Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee, says that there are many non­profit NGOs con­tribut­ing to sus­tain­abil­ity mea­sures in cof­fee grow­ing regions through­out the world. For exam­ple, the WaterWise Coffee Initiative backed by the NGO TechnoServe cre­ates a low-cost, sus­tain­able solu­tion for treat­ing waste­water pro­duced as a result of wet milling cof­fee in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. “By installing nat­ural grass­lands near the site of cof­fee mills, WaterWise is able to pro­tect the water qual­ity of the Kolla River for both the pro­duc­ers and the nearby res­i­dents,” Toevs says.

Also, the non­profit Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), a con­sor­tium of global orga­ni­za­tions led by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is devel­op­ing and apply­ing sci­en­tific met­rics to under­stand sus­tain­abil­ity impacts at the field level. COSA’s stated pur­pose is to mea­sure sus­tain­abil­ity and its man­date is to achieve “a cred­i­ble set of com­mon global mea­sures for agri­cul­tural sus­tain­abil­ity along the three bal­anced prin­ci­ples (envi­ron­men­tal, social, and eco­nomic).” The unan­i­mous International Coffee Organization endorse­ment of the COSA pro­gram notes that COSA builds man­age­ment capac­ity with local part­ner­ships in pro­duc­ing coun­tries to facil­i­tate an under­stand­ing of the effects (costs and ben­e­fits) of the many sus­tain­abil­ity initiatives.

Other key non­prof­its and industry-specific orga­ni­za­tions that play a key role in the sus­tain­abil­ity efforts fac­ing the indus­try includ­ing Grounds for Health, Café Femenino, Coffee Kids, Sustainable Harvest, Coffee Cares, Food for Farmers, Puebla a Puebla, and the Coffee Trust, to name a few.

In the case of the Café Femenino Foundation, they are focused on help­ing women to achieve human rights through grant pro­grams that focus on health, edu­ca­tion and income diversification.

It is up to the pro­duc­ers to tell us what they need in order to improve their lives and their family’s lives for the future,” says Gay Smith, founder of Café Femenino Foundation. “Ensuring that there is food to eat after the har­vest to pre­vent mal­nu­tri­tion in the chil­dren, or clean water to drink. Educating the chil­dren through new schools, libraries or books. All are part of a sys­tem that will sus­tain the cof­fee farmer into the future.”

Without this type of sup­port, chil­dren will leave the cof­fee farm to look for other type of work because they see how dif­fi­cult life is on a cof­fee farm. Additionally, the abuse and aban­don­ment of chil­dren and women will con­tinue with­out some type of inter­ven­tion, as will the poverty cycle. Seventy-five per­cent of the world’s cof­fee is pro­duced by small cof­fee farm­ers work­ing on ½ acre to five-acre farms.

The work of the foun­da­tion is cru­cial to the sus­tain­abil­ity of the small cof­fee pro­duc­ers, and more and more com­pa­nies are start­ing to see the impor­tance of this work or work like the foun­da­tions’,” Smith says. “Our indus­try needs to look at ways that we can all con­tribute to a more equi­table cof­fee value chain.”

Definitions & Certifications

Certified Organic: In order for cof­fee to be cer­ti­fied and sold as organic in the United States, it must be pro­duced in accor­dance with U.S. stan­dards for organic pro­duc­tion and cer­ti­fied by an agency accred­ited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. require­ments for organic cof­fee pro­duc­tion include farm­ing with­out syn­thetic pes­ti­cides or other pro­hib­ited sub­stances for three years and a sus­tain­able crop rota­tion plan to pre­vent ero­sion, the deple­tion of soil nutri­ents, and con­trol for pests. Source: Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com)

Organic: Organic cof­fee is grown using meth­ods and mate­ri­als that have a low impact on the envi­ron­ment. Organic pro­duc­tion sys­tems replen­ish and main­tain soil fer­til­ity, reduce the use of toxic and per­sis­tent pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers, and build bio­log­i­cally diverse agri­cul­ture. Third-party cer­ti­fi­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions ver­ify that organic farm­ers abide by the law. Source: Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com)

Sustainable: Sustainable farm­ing within the cof­fee indus­try imple­ments prac­tices to min­i­mize water con­sump­tion and to clean the water used. Water from the fer­men­ta­tion tanks should never be returned to rivers or lakes, but rather fil­tered nat­u­rally through the earth and then used for cof­fee irri­ga­tion. A sus­tain­able farm gives back as much to the land and peo­ple as it receives.  It seeks inde­pen­dence from non-renewable resources, using renew­able resources when pos­si­ble. Sustainable farm­ing also min­i­mizes pol­lu­tion, takes steps to care for the envi­ron­ment, and cares for its employ­ees. Source: Coffeeresearch.org

Fair Trade: Fair Trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion focuses on labor and trade stan­dards to pro­vide small-farmer co-operatives a guar­an­teed price above the con­ven­tional mar­ket. Not all Fair Trade CertifiedTM cof­fee is nec­es­sar­ily organic. However, Fair Trade CertifiedTM does require strict envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship such as pro­hibit­ing the use of genet­i­cally mod­i­fied organ­isms (GMOs) and the most haz­ardous pes­ti­cides. Fifty nine per­cent of all Fair Trade CertifiedTM cof­fee imported into the United States in 2008 was cer­ti­fied organic. In the United States, trans­ac­tions must be audited by TransFair USA to use a Fair Trade CertifiedTM label. Certified organic pro­duc­ers of Fair Trade cof­fee receive at least $1.55/lb.Source: Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com)

Direct Trade: Direct trade is a term used by cof­fee roast­ers who buy straight from the grow­ers, cut­ting out both the tra­di­tional mid­dle­man buy­ers and sell­ers and also the orga­ni­za­tions that con­trol cer­ti­fi­ca­tions such as Fair Trade and Bird Friendly. Direct trade pro­po­nents say their model is the best because they build mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and respect­ful rela­tion­ships with indi­vid­ual pro­duc­ers or coop­er­a­tives in the coffee-producing coun­tries. Source: ethicalcoffee.net

Direct Relationship: Relationship cof­fees rep­re­sent a unique, grass­roots oppor­tu­nity for cof­fee drinkers to con­tribute toward the suc­cess and devel­op­ment of coffee-producing com­mu­ni­ties in third-world coun­tries. For exam­ple, the Coffee Roasters’ Alliance sup­ports and “adopts” spe­cific farms and coop­er­a­tives through Relationship Coffee pro­grams. These pro­grams uniquely develop a “close-touch” plat­form designed to estab­lish a direct rela­tion­ship between cof­fee drinkers and the com­mu­ni­ties that grow their cof­fee. Relationship Coffees offer the poten­tial for gen­er­a­tional pros­per­ity within coffee-growing com­mu­ni­ties. Source: roastedlocally.com

Rainforest Alliance: The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is an inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized sym­bol of envi­ron­men­tal, social and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity that helps both busi­nesses and con­sumers do their part to ensure a brighter future for us all. In order for a farm or forestry enter­prise to achieve Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, or for a tourism busi­ness to be ver­i­fied, it must meet rig­or­ous stan­dards designed to pro­tect ecosys­tems, safe­guard the well-being of local com­mu­ni­ties, and improve pro­duc­tiv­ity. The Rainforest Alliance then links these farm­ers, foresters and tourism busi­nesses to the grow­ing global com­mu­nity of con­sci­en­tious con­sumers through the green frog seal. Source: rainforest-alliance.org

UTZ: UTZ Certified stands for sus­tain­able farm­ing and bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers, their fam­i­lies and our planet. The UTZ pro­gram enables farm­ers to learn bet­ter farm­ing meth­ods, improve work­ing con­di­tions and take bet­ter care of their chil­dren and the envi­ron­ment. Source: utzcertified.org

4C: The mem­bers of the 4C Association have devel­oped the 4C Code of Conduct, which sets social, envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic prin­ci­ples for the sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing and trad­ing of green cof­fee. The 4C Code has a mod­er­ate entry level, includ­ing the exclu­sion of ten Unacceptable Practices, and com­mits par­tic­i­pants to con­tin­u­ous improve­ment. Source: 4c-coffeeassociation.org

Equal Exchange: Equal Exchange’s mis­sion is to build long-term trade part­ner­ships that are eco­nom­i­cally just and envi­ron­men­tally sound, to fos­ter mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ships between farm­ers and con­sumers and to demon­strate, through our suc­cess, the con­tri­bu­tion of worker coop­er­a­tives and Fair Trade to a more equi­table, demo­c­ra­tic and sus­tain­able world. Source: equalexchange.coop

Cup of Excellence: Cup of Excellence is the most pres­ti­gious award given to a fine qual­ity cof­fee. The level of scrutiny that Cup of Excellence cof­fees undergo is unmatched any­where in the cof­fee indus­try. All of the Cup of Excellence award win­ners are cupped at least 5 times (the ‘Top 10′ are cupped again) dur­ing the 3-week com­pe­ti­tion. During this selec­tion process, thou­sands of cups are eval­u­ated, tasted and scored based on their exem­plary char­ac­ter­is­tics. The prices that these win­ning cof­fees receive at auc­tion have bro­ken records and proven that there is a huge demand for these rare farmer iden­ti­fied cof­fees. Source: allianceforcoffeeexcellence.org

Coffee Service Corner

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

While in St. Louis at Coffee Fest, Kerri Goodman had the oppor­tu­nity to visit with DS Services’ (and COFFEETALK colum­nist) Ken Shea and chat about the state of the Coffee Service Industry and other related top­ics of inter­est. Here is that interview:

KG – With Coffee Service being so com­pet­i­tive, what are the mar­ket share oper­a­tor lead­ers doing that sets them apart from their com­peti­tors?
KS – Keep in mind that this is a very frag­mented indus­try. On a national basis, no sin­gle oper­a­tor has even a double-digit per­cent­age of mar­ket share. So when I con­sider mar­ket lead­ers, I look at regional and local oper­a­tors as intently as I look at things on a national scale.

The most com­mon denom­i­na­tor in a cof­fee ser­vice operator’s suc­cess boils down to solid ser­vice. In this indus­try, solid ser­vice is sim­ply the ante and only gets one into the game. The best oper­a­tors pro­vide pas­sion­ate cus­tomer ser­vice backed up by great prod­ucts sup­ported by appro­pri­ate brew­ing sys­tems. It’s not that com­plex. The great ser­vice also includes mul­ti­ple touch points and a per­sonal rela­tion­ship with the deci­sion mak­ers. It’s dif­fi­cult to fire a friend but much eas­ier to ter­mi­nate a ser­vice con­tract with an unknown.

As our cus­tomers con­tinue to be aware of and demand the very best bev­er­ages, the mar­ket share gap will widen between those that offer spe­cialty cof­fee options and those that do not.

The tough­est com­peti­tors that I have encoun­tered dur­ing my oper­a­tor career are those that are locally owned and where the owner is active in the busi­ness, cul­ti­vat­ing long term rela­tion­ships and mak­ing cer­tain that his or her com­pany is über-responsive to cus­tomer needs. Today, sec­ond and even third gen­er­a­tion fam­ily mem­bers are run­ning many of those tough local and regional com­pa­nies. It’s excit­ing to see both the oper­a­tor and cus­tomer base evolve through mil­len­nial man­age­ment and leadership.

KG – You men­tion mil­len­nial lead­ers. In the cof­fee shop and spe­cialty world, we see this too. I pre­sume you also see this at the cus­tomer level. How does this lead­er­ship change impact you as an oper­a­tor?
KS – One obser­va­tion that I have regard­ing mil­len­nial deci­sion mak­ers is that as a whole, there is more sub­ject mat­ter exper­tise on cof­fee and other bev­er­ages. There is also a keen sense of aware­ness in the areas of sus­tain­abil­ity and social respon­si­bil­ity. As a result, we oper­a­tors will serve our­selves well by expand­ing our knowl­edge base to be fully equipped to han­dle more com­plex interaction.

Just this month, while call­ing on a national account, I saw this first hand as our team pre­sented to a buy­ing group that included two mil­len­nial team mem­bers. Their knowl­edge of cof­fee, of taste nuances, and sus­tain­abil­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion options par­al­leled ours. It was quite a dynamic exchange.

KG – Being close to ori­gin myself, I rec­og­nize the value of hav­ing the knowl­edge you refer to. So where do you sug­gest that an oper­a­tor go for help with con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion and other busi­ness needs for that mat­ter?
KS – It begins with your roaster. If you are not fully inte­grated into roast­ing, your pri­vate label roaster part­ner should be able to cre­ate train­ing mate­r­ial to meet your needs. The national and cof­fee shop brand roast­ers involved with cof­fee ser­vice can do the same. I find most very eager to pro­vide infor­ma­tion not only on their prod­ucts, but gen­eral infor­ma­tion as well.

I also sug­gest that any­one in our indus­try take part in NAMA’s Quality Coffee Certification Program. Mike Tompkins has devel­oped a fun and excit­ing event that cov­ers a lot of mate­r­ial in a man­ner that is easy to absorb. These are pre­sented in con­junc­tion with NAMA’s two annual trade shows.

Trade show par­tic­i­pa­tion is impor­tant. In addi­tion to the infor­ma­tion at the booths, both NAMA and SCAA pro­vide a wide vari­ety of mean­ing­ful edu­ca­tional ses­sions. Everything is cov­ered from bean to brewer to bev­er­age to busi­ness practices.

KG – I appre­ci­ate your tak­ing the time for this inter­view. Like you, I see the inter­min­gling of the spe­cialty world and Coffee Service world as a good thing.  So, as you look into your crys­tal ball and antic­i­pate the future, what do you fore­see?
KS – In the world of Coffee Service, I believe that we will see con­tin­ued indus­try roll-up. Given the declared growth posi­tions of sev­eral larger oper­a­tors, I antic­i­pate three or four oper­a­tors hav­ing dou­ble digit mar­ket share of some pro­por­tion within the next five to ten years. But at the same time, there will always be a place for top qual­ity local and regional activity.

E-commerce will con­tinue to be a viable sourc­ing option both for the small busi­nesses not served by most oper­a­tors as well as the larger busi­nesses that do not desire nor need direct ser­vice. More oper­a­tors will adapt sophis­ti­cated e-commerce efforts in order to give their clients the options of method of deliv­ery. The good news is that this also opens the door to go after share of stom­ach in the home mar­ket. Again, our indus­try lines of def­i­n­i­tion will blur and expand.

All of us in the indus­try are eager to see how the sin­gle cup land­scape will change near term and long term. As I men­tioned ear­lier, vari­ety and con­ve­nience have been addressed…we’re now in the quest for even bet­ter qual­ity. Exciting times are ahead for sure!

All in all, I believe that our indus­try is in a good place. The prod­uct offer­ings have never been more plen­ti­ful. Competition is spir­ited and gen­er­ally at a high level. We are in a demand-pull mar­ket chock full of cus­tomers that are more knowl­edge­able of, and desirous to con­sume, top qual­ity prod­ucts which for us as oper­a­tors should trans­late into larger invoices and even health­ier businesses.

Marketing Miracles

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , Author:

By this time in the cal­en­dar year, some orga­ni­za­tions have already started to develop strate­gic and/or annual oper­at­ing plans. Some call these sales plans and in large orga­ni­za­tions there may be both long-range strate­gic plans as well as yearly plans that oper­a­tional­ize the long-term strate­gic plan. Some even have plans down at the team or depart­men­tal level.
For small busi­nesses, the plan for 2015 may just be ideas, scrib­bles on paper, or notes slapped on a com­puter screen. The “plan on a nap­kin” may even be present!
Still for oth­ers, there is no busi­ness plan. In fact, there may not be any type of plan! Without solid plan­ning a busi­ness car­ries more risk, misses oppor­tu­ni­ties, allows a com­peti­tor to seize advan­tages, slows down progress, and cre­ates con­fu­sion.
As General Eisenhower famously said, “In prepar­ing for bat­tle, I have always found that plans are use­less, but plan­ning is indispensable.”

So, what is strate­gic plan­ning and what are the impor­tant com­po­nents of a plan? First, let’s pull apart the term strate­gic planning.

I define strat­egy as the art and sci­ence of cre­at­ing a plan to bring about a desired out­come. Before you plan, you want to be strate­gic in order to reach an out­come. In your busi­ness or life; if you want to do some­thing, how are you going to do it? Strategy helps you to think about how to get there.

Planning can be defined as help­ing to iden­tify those strate­gies and accom­pa­ny­ing actions to guide you toward a desired out­come. Planning are the tac­tics and the ways to get there.

Taken together, these def­i­n­i­tions bring to life what suc­cess­ful orga­ni­za­tions do so well: strate­gic planning.

Over the years, we have observed and worked with many orga­ni­za­tions on their strate­gic plans.

We believe that strate­gic plans and the strate­gic plan­ning process should reflect and respect the fol­low­ing: the cul­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion, the peo­ple involved, the mission/vision/values of the orga­ni­za­tion, the need for real­is­tic and attain­able hori­zon goals, the resources that can be deployed for imple­men­ta­tion, and the desire for focused action.
At this point you may be ask­ing your­self where to start and what process to use. The best mar­keters use a “diver­gence and con­ver­gence” approach that cre­ates many ideas and then fil­ters those down against a set of cri­te­ria for suc­cess to arrive at a set of actions for their plan. I call this a “dou­ble dia­mond” and a typ­i­cal process is shown in this graphic that pro­duces hori­zons of initiatives:

dabadie copy

As such, the fol­low­ing are ele­ments of plans that have worked, and if you desire to do some plan­ning I would sug­gest that you imbed these in your work.
Successful strate­gic plans have sev­eral com­mon traits:

•    A plan based on the real­ity of today but is aspi­ra­tional: Stretch your­self to reach for a bold goal.
•    An exec­u­tive spon­sor and owner of the process: Someone has to lead these efforts and the CEO or owner can­not just dep­u­tize.
•    An exec­u­tive spon­sor and owner of imple­men­ta­tion: Plans are just that unless you do some­thing with them, and then the power of progress is unleashed.
•    Navigates the polit­i­cal real­i­ties of the orga­ni­za­tion: Agendas and cul­ture can get in the way, so accom­mo­date real­i­ties.
•    Goals, imper­a­tives, and tac­tics tied to spe­cific out­comes: Setting goals is nice, but be clear on the pur­pose.
•    Innovative tech­niques to reveal new oppor­tu­ni­ties and cre­ate an expe­ri­ence: Strategic plan­ning can be bor­ing, but the rev­e­la­tion and inspi­ra­tion of new ideas can be sparked by cre­at­ing inno­v­a­tive expe­ri­ences to open new ideas.
•    Clear and uni­fy­ing agree­ment of the brand promise: Your prod­uct makes a promise to a cus­tomer and in turn that cus­tomer has an expec­ta­tion on what they will get if they use your prod­uct. Define and deliver on that promise – it’s that sim­ple.
•    Collaborative input across the orga­ni­za­tion: The best ideas come from those vested in the results and through part­ner­ing.
•    Socialized through­out the orga­ni­za­tion for full under­stand­ing: Being famil­iar with the plan is not enough – insure that employ­ees and lead­ers under­stand it and that there is there align­ment around the plan.
•    Focused on 3–5 strate­gic objec­tives and a very clear plan of imple­men­ta­tion: Most orga­ni­za­tions try to cram too many ideas into a strate­gic plan. Focus. The best plans have 3–5 main ini­tia­tives.
•    Supports real-time strate­gic decision-making: Use the plan to take action and not win­dow dress.
•    Aligns resources to insure imple­men­ta­tion: It takes time and invest­ment to reach your goals.
•    Is a con­tin­u­ously improved plan against annual and long-term goals: While many strate­gic plans take a 3–5 year hori­zon view, they should roll annu­ally and there should be a yearly adjust­ment based on busi­ness and mar­ket changes.
•    Measures progress and imple­men­ta­tion over time: Hold your­self and oth­ers accountable.

You do not have to take all of these steps nor use a very rig­or­ous process, and per­haps the best place to begin is to just write it on a nap­kin. But I encour­age you to embrace this approach and through it you will find your own diamond.

Mike Dabadie is the founder of Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, a research con­sul­tancy that con­tin­ues to pio­neer the use of personal-values insights and mar­ket­ing. He can be reached at mdabadie@heartandmindstrategies.com.

Roaster/Retailer Profiles

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

It all started in 1992 when Paul Odom took a dif­fer­ent direc­tion from his family’s bev­er­age busi­ness and founded Fonté Coffee Roaster just as the cof­fee boom was about to explode in Seattle, Washington. While spe­cialty cof­fee was just becom­ing more pop­u­lar with con­sumers, Odom saw a void in the hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket for a high-end prod­uct, notic­ing a lag in excep­tional qual­ity and ser­vice to chefs, restau­ra­teurs and hoteliers.

At age 22, just out of col­lege, Odom made it his mis­sion to cre­ate the finest cof­fee and espresso blends in the world by set­ting the strictest stan­dards in prod­uct devel­op­ment and deliv­ery. He pro­cured the best roast­ing and pro­cess­ing equip­ment, part­nered with arguably the most tal­ented mas­ter roaster in the indus­try, built a sales team with expe­ri­ence in pre­mium cof­fee and estab­lished a busi­ness to ser­vice this untapped market.

Today, Odom over­sees a rig­or­ous daily roast­ing sched­ule, a sales force on both coasts and a qual­ity con­trol pro­gram that main­tains the high­est stan­dards of ser­vice to its top-tier clien­tele. Odom also launched Fonté’s online busi­ness and down­town café to ser­vice a ris­ing demand for its cof­fee prod­ucts in the con­sumer market.

Odom’s right hand man, Steve Smith, has a dis­tin­guished career in roast­ing cof­fee span­ning over three decades. He is an indus­try vet­eran and con­sid­ered an expert by many in the cof­fee trade. Beginning in 1979, Smith worked for Starbucks and was one of the first roast­ers ever trained under the three orig­i­nal own­ers of the com­pany. He was the first roaster to earn the title of Master Roaster and was respon­si­ble for all aspects of the roast­ing process. In 1992 Smith dis­cov­ered a like-minded enthu­si­ast for small batch, arti­san cof­fee in Fonté Coffee Roaster founder Paul Odom and joined forces as the company’s mas­ter roaster.

Smith’s pro­duc­tion phi­los­o­phy is that of a cof­fee purist – his tech­niques adhere to the strictest stan­dards and work to main­tain the integrity of the cof­fee fla­vor dur­ing the roast­ing process. Smith is respon­si­ble for every aspect of cof­fee production.

He hand-selects each season’s best green cof­fee from all over the globe, and reviews farms’ har­vest­ing prac­tices, from Papua New Guinea to Ethiopia to Guatemala (he notes, his col­lege Spanish degree did come in handy). He feels single-origin cof­fees are lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a more mature appre­ci­a­tion of refined cof­fee fla­vor profiles.

At Fonté, he holds reg­u­lar cup­pings with owner Paul Odom to study fla­vor pro­files from var­i­ous regions and to cre­ate a plan for the devel­op­ment of Fonté’s pro­pri­etary blends. He also over­sees a rig­or­ous pro­duc­tion sched­ule based on a daily roast-to-order sys­tem, ship­ping out cof­fee to clients within 24 hours of roast­ing, always mak­ing sure that Fonté deliv­ers the fresh­est prod­uct pos­si­ble. He also man­ages the tea pro­gram, which includes import­ing a vari­ety of exotic teas, super­vis­ing blend­ing and devel­op­ing new exclu­sive blends.

I had a brief inter­view with mas­ter roaster Steve, who was kind enough to answer some questions:

V. How did you get involved with Fonté?
S. My involve­ment with Fonté began when I met Paul, the founder, at a small short-lived cof­fee com­pany where I ran the cof­fee pro­gram. Paul was inter­ested in buy­ing some of that company’s pro­duc­tion equip­ment to sup­port a set of retail stores he had begun open­ing and he hap­pened into our office at a time when I was cup­ping sev­eral sam­ples. I invited him to join me in the cup­ping, and as we talked I began to appre­ci­ate the scope and depth of Paul’s plans such that I was very pleased when he offered me an oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in what became Fonté Coffee Roaster.

V. Please describe Fonté’s phi­los­o­phy and unique­ness in just a few words, and elab­o­rate on each?
S. Ours is a phi­los­o­phy of excel­lence within con­text. Fonté is look­ing to share a very per­sonal expe­ri­ence of appre­ci­a­tion for vivid and fleet­ing cof­fee fla­vors in vir­tu­ally any con­text in which cof­fee is taken. And this under­scores the unique­ness of Fonté: we are capa­ble of pro­vid­ing an excel­lent cof­fee in any con­text, whether it be an exotic sin­gle ori­gin espresso, a 6 gal­lon urn at a ban­quet or a cold brew martini.

V. You have been in busi­ness for a really long time now (how long exactly?) what has changed over the past sev­eral years (in the indus­try over­all and the men­tal­ity of the con­sumer)?
S. We started in 1992. During the years we’ve been in busi­ness, growth has been the over-arching big deal, and the result has been that there is more of every­thing: more top qual­ity cof­fee, more peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the busi­ness, more inter­est and venues for spe­cialty cof­fee. There is also more silli­ness, more mis­un­der­stand­ing and dog­ma­tism, and more pre­tenses. It’s a pretty col­or­ful business.

V. Being both a suc­cess­ful roaster and a retailer, how do you man­age not to com­pete with your cus­tomers? I guess mainly the ques­tion con­cerns Seattle, or other cities as well?
S. Our retail pres­ence is so small as to not threaten our whole­sale cus­tomers. I think they appre­ci­ate the fact that we share an inti­mate under­stand­ing of what being a suc­cess­ful retailer entails.

V. What makes you one of the lead­ers in the indus­try as of today?
S. Our deter­mi­na­tion to con­tinue to put cof­fee fla­vor above trendy lifestyle expressions.

Fonté Coffee Company

Seattle, Washington

Maxim Vershinin has been a colum­nist for CoffeeTalk for the last few years high­light­ing var­i­ous roast­ers and retail­ers in the indus­try. He has lived in Peru for the last few years and is now fur­ther­ing his edu­ca­tion at Columbia University seek­ing a B.A. in economics.

Roasters Rock

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

As a roaster, barista, or any other cof­fee pro­fes­sional you have access to some of the best cof­fee in the world. This is a bless­ing to be sure! But don’t take it for granted.

As a Q Grader and R Grader trainer I now get to travel world help­ing to improve com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the sup­ply chain so we can all talk about qual­ity cof­fee a lit­tle more eas­ily. I too have access to great cof­fee even if I have to seek it out a lit­tle more now that I don’t have a roast­ing facility.

Even though I have access to ‘the good stuff’ I still drink the hotel cof­fee when I travel. Not every cup. I do carry a drip­per with me so I can have a lit­tle san­ity when grad­ing papers in my room. But I drink enough of the in room crap to remind me of one impor­tant thing:  My job is NOT done yet! I encour­age you to do the same!

As cof­fee peo­ple we strive to make a great prod­uct that we like, and hope our cus­tomers like it too. We are also keenly aware of the con­nec­tion we have to face­less, name­less cof­fee grow­ers around the world that scratch the earth to grow the beans we use and to eke out a bit of a liv­ing for their families.

I still believe in the premise that increased qual­ity of cof­fee will gen­er­ate increased value in the prod­uct at what­ever point the qual­ity is added. If the farmer uses selec­tive pick­ing he should be rewarded. If a barista hand drips a beau­ti­ful Sidamo, he should be rewarded as well.

When I started in the indus­try I was intro­duced to a con­cept at a roast­ers guild retreat:

In the cof­fee indus­try we rep­re­sent maybe the top 5% of the mar­ket. Thank good­ness for Starbucks because they are our mar­ket­ing depart­ment con­vert­ing peo­ple to the ‘spe­cialty’ mar­ket and for every 100 they turn, we get 5. If we all work together on qual­ity we can grow the 5 to 10 or 15 and there would be more busi­ness than we could want for every­body. The key is that we keep rais­ing the qual­ity level of everyone.”

I used to think about the above con­cept only in terms of the prod­ucts which MY COMPANY pro­duced but have come to see how short-sided that is. This is in part because the farm­ers are no longer name­less and face­less to me. I see them doing the same thing on their end of the sup­ply chain. They work hard to gain infor­ma­tion and to share that info with their neigh­bors and indus­try groups.

I think it is inter­est­ing that ‘first world’ cap­i­tal­ists get this con­cept eas­ily for them­selves but find it hard to extrap­o­late to the whole indus­try. They add value and expect to be rewarded, but often miss the larger forces at play. You need to strive to not only make your­self bet­ter, but also your sup­pli­ers, cus­tomers and even competitors.

To extrap­o­late that fur­ther:
•    Teach your cus­tomers what qual­ity cof­fee is and they will not only demand qual­ity for them­selves but they will tell their friends.
•    Ask for qual­ity prod­ucts from your sup­pli­ers and be will­ing to pay more for them and they will work harder to get you what you want. This can flow all the way to the farm if the sup­ply chain is edu­cated enough.
•    Also, be will­ing to tell your com­peti­tors where they can improve their prod­ucts. This will have them work­ing as a mar­ket­ing depart­ment WITH you as qual­ity ambas­sadors. The chances of them impact­ing your busi­ness neg­a­tively is very small, but the odds of mov­ing a larger part of the mar­ket from low or medium qual­ity cof­fee to your level is huge.

Let’s get back to why you should drink the hotel cof­fee. If you don’t care for the cof­fee, maybe you will talk to a man­ager about it. Maybe you won’t be the first one to do it. Maybe you can work a deal to sup­ply cof­fee that is 10 times bet­ter than what they have with only a slight increase in cost. And what if a major hotel chain were to say, “I think we can use this to get more busi­ness trav­el­ers to stay here.” Now they are think­ing about how qual­ity cof­fee can improve their business.

If one major hotel chain were to make this change, think of the impact on the indus­try and on your busi­ness. All of those trav­el­ers that have now started to appre­ci­ate bet­ter cof­fee. Even if it is not yours in the hotel room, there will be some per­cent­age that find your brand as they seek bet­ter cof­fee for them­selves. The per­cent­age of cus­tomers for high qual­ity cof­fee has gone up.

Bridging the Disconnect from Farmer to Roaster
If you are suc­cess­ful at increas­ing the ‘spe­cialty’ piece of the cof­fee pie, those great ingre­di­ents will be in tighter sup­ply. This is why you must also strive to work back­wards through your sup­ply chain and be able to tell folks what you want in order to main­tain the qual­ity of cof­fee you have promised to these new cus­tomers. This is not easy, but I want to give you some hope.

In my last few Q-Grader and R-Grader classes in pro­duc­ing coun­tries I have been for­tu­nate to have the entire sup­ply chain rep­re­sented in the same class. Grower, col­lec­tor, mill, exporter, importer, roaster and barista. This is amaz­ing to me that we all want to learn the same thing! We all want to do the same thing! Now we just need to increase the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. To accom­plish this I have some chal­lenges for you:

1)    If you have not taken a Q-Grader or R-Grader class yet, DO IT! This is the lan­guage that the indus­try uses to com­mu­ni­cate with one another.
2)    If you are a roaster, reach one level back from your importer. Don’t go around them; go with them. Ask to go to ori­gin with them. Ask them for a name of the mills they work with in a par­tic­u­lar coun­try. Learn a lit­tle more and start a dia­logue.
3)    If you are an importer, demand trans­parency fur­ther down the sup­ply chain and see if you can get to the farmer. Don’t go around your exporter or mill; go with them. Then intro­duce your roaster cus­tomers to them. This will build a stronger, longer last­ing bond and will not be a risk of being ‘cut out’ of the trans­ac­tion.
4)    If you are any­one read­ing this, drink the hotel cof­fee! This should get you ticked off enough to actu­ally fol­low through with one of the above chal­lenges. That’s why I drink it!

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year cof­fee vet­eran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mis­sion now is to trans­form the cof­fee sup­ply chain and make sweep­ing dif­fer­ences in the lives of those that pro­duce the green cof­fee. Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com

The Last Mile

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

If you thought pump­kin spiced lattes were every­where this Halloween sea­son (which now appar­ently lasts two whole months), you weren’t see­ing ghosts.  They were can’t-miss every­where: Starbucks win­dows awash in orange and brown, other chains jump­ing on the gourd-themed band­wagon, and plenty of options for the DIY crowd at home.

I’m guess­ing you’re a purist like me, so let’s set aside what most of these autum­nal treats lack: any­thing remotely resem­bling pump­kin on the ingre­di­ents list.  And in too many instances, only the faintest hint of cof­fee; hope­fully, good cof­fee.  For me, the pump­kin spiced phe­nom­e­non is the lat­est, and per­haps most per­sua­sive evi­dence to date of Americans’ long­ing for new expe­ri­ences with cof­fee, and grow­ing open­ness to cof­fee as a superb, ver­sa­tile base ingredient.

As I’ve seen over many years devel­op­ing menu items for cafes that serve illy, beyond-the-ordinary spe­cialty drinks excite and delight guests, keep them com­ing back for more, build later-day traf­fic and health­ily boost mar­gins.  Open cus­tomers’ eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties beyond a pump or two of syrup, and the smiles will fol­low.  Smiles will also come to the faces of baris­tas and other staff, who will rejoice in express­ing their cre­ativ­ity and feel a deeper sense of con­tri­bu­tion to the busi­ness.  Not to men­tion, the R&D can be a blast.

Keep the inno­va­tion going and develop a pipeline of fun, orig­i­nal, seasonally-inspired treats. If you haven’t got­ten on board yet, the hol­i­day sea­son is the ideal time to turn up the heat, when caloric con­cerns are put on hold and the fes­tive mood invites indulging.

I’ve cre­ated upwards of 150 cof­fee drinks over the years, none more mem­o­rable than my first, and per­haps sim­plest prepa­ra­tion.  The key was start­ing with a pre­cise goal in mind, crit­i­cal to any culi­nary exper­i­men­ta­tion.  My objec­tive was to cre­ate a beau­ti­fully bal­anced, deli­cious iced espresso.  I was still liv­ing in Italy, so espresso was the only viable option.  I was grow­ing tired of the cold cof­fee served at bars (Italian for “cof­fee shop”), nearly always an unbal­anced, oxi­dized, nearly ran­cid liq­uid mixed with water and sugar, cooled over an overly long period of time in the fridge.

Identifying slow cool­ing as the main flavor-sapping cul­prit, I stole a page from the bartender’s play­book and filled most of a metal shaker with ice, tossed in a just-pulled dou­ble shot, stirred in a drop of water – about 10 per­cent of the drink’s total vol­ume – and a hint of sugar.  If it sounds Martini-like, you’re on the right path, with apolo­gies to the shaken-not-stirred lean­ings of a famous Mr. Bond.

I started exper­i­ment­ing with the whole gamut of ingre­di­ents, from usual sus­pects like choco­late and cocoa (albeit in a vari­ety forms) to wilder cards such as almond milk (the real thing, made with fresh almond paste from Sicily and water), coconut milk and water, ice creams, even jams and mar­malades.  And for later-day enjoy­ment, with a host of adult liba­tions, from vodka, to rum, tequila to whisky, cof­fee liqueurs, cream liqueurs, and many others.

All that recipe R&D paid off hand­somely when I got involved in barista com­pe­ti­tions, going up against and get­ting inspired by the profession’s mas­ters.  After five years on the cir­cuit, fully bat­tle tested, I won the Italian Barista Championship in 2008 thanks in part to “The Trinity,” with bev­er­age inven­tion shar­ing equal weight on the score­card with qual­ity of espresso pulling and cap­puc­cino mak­ing.  My idea was to cre­ate a three-layered drink that could show­case coffee’s basic tastes (thus, “Trinity”): a base layer of yogurt for acid­ity, a mid­dle strata of espresso for bit­ter­ness, and a top coat­ing of bit­ter and sweet from espresso kissed by a milk-persimmon foam.

Tips for the bud­ding bev­er­age builder?  To quote the Jedi Masters, “Use the Force.”  Start with an idea in mind and then let cre­ativ­ity carry you away.  Something rich in tex­ture?  More savory than sweet?  Coffee more promi­nent in taste and aroma, more in the back­ground?  Something ide­ally paired with sea­sonal food menu items?  Ponder those kinds of ques­tions and you’ll be on the right track.

There are some rules of thumb, espe­cially for adult bev­er­ages.  Espresso’s high con­cen­tra­tion of fla­vor in small quan­ti­ties of liq­uid make it the most ver­sa­tile ingre­di­ent for spe­cialty drinks.  And when prim­ing the pump, keep the coffee-to-syrup ratio at 1:1.  For brewed cof­fee, whether pour over, syphon, Chemex, or even stan­dard fil­tered drip, adjust that ratio to one ounce of liquor per six ounces of coffee.

In alcohol-laced cre­ations, keep the espresso-to-alcohol liq­uid vol­ume ration at a one-to-one max­i­mum, to keep the cof­fee taste preva­lent.  For drinks incor­po­rat­ing neu­tral spir­its like vodka, or with drier taste pro­files like tequila, use a touch of sim­ple syrup or a sweet fla­vored syrup like vanilla to bal­ance the rel­a­tively low sweet­ness of the cof­fee and spirit.

If it fits with your cul­ture, you can even get cus­tomers in on the act.  I helped run a cock­tail con­test for illy fans last year, out of which the delight­ful “Espressoda” emerged (10oz club soda, 0.5oz sim­ple syrup, 0.5oz vanilla syrup topped with a sin­gle shot of espresso, on the rocks), now resid­ing on the per­ma­nent menus of our part­ner cafes in San Francisco and else­where.  If you want to main­tain total con­trol, launch a cou­ple of new drinks of your own cre­ation and have cus­tomers lobby for which should stay on the menu. That should gen­er­ate a whole other kind of buzz!

Giorgio Milos is illy’s award-winning Master Barista and illy’s North American Barista in Residence who reg­u­larly ven­tures beyond the cup to study the biol­ogy and chem­istry of the cof­fee bean, con­tin­u­ally striv­ing to mas­ter the bev­er­age that is his pas­sion and profession.

& Sleeves — Coffee Shop Must-Haves!">Cups, Lids, & Sleeves — Coffee Shop Must-Haves!

Categories: 2013, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

It is inevitable that dis­pos­able cups, lids, sleeves, and other prod­ucts are an essen­tial tool for all cof­fee shops. Nowadays, the con­sumer cares about more than just their cof­fee, it is about the entire expe­ri­ence. Yes, cups, lids, sleeves, and other dis­pos­able prod­ucts are apart of that cof­fee shop experience.

According to carryyourcup.org, “Americans throw away 25 bil­lion Styrofoam cof­fee cups each year.” The dis­pos­able cup has become a part of cof­fee con­sumers’ every­day lives. In fact, dis­pos­able cups have more uses than just being a ves­sel to carry your cof­fee in. With san­i­ta­tion being a high pri­or­ity for all food facil­i­ties, the uti­liza­tion of dis­pos­able cups lessens the chances of being exposed to bac­te­ria. No one else has used that cup before you.

Cups and sleeves can be cus­tomized to spread your shop’s brand. Logos and cus­tom design can all be accom­mo­dated to what you want your shop being por­trayed as. Not to men­tion, dis­pos­able cups are less expen­sive than glass or ceramic cups. It costs far less to order a sin­gle paper cup than it would be to replace a bro­ken glass mug.

Below are a few com­pa­nies that you can uti­lize to bring your con­sumers an excel­lent cof­fee shop experience.

arthritisliduVu Technologies
uVu Technologies uti­lizes its tal­ents and ana­lyt­ics’ team skill set to cre­ate food and bev­er­age pack­ag­ing solu­tions. This results in far supe­rior, safer cup lids and dis­pos­able prod­ucts, while rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing method­olo­gies in which many dis­pos­able prod­ucts are actu­ally formed. Therefore result­ing in incred­i­ble mate­r­ial sav­ing, cost sav­ing, and reduc­tion in the pro­duc­tion of defec­tive final parts.

Stefan Ebert, Marketing and Sales Manager of uVu Technologies says, “If a shop isn’t con­cerned about its employee and cus­tomer safety, then the uVu lid may not be right for it.”

Stalk Market LogoStalkmarket (Asean Corporation)
This com­pany sells a com­plete line of sin­gle and dou­ble wall insu­lated cups, lids, and jack­ets, all of which are 100 per­cent com­postable, BPI cer­ti­fied, and all made from renew­able plant materials.

Shops uti­liz­ing Stalkmarket prod­ucts are able to demon­strate to their cus­tomers that they are mak­ing the effort towards sus­tain­abil­ity and being more pro-active in their sus­tain­abil­ity efforts than some of the large chains.

President of Stalkmarket, Buzz Chandler, gives a piece of advice, “Local neigh­bor­hood shops are the back­bone of the cof­fee roast­ing indus­try.   Be a leader in your own way.   Don’t worry about the Mega Coffee chains.   Big is not a syn­onym for bet­ter.  Follow your own path.”

Versalite Ad_Coffee Talk_FinalBerry Plastics Corporation
Berry Plastics sells a full line of cups, lids, and pack­ag­ing to meet the needs of their food­ser­vice cus­tomers. They man­u­fac­ture both dis­pos­able and sou­venir drink­ing cups. Their cups are sold into con­ve­nience store, QSR, casual din­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion, and sta­dium and arena markets.

Our lat­est inno­va­tion, Versalite™, pro­vides advanced, durable hot and cold pack­ag­ing solu­tions that have the poten­tial to increase cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and oper­a­tional effi­cien­cies,” says Foodservice Product Line Manager, Lauren Piekos.

Java Jacket 2Java Jacket
Java Jacket aims to bring the best sleeves at afford­able prices. The com­pany takes pride in their envi­ron­men­tally con­scious ways. They attempt to elim­i­nate exces­sive paper waste and dou­ble cup­ping. Not to men­tion, they empha­size using recy­clable and com­postable, post-consumer paper.

Their cup sleeves are avail­able in two dif­fer­ent sizes and the waf­fle tex­ture of the sleeve pro­vides “grip abil­ity.” While they do offer stock prints, Java Jacket also offers cus­tom print­ing on both white or nat­ural kraft paper in up to six col­ors. Water-based inks are used in their print­ing techniques.

PBFYFlexiblePackaging0314Plastic Bags For You
PBFY car­ries a wide array of dis­pos­able cof­fee pack­ag­ing from foil bags, flat pouches, stand up pouches, and pouches with side gus­sets. Stand up pouches are offered in an assort­ment of col­ors, sizes, mate­ri­als, and styles. These include foil and poly, met­al­ized, win­dowed, and rice paper pouches.

According to their web­site, “The inno­v­a­tive design of these bags max­i­mizes how your prod­ucts are dis­played, while effi­ciently tak­ing up less space.”

These dis­pos­able cof­fee bags are also infused with a one-way degassing valve. The valve is a neces­sity for all pack­aged cof­fee beans. It keeps the cof­fee fresh, and it keeps the pack­age sealed tight and not allows air back into the package.

VisstunVisstun
High-Definition and full-color prints on Visstun’s dis­pos­able paper cups allows for the addi­tion of ALL of your shop’s mar­ket­ing needs. You can print far beyond just your logo. The cups are printed on heavy-duty paper­board to ensure your cups remain sturdy when filled with cof­fee or tea.

They say, “With a dis­pos­able cup, it is crit­i­cal that the pro­mo­tion makes a great first impres­sion.” Make an impres­sion with these cups at your shop, for events, meet­ings, and other events!

Visstun also offers paper cups for your shops snacks as well. You can brand var­i­ous size cups and fill them with your customer’s favorite snacks!

BV_CoffeeTalk_HalfHZ_0314BriteVision
Reach your tar­get mar­ket with a unique and cre­ative way to adver­tise. BriteVision offers not only café own­ers a way to pro­mote their busi­ness even after con­sumers leave the shop, but allows adver­tis­ers to print their mar­ket­ing buzz upon cof­fee sleeves. Their capa­bil­i­ties enable your cup sleeve mes­sage to stay fresh and keep a last­ing impact through­out the year.

BriteVision is a lead­ing media com­pany that invented cup sleeve adver­tis­ing. With mag­a­zine qual­ity print­ing, low min­i­mum orders, fast pro­duc­tion times, and eco-friendly sleeves, there is some­thing for every shop!

Disposable cups, lids, sleeves, and other prod­ucts are all items that all cof­fee shops uti­lize. They are a great way to brand your shop, and by uti­liz­ing the newest tech­nolo­gies, you can keep your cus­tomers safe and happy. Many com­pa­nies now are offer­ing envi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts to meet the needs of var­i­ous consumers

With these prod­ucts being such a big part of the cof­fee shop atmos­phere, why not make them more valu­able and use­ful by cus­tomiz­ing them to empha­size your shop? Brand your shop and make your dis­pos­able prod­ucts stand out from the rest.

Safety is in the Seal
by Stefan Ebert

As more and more indi­vid­u­als are becom­ing injured by unin­tended spills of hot cof­fee due to the cup’s lid, the indus­try called for a safer lid. uVu Technologies aimed to do just that. The uVu lid with pro­pri­etary seal­ing fea­ture is both intu­itive and secure. By pro­vid­ing con­sumers with safer lids, they know that their bev­er­age will stay inside the cup, instead of on their hands or on their lap. This is a huge con­cern for many cof­fee shops, as it could result in dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers or even lawsuits.

Tony Cervini, COO of Big Apple Bagels/My Duet/My Favorite Muffin (158 stores world-wide), calls it the “best lid in the whole world” and cites com­plete cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion with the user experience.

As we firmly believe, and Tony con­firms, to the cus­tomer a cup is a cup, but ask any cus­tomer about their expe­ri­ence with today’s state of the art lids and you will get a moun­tain of bad (and some­times angry) retorts con­cern­ing the over­whelm­ingly neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences redound across the industry:

The lid pops off all the time!”

The lid spilled all over my laptop!”

The lid ruined my work clothes.”

I was burned when the lid popped off.”  (This story was related to our team by a barista who had to be hos­pi­tal­ized for a week in upstate Michigan).

The cus­tomer wears their cof­fee all over them.”  (This story was told to our team by a store man­ager who, on a daily basis, watched her cus­tomers walk out of the store car­ry­ing a cup of cof­fee while wear­ing gloves, only to see the lid pop off and cof­fee splat­ter all over the customer’s win­ter coat.”).

Just as seri­ous are the litany of civil actions mounted on the basis of hot cof­fee spills, most recently in the mat­ter of Cary v. McDonalds (BC-53250)(Los Angeles Superior Court, Jan. 7, 2014). The Plaintiff alleged per­sonal injury when she was handed a cup of cof­fee at the drive-thru con­tain­ing a lid that was “neg­li­gently placed on the cup in such a way that the lid did not stay on the cup and came off, allow­ing hot cof­fee to spill on Ms. Cary caus­ing her severe per­sonal injury.”    A sim­ple “Google search” will reveal scores of other sim­i­lar per­sonal injury complaints.

We have deter­mined that the inher­ent defect in most hot bev­er­age lids today lies in the fail­ure to cor­rect the method in which a lid seals to a cup.  We have solved this prob­lem and, as the mar­ket shows, our prod­uct is meet­ing rave reviews.  We are com­pletely con­fi­dent that our prod­uct is safer than any other lid and can be a huge asset for any busi­ness as both a mes­sage that they truly care for their customer’s safety, but also as a brand­ing tool for their own business.

 

NAMA Emerging Leaders">NAMA Emerging Leaders

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Michael Kelley
Territory Account Manager
Quality Brokerage, Inc.

Completed NAMA’S Executive Development Program
Tri-State Vending Association Board of Director
Emerging Leaders Network

1. What are the skills you use most in your career?
The skill I use most would be com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Effective com­mu­ni­ca­tion is one of the most impor­tant and uti­lized skills in busi­ness. As a Brokerage Firm we have mul­ti­ple points of con­tact, from the man­u­fac­turer, to the dis­trib­u­tor, to the cus­tomer. A key role is to estab­lish direct com­mu­ni­ca­tion between all chan­nels. Additional skills I rou­tinely use would be flex­i­bil­ity, adapt­abil­ity, and man­ag­ing mul­ti­ple pri­or­i­ties. Having the abil­ity to man­age mul­ti­ple assign­ments and tasks and set pri­or­i­ties has proven to be a key skill set impor­tant in an indus­try that is always adapt­ing and changing.

2. How did you get into the vend­ing and refresh­ment ser­vices busi­ness?
In my teenage years, Lou Pace, who is the owner of Quality Brokerage, was then the man­ager of my base­ball team. There I was intro­duced to his son, Lou Pace Jr., who is now more of a brother than a friend. As Louie and I grew up we began work­ing in his father’s busi­ness, pack­ing sam­ple bags, order­ing sam­ples, assist­ing with order place­ment and help­ing pre­pare for trade shows. As Louie and I devel­oped a great work­ing rela­tion­ship, an Account Manager posi­tion opened at Quality Brokerage. Lou Jr. sug­gested to his father to give me the oppor­tu­nity to fill it. I have grate­fully been a part of the Quality Brokerage team for seven years.

3. Give us an idea of your role and key respon­si­bil­i­ties
My role at Quality Brokerage is to man­age sales and busi­ness devel­op­ment. As a Territory Account Manager in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, I have the respon­si­bil­ity to meet with the vend­ing and OCS oper­a­tors and con­nect them with the prod­ucts and ser­vices of the man­u­fac­tur­ers we rep­re­sent. As a man­u­fac­tur­ers’ part­ner, we are respon­si­ble for hav­ing con­sis­tent and effi­cient call cov­er­age in our ter­ri­tory while pro­vid­ing the oper­a­tors with cat­e­gory man­age­ment infor­ma­tion, Plan-o-Gram assis­tance, as well as rebate and pro­mo­tional pro­grams to max­i­mize sales. Also new item intro­duc­tions and fol­low up are key responsibilities.

4. What does an aver­age day for you include?
Every day brings new oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges, so again I must be ready to adapt and change to make sure I am pro­vid­ing my cus­tomers with the ser­vices they require. Similar to an oper­a­tor, my day also revolves around my clients. Saturday is my day to pack all of my sam­ple bags, run my cus­tomer reports, and to make sure I have all of my rebates, pro­mo­tions, and pre-book order sheets in order to review with the oper­a­tors dur­ing the week. Once my week begins I travel by car to intro­duce my prod­ucts in face-to-face meet­ings with the key deci­sion makers.

5. What are the biggest chal­lenges you face in your busi­ness?
Legislation and reg­u­la­tions are the biggest chal­lenges we face as an indus­try. It impacts all of our busi­nesses. That is why it is so impor­tant to sup­port your local State Council and NAMA, who both con­tinue to bat­tle these issues on a daily basis.

6. Moving for­ward, what are your personal/professional goals?
Moving for­ward, my per­sonal and pro­fes­sional goals coin­cide. I aim to pro­vide the excel­lent ser­vice and atten­tion my cus­tomers have become accus­tomed to, while exceed­ing our company’s goals and high stan­dards. I would also like to con­tinue to be an asset to my local State Council to ensure the growth and suc­cess of our industry.

7. In your own words, what is the value of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ELN?
The value of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Emerging Leaders Network is that it pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity and launch­ing pad for the industry’s up and com­ing and to make their mark and help shape our indus­try for the future! The ELN is a hub for young lead­ers with sim­i­lar goals seek­ing best prac­tices, pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, and peer net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, while hav­ing the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of trusted men­tors. Being part of a tech-savvy gen­er­a­tion dri­ven by pas­sion, com­mit­ment, and inno­va­tion, I am excited for where our indus­try is headed, and I am look­ing for­ward to being part of an orga­ni­za­tion that is mak­ing the nec­es­sary steps to uti­lize the com­mon­al­i­ties between the mul­ti­ple generations.

8. What is your advice for young peo­ple start­ing their careers in the indus­try?
Get involved with NAMA and your local State Organizations. Network, build rela­tion­ships, be con­fi­dent, and show your pas­sion. Continue your edu­ca­tion through NAMA’s var­i­ous sem­i­nars and pro­grams, such as the Executive Development Program.

As pre­vi­ously pub­lished in NAMA’s InTouch Magazine.

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Hi! I am in my home coun­try of Russia in beau­ti­ful Saint Petersburg. Yay! It is still quite hard to find a good cup of cof­fee around here; you usu­ally have to travel across the city for it. It isn’t Seattle with inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops on every cor­ner and hip­sters paint­ing the scene, but very slowly it is get­ting there. There is one place you can count on to get a good fix – Bolshe Coffee! “Bolshe” means “more” in Russian, so More Coffee! Nice sim­ple name, ah? It is also located in a grot. How cool is that? I had a chat with the owner – Nicholas Gotko. Listen up:

V. Please tell us about the cof­fee scene in Saint Petersburg. I have noticed lots of cof­fee shop chains, but not so many inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops around.
G. I believe this year to be the best so far for inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops in Saint Petersburg, and I think that this inter­est will only keep grow­ing until we have enough neigh­bor­hood cof­fee shops to serve all of the locals on every street and cor­ner. Right now, many have to travel far to get a good qual­ity cup in a friendly, relaxed envi­ron­ment. Just in the past year, my team, which includes me, my wife Zoya, and Nicholas and Tatyana Yarlanskie, man­aged to open five inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops. All of these shops have dif­fer­ent names, themes, and carry a local char­ac­ter. Meaning, they are meant pri­mar­ily for clients study­ing and work­ing nearby.

V. I am sure that many of our read­ers are very inter­ested to know more about the specifics of doing busi­ness in Russia. I know that west­ern­ers have that idea that the mafia still rules the streets here, and you also have to have a sig­nif­i­cant startup cap­i­tal to do any kind of busi­ness. Is it so?
G. The mafia isn’t really here any­more, at least not in small busi­ness. It is eas­ier to open your own busi­ness now; no one helps, but at the same time no one inter­feres too much. We didn’t have sig­nif­i­cant startup cap­i­tals; nei­ther did we have rich par­ent spon­sors. We got together with my part­ners, took out some loans, and started work­ing. We real­ized that it would be naïve to com­pete with giant fran­chises. So we decided to play by our own rules. We decided to sell a high qual­ity prod­uct for a lower than mar­ket price, even though we have a dif­fer­ent stan­dard of prepa­ra­tion. For our cof­fee we use a por­tion of 18 – 20 grams instead of the reg­u­lar six to nine grams. In addi­tion to that, our lever cof­fee machines intro­duce a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level for the Russian market.

V. Your spot is cool! A grot sounds like a great fit for a cof­fee shop. Did you have to intro­duce sig­nif­i­cant changes to the place’s archi­tec­ture before you opened?
G. A search for the per­fect place took almost six months. In the end, we got the grot! Until we got the place, the grot was empty for about three years. There were some ques­tion­able beer places here pre­vi­ously, and that is why when we got here, every­thing was pretty beaten up. We had to redo many things using our own hands. We got help for very chal­leng­ing tasks only; break­ing some walls, chang­ing electrics, and prepar­ing every­thing for a paint job. Overall, con­struc­tion and prepa­ra­tion to open took us about a month, so every­thing went pretty quickly. We didn’t change place’s archi­tec­ture, we decided to work with what we had and fit in organ­i­cally. Many believe that a major­ity of your busi­ness expenses should be spent on the inte­rior, but we believe that equip­ment and prod­uct are more impor­tant than fancy walls.

V. Did you get into cof­fee busi­ness right from the begin­ning of your pro­fes­sional career?
G. Before I opened my shops, for almost 10 years I worked as an engi­neer in big cof­fee com­pany, and my part­ner Nicholas was a vice pres­i­dent in a roast­ing com­pany. In the mean time, we also par­tic­i­pated in barista cham­pi­onships and even judged some of them. We are still judges in cham­pi­onships orga­nized by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). It is a very pres­ti­gious title in cof­fee world. To become a judge, one must take up a really hard exam that lasts four days, and only if passed prop­erly, you would receive an offi­cial cer­tifi­cate. Plus, you have to recon­firm that cer­tifi­cate every two years.
The idea of open­ing our own shops was in our heads for a long time before we started to act on it. The first talk about it was about three or four years ago, but we were too busy with cur­rent work at a time, until finally about a year ago, we started Bolshe Coffee!

V. So what is your secret, why peo­ple love you so much?
G. When we first thought about open­ing up a shop, we had dif­fer­ent vari­ants of what the final result would be. We decided not to play by the rules: we decided to offer excel­lent, some­times even rare cof­fee for an afford­able price. Basically, instead of mak­ing an uptight place with high prices (of which there are many in Russia), we waned to cre­ate a space where every­one has the oppor­tu­nity to drink great cof­fee for a com­fort­able price.

We suc­ceeded in our orig­i­nal task of not to cre­ate a flash that would appear and then blow out. Rather, we cre­ated a place that would become a part of the city’s leg­end that every­one would know about. Our places have con­stant move­ment, action, and life in them. It is really impor­tant for our clients to feel our pres­ence and that we care once inside our shops. We have the envi­ron­ment where one can be com­fort­able and you don’t have to pre­tend that you are some­one else. We com­mu­ni­cate this mes­sage to our clients very clearly. We have peo­ple in expen­sive suites next to sporty clients in shorts. We have mates with dogs and lit­tle chil­dren roam­ing around freely. Our envi­ron­ment is so easy­go­ing. “I want cof­fee and I go get it at Bolshe!” We made it sim­ple as that in Saint Petersburg.

V. Any advice to other busi­ness own­ers like you in both Russia and other coun­tries?
G. I would say learn to con­trol your fears. Our biggest fear was that we weren’t sure if the Russian men­tal­ity would halt our progress – “if some­thing is cheap, then it must be bad.” However, every­thing actu­ally turned out to be great! It was more of a pleas­ant shock for our clients, they were con­fused, “Why is every­thing is so good and why does it cost so lit­tle?!” We love our cus­tomers, and we try to show it in the ways I described ear­lier.
Since we men­tioned fear though, I would say that fear is a good thing! However, it has to be the kind of fear that is moti­va­tional, the one that makes you want to keep going fur­ther, even though you are scared. This kind of fear makes you more care­ful about the qual­ity of your job. Lastly, I would like to add my most impor­tant advice: “Do your job well, and you won’t run away from success!

Bolshe Coffee!

Alexandrovsky Park 3-G,
Saint Petersburg, 197101
+79095814571
Nicholas Gotko
vk.com/morecoffee
gotko@mail.ru

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