Tag Archive for: business

by Jessica Tanski

Take the Initiative and Start Recycling

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

I’m sure all of you have heard that recy­cling that paper cup after you have con­sumed your dou­ble tall non­fat caramel latte will help save the planet. Recycling, how­ever, even more than that, is one of the best ways that you can make an impact on the planet on which we live. Utilizing and pro­mot­ing the use of sus­tain­able prod­ucts also aids in the life of our planet and the cof­fee industry.

According to, “Nearly 90 per­cent of what we throw away could poten­tially be recov­ered through reuse, recy­cling, or com­post­ing.” So with that being said, I now ask those within the cof­fee com­mu­nity, what can we do to recy­cle and sus­tain resources that are impor­tant to the suc­cess and func­tion of our industry?

Gabe Post, Director of Innovation and lead for the SUSTAIN project for Pacific Market International, LLC talks about the impor­tance of recy­cling. Post says, “The Earth’s resources are finite. It is impor­tant for con­sumers to rec­og­nize their role in the prod­uct con­sump­tion cycle, and to recy­cle items appro­pri­ately at their end-of-life. It is the manufacturer’s respon­si­bil­ity to design prod­ucts that are eas­ily recyclable.”

Post expresses the idea that it is a team effort to make a dif­fer­ence in the world when recy­cling. He says, “Together, we can build prod­uct cycles that con­serve energy and reduce car­bon foot­print and envi­ron­men­tal impact.”

Excessive pack­ag­ing has made its way to the cof­fee indus­try. When you go to a cof­fee shop you usu­ally get a one-time dis­pos­able cup – which would be okay if the con­sumer prop­erly recy­cled their cup when fin­ished. But the real­ity of it is, along with that cup, you get a cup sleeve to pro­tect your hand, a wooden stick to stir in your sugar, and the paper waste that stems from the sugar packets.

Post says, “Despite the indus­try going through great lengths to source sus­tain­able cof­fee, almost all of it is still being served in single-use dis­pos­able cups. In America last year alone, we land­filled 16 bil­lion paper cof­fee cups.”

All of these items can be replaced with a more effi­cient prod­uct that is envi­ron­men­tally friendly. Instead of sugar pack­ets, you could use a sugar jar. Instead of the wooden sticks, you can use metal spoons that can be washed at the end of the day. Companies today offer decom­pos­able cup sleeves and reusable cups.

John A. Darch, President and CEO of Doi Chaang Coffee says, “Any effort we can make – whether it’s a com­pany, a fam­ily, or an indi­vid­ual – towards improv­ing our envi­ron­ment and the world we live in, is cru­cial. We can’t dis­card every­thing we use into one spot any­more; the world just can’t han­dle those kinds of actions.” He says, “Whether it’s recy­cling, com­post­ing or con­serv­ing water – every lit­tle bit helps. It’s a way of show­ing respect to the world we live in.”

While these may seem like rel­a­tively small changes, you have to start some­where. However, it is impor­tant to look at the big­ger pic­ture here. How can com­pa­nies and busi­nesses within the cof­fee indus­try start to make a dif­fer­ence and increase their sus­tain­abil­ity efforts?

Post says, “Sustainability efforts suc­ceed most com­monly when they are baked into the NDA of the com­pany. It should be a part of who you are, not just what you do. Sustainability should be a part of the busi­ness strat­egy along with other key growth initiatives.”

When you can set goals and are able to track them, you know that you are doing some­thing right. People feel a sense of pride and accom­plish­ment when they see that the goals the com­pany is set­ting are being accom­plished with a lit­tle bit of their effort.

Did you know that 70 per­cent of cof­fee con­sump­tion is rou­tine? It is when this rou­tine becomes a more respon­si­ble rou­tine with the incor­po­ra­tion of recy­cling and the uti­liza­tion of sus­tain­able prod­ucts, where we will start to see last­ing impacts on the environment.

Post says, “Improving sus­tain­abil­ity in the cof­fee indus­try will help reduce the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the indus­try and con­tinue to influ­ence con­sumer aware­ness and ulti­mately behav­ior change in a pos­i­tive way.”

Darch explains his expe­ri­ence with becom­ing sus­tain­able, “It is reward­ing to engage in sus­tain­able prac­tices. To be able to pro­duce a prod­uct that is high qual­ity, but also pro­duced through eth­i­cally respon­si­ble steps will not only make you feel good – it will make your cus­tomers feel good about what they are drinking.”

Pacific Market International, LLC is just one of the many com­pa­nies striv­ing to make a dif­fer­ence. They have devel­oped a sys­tem whereby their reusable cups are recy­cled at the end of their life and then col­lected and reen­tered into their mate­r­ial sup­ply. The idea is to some­day have their cups be made out of old cups.

Beyond their SUSTAIN effort, Pacific Market International, LLC (PMI) has made sus­tain­abil­ity a part of their cor­po­rate strat­egy, includ­ing Environmental Stewardship as one of five busi­ness strat­egy pil­lars. Since 2005, year-on-year improve­ment has been achieved via con­certed efforts to improve the sus­tain­abil­ity of both man­u­fac­tur­ing processes and prod­ucts. In 2012, the PMI Joinease fac­tory that cur­rently man­u­fac­tures SUSTAIN cups reduced their per-unit green­house gas emis­sions by 25 per­cent while increas­ing pro­duc­tion by 37 percent.

Doi Chaang Coffee Company is also push­ing efforts to be more sus­tain­able. With the Keurig being a pop­u­lar and con­ve­nient machine to brew cof­fee, it is inevitable that kcup con­sump­tion, which is in the bil­lions, has a neg­a­tive envi­ron­men­tal impact. Doi Chaang Coffee has “just devel­oped the first ever “Beyond Fair TradeTM” sus­tain­able 90 per­cent biodegrad­able sin­gle serve aroma cup. The cups are Keurig com­pat­i­ble and will break down in any land­fill or dump­ster,” accord­ing to Darch.

StalkMarket is a com­pany that is talk­ing com­postable prod­ucts to a new level. Their core line of prod­ucts is made from a sug­ar­cane fiber-based paper­board called bagasse. The mate­r­ial is made from upcy­cled sug­ar­cane waste recov­ered from sugar refiner­ies. The crushed stalks are taken to a pro­cess­ing plant where they are con­verted into paper­board in much the same way as wood pulp is used for card­board. All of StalkMarket’s prod­ucts are 100 per­cent com­postable. Their prod­ucts are avail­able to con­sumers at major gro­cery chains, office sup­ply stores, organic and nat­ural food retail­ers and online. These prod­ucts would be a great asset to a café that is look­ing to become more green.

As a cof­fee lov­ing indi­vid­ual, who is con­stantly grab­bing and con­sum­ing cof­fee on the go, I will make sure that I will prop­erly recy­cle my latte cup every time I con­sume my favorite cup of cof­fee. Or, bet­ter yet, I will pur­chase a reusable cup and elim­i­nate the waste all together. What are you going to do?

If there are more indi­vid­u­als on the con­sum­ing end and more busi­nesses on the sup­ply­ing end that can come together to increase recy­cling and sus­tain­abil­ity efforts, the cof­fee indus­try would flour­ish in envi­ron­men­tal means.

Revisit your company’s busi­ness strate­gies, think about if you prop­erly deposit your to-go cup in the recy­cling bin, and imag­ine an indus­try work­ing together to make a dif­fer­ence on the envi­ron­ment. Make your next cus­tomer rela­tion­ship with the environment.

Appreciation Makes the World Go ‘Round

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

With last month’s view touch­ing upon the topic of appre­ci­a­tion, we wanted to con­tinue our dis­cus­sion. Customers are what make this indus­try spin. Without the three-cup-a-day cof­fee drinker, with­out the “mom and pop” shops, with­out the sup­pli­ers, and even with­out the local Starbucks, the cof­fee indus­try would not be what it is today.

All of these cof­fee shops and sup­pli­ers need one spe­cial thing to thrive as a busi­ness– cus­tomer loy­alty. However, you can­not cre­ate a great cus­tomer loy­alty base if the cus­tomer does not feel appre­ci­ated. So, my friends, this arti­cle is all about cre­at­ing cus­tomer loy­alty though cus­tomer appreciation.

After pick­ing the brains of many cof­fee pro­fes­sions, three com­mon themes sur­faced to build cus­tomer loy­alty– Respect, ser­vice, and be per­sonal. There are also many rewards pro­grams and com­pa­nies work­ing with orga­ni­za­tions and shops to build cus­tomer loyalty.

Aretha Franklin says it best, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” And for every­one else as well for that matter!

Kevin Sinnott, cre­ator of Coffeecon, makes respect the core of the event’s val­ues. He says, “We treat event goers with respect, even if it’s just to accept them for drink­ing cof­fee the way they like it– cream and sugar or black.”

Everyone walk­ing the face of this planet is dif­fer­ent. That means that every­one enjoys his or her cof­fee dif­fer­ent than the next per­son in line. Shop own­ers and baris­tas need to under­stand that. If you want that cus­tomer to come back again you must respect the fact that they are dif­fer­ent from you and and you must acco­mo­date their needs and desires. The cus­tomer is always right, remem­ber? Don’t demean them for their taste buds – accept it and wel­come them back for another cup.

Dave Stewart, owner of Vista Clara Coffee, talks about cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion, “Customer appre­ci­a­tion is show­ing and let­ting the cus­tomer know that you care for them and appre­ci­ate what they do for you!”

If you are a sup­plier, you must also remem­ber that your cus­tomer needs you just as much as you need them. Chances are, you are not the only sup­plier able to pro­vide the prod­uct they are look­ing for. You want to make sure that your cus­tomers are not only pro­vided with the cor­rect prod­ucts and ser­vices, but check up on them post transaction.

Make sure they were sat­is­fied with your ser­vice. If not, ask them what was wrong and what you can do to make it bet­ter. Respect that they were not sat­is­fied; do not argue with them about it. Make the improve­ments and make their next pur­chase supe­rior than the last to cre­ate cus­tomer loyalty.

Joe Behm, President of Behmor Incorporated says, “If your cus­tomers have loy­alty, they become the best form of adver­tis­ing that no money can buy.”

“Consumers have choices, you have to set your­self apart, to give them a rea­son to go out of their way to see you.  If you are a retail store, serv­ing great cof­fee, that is not enough, they can find excep­tional cof­fee, but what makes you dif­fer­ent,” says Mark McKee, Owner of Passionate Harvest Coffee.

With that being said, cus­tomers are not going to go to a cof­fee shop where the barista is not friendly and wel­com­ing. They will pass your shop and go to the next one right down the street that wel­comes their busi­ness. You need to stress the fact that your cus­tomers mean some­thing to you, and not just a paycheck.

Customers feel appre­ci­ated when they can walk into a cof­fee shop and be wel­comed by the staff. If the staff is unhappy and/or rude, it rubs off onto those who walk through the door. Even a friendly smile and a sim­ple “come back again,” can make the world of difference.

In busi­ness, your cus­tomers are every­thing – with­out them you have no busi­ness, so every­thing you do in the busi­ness has to not only be func­tional, but also build loy­alty,” says Adam Pesce, Director of Coffee and Tea at Reunion Island Coffee. “Some loy­alty comes more nat­u­rally, but pro­vid­ing a great prod­uct, and prov­ing your con­vic­tions through real action and not just talk, are crucial.”

Kris Heinemann from Loring says, “In this part­ner­ship with our cus­tomers, we believe they are enti­tled to our full atten­tion in address­ing their ques­tions, con­cerns, and any ser­vice needs. We build for them and we will con­tinue to lis­ten and respond in every way we can for as long as they are roast­ing on a Loring.”

Educate your cus­tomers. Educate them on the cof­fee they are drink­ing, edu­cate them on the his­tory of the build­ing, edu­cate them about where the cof­fee came from. A cus­tomer feels spe­cial when you take the time to tell them about what they are drinking.

I recently went out to din­ner with some­one who has celiac dis­ease. That means they must con­sume an entirely gluten-free diet. The owner of the restau­rant took the time and sat down with us to edu­cate us about how he makes all of his dishes gluten-free, from the ingre­di­ents down to the prepa­ra­tion in the kitchen. After din­ner, we both had said that we would go back in a heart­beat – and not just because the food was excel­lent, but also because we felt like we mat­tered to the owner. We weren’t just another check at table five to him.

When the staff can edu­cate their cus­tomers in a way that is not snob­bish, the cus­tomer feels spe­cial. Not to men­tion, they know where their cof­fee came from, they know what thought was put into the prod­uct, and they know the thought process behind the ser­vice. Make their expe­ri­ence memorable.

Take the time to learn their names, not just mem­o­rize their order. Ask them how their day is or how their child’s birth­day party was. Know and under­stand that your cus­tomers are not just a writ­ten name upon a cup. They will con­tinue to drink cof­fee, whether it is at your shop or the one across the street. You need to make them to want to come back. It is a good feel­ing, as a cof­fee drinker, when I can walk into a shop and they not only know my order, but they know my name.

McKee says, “The advice I would give is sim­ple, you are embark­ing an excit­ing jour­ney, to become part of people’s lives, it will be hard, dif­fi­cult, you will need to invest your time and resources but with­out it, you will sim­ply be one of the generic cof­fee com­pa­nies, never a place that stands out.”

Loyalty to a brand can’t be bought. It’s earned. Once you have loyal cus­tomers, it’s absolutely nec­es­sary to express your thanks in ways oth­ers don’t by, for exam­ple, includ­ing a follow-up note when they take time to say thanks for the sup­port,” says Behm.

POS sys­tems, like Coffee Shop Manager are a vital ele­ment to get infor­ma­tion about your cus­tomers. Coffee Shop Manager can give key infor­ma­tion on whom and who are not your best cus­tomers are your café. You can reward your best cus­tomers and give the ones trail­ing behind incen­tives to come in and indulge into a great cup of coffee.

Also, Perka soft­ware can be used to cre­ate cus­tomer loy­alty. It is sim­ple to use and a great tool to uti­lize with your café.

Rob Bethge, Chief Marketing Officer at Perka Inc. says, “Perka cre­ates loy­alty by mak­ing it easy and fun for mer­chants to get to know their reg­u­lar cus­tomers bet­ter. Our smart­phone lets the cus­tomer accu­mu­late points for their vis­its and pur­chases that they can redeem from a menu of perks. And the cof­fee shop can send offer to the cus­tomers that encour­age prof­itable behavior.”

Perka ben­e­fits oper­a­tors by giv­ing them a enter­prise class cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment sys­tem dis­guised as a sim­ple mobile punchcard.

Bethge says, “Cafes should have a mar­ket­ing plan. And a mean­ing­ful part of a mar­ket­ing plan has got to focus on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, loy­alty, and engage­ment. Mobile tech­nol­ogy and smart­phones in par­tic­u­lar have become nearly ubiq­ui­tous, so now is really the time to con­sider tak­ing advan­tage of these emerg­ing mobile mar­ket­ing tools.”

All of the indi­vid­u­als quoted above and the com­pa­nies that they are rep­re­sent­ing, we feel as if they are shin­ing exam­ples of com­pa­nies who exude excep­tional cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice. In return, these com­pa­nies have a great cus­tomer loy­alty base with awe­some cus­tomers who keep com­ing back for more. If you would like more infor­ma­tion, please visit their com­pany websites.

Customers, whether you are a cof­fee shop, a sup­plier, or an orga­ni­za­tion, are the basic foun­da­tion to the fun­da­men­tal func­tions of your com­pany. Creating a good cus­tomer loyal base will keep your com­pany grow­ing and estab­lish secu­rity within the economy.

It is impor­tant to stress that cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion is crit­i­cal at all lev­els of the indus­try– sup­pli­ers, orga­ni­za­tions, and cof­fee shops. Without ade­quate cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion at all lev­els the sup­ply chain will become dis­rupted. Remember that your cus­tomers and orga­ni­za­tion mem­bers are vital to the sur­vival to your com­pany – treat them the way that they deserve to be treated.

Selling to Coffee People or Selling Coffee to People?

by Mike McKim, Cuvee Coffee

What is it that keeps a cus­tomer com­ing back? The most com­mon answers are: qual­ity of the prod­uct, the design of the café, and/or our loca­tion. Then, the other things start to come out, like how we steam our milk, or pull our shots, or the microlot on the menu.

I often find myself over com­pli­cat­ing things. I mean let’s face it, the cof­fee indus­try has a lot of lay­ers and so many peo­ple are involved in the jour­ney from seed to cup. I used to think that if I could just teach my cus­tomers every­thing that I have learned over the years, that it would keep them com­ing back. Then I real­ized that the aver­age cof­fee con­sumer doesn’t want or need all that detail. What they are look­ing for is an experience.

It is really that sim­ple. I think in gen­eral peo­ple just want to feel spe­cial and I am not sure if telling them you do not offer sugar or an alter­na­tive to milk makes them feel spe­cial. Now I am not knock­ing that busi­ness model and I under­stand the phi­los­o­phy behind it. And if you are sell­ing to cof­fee peo­ple, it makes sense.

No mat­ter how big we think our indus­try is, I am con­stantly reminded that it really is pretty small. And there are way more peo­ple who are not cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als out there. So what about them? Sometimes I am left won­der­ing if spend­ing less time sell­ing to cof­fee peo­ple and more time sell­ing cof­fee to peo­ple is all it takes to build a loyal following.

Estate Auctions, a Growing Sales Trend?

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The first Internet cof­fee auc­tion was held in 1999.  It was called the Gourmet Project and offered spe­cialty cof­fees from Brazil.  Ten year later, Price Peterson, Hacienda la Esmeralda in Boquete, Panama engaged Mr. Malcolm Stone, Stoneworks Coffee Auction Platform to con­duct the Esmeralda  Estate Special auc­tion.  A total of 46 lots were sold for a value of $441,010.00 at an aver­age price of $31.21 per lb.

It wasn’t until 2011, that Finca El Injerto and Santa Felisa Estate, decided to join Hacienda la Esmeralda  and sell their cof­fee via auc­tion. They also decided to work with Stoneworks and, like Price Peterson, found an excit­ing new venue for sell­ing coffee.

Table 1

Most notable are the aver­age sale prices of auc­tion cof­fees com­pared the spot “C” aver­age price.

Table 2At first glance, the reader might be think­ing, “this is a no brainer, every estate should have an auc­tion”.  The real­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is there is more to the estate auc­tion busi­ness than select­ing some cof­fees and hir­ing a plat­form and say­ing “start the bidding.”

The fol­low­ing Q&A with Mr. Stone helps us under­stand what is required to build and exe­cute a suc­cess­ful Estate auction.

What makes an Estate a can­di­date for an Estate Auction?
•    Coffee must score +85 per­cent using SCAA cup­ping guide­lines
•    Well known branded farms have a higher chance for suc­cess
•    Farm with an unique fac­tor
—Certified …Organic, Rainforest, Fair Trade, etc.
•    Traceability from tree to export
•    Micro lots
•    Packaging
—Vacuum sealed in a box less than 70# per box
—Good art, logo and label­ing
•    Back office to sup­port billing and logis­tic
•    Ability to ship sam­ples in a timely man­ner
•    Proficient in English and man­age­ment skills
•    A com­mit­ted and engaged staff

What are the keys to suc­cess?
•    Great cof­fees
•    Excellent pack­ag­ing, pro­mo­tional mate­ri­als and web­site
•    Don’t offer too much cof­fee …less is more and qual­ity is king
•    Good cof­fee descriptions…accurate, doc­u­mentable cof­fee infor­ma­tion
•    Keep lots small…same lot of cof­fee can be divided into small lots

What are the pri­mary pro­ducer ben­e­fits?
•    Ability to sell small lots of cof­fee at a pre­mium price
•    The price of the cof­fee is deter­mined by the buyer not a com­mod­ity mar­ket
•    Enhanced recog­ni­tion of the brand and rep­u­ta­tion of the farm

What do you charge to con­duct an Estate auc­tion?
The cost to hire Stoneworks Auction Platform to man­age and con­duct an auc­tion is a flat all-inclusive price for up to 100 lots.

What do the pro­duc­ers get for their invest­ment?
•    Instruction and coach­ing with auc­tion orga­ni­za­tion and pro­mo­tion mate­ri­als
•    Pre-auction pro­mo­tion on Stoneworks web­site
•    Pre and post infor­ma­tion man­age­ment and track­ing
•    Buyer reg­is­tra­tion
•    Sample order tak­ing at time of bid registration…$250.00 per set
•    Active data­base of global buy­ers
•    Data input of auc­tion cof­fee and pro­mo­tional infor­ma­tion
•    Run the auc­tion
•    Post auc­tion report
•    Recommendation for start­ing price and incre­men­tal pricing

What are the pro­ducer respon­si­bil­i­ties
•    Selection of cof­fees and lots
•    Shipment of sam­ples to bid­ders
•    Development of cof­fee descrip­tions and cup pro­files
•    Development of mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als to accom­pany sam­ples
•    Promotion of their auc­tion through their net­work
•    Billing and arrang­ing for ship­ment of pur­chased coffees

How long does the auc­tion last?
Most auc­tions last 5–6 hours

What are the buyer’s respon­si­bil­i­ties?
•    Register to bid and pur­chase sam­ples
•    Cup sam­ples
•    Develop a bid­ding strat­egy
•    Bid and pur­chase
•    Pay and arrange for shipping

Understanding the mechan­ics of the auc­tion is inter­est­ing and help­ful if you are a poten­tial seller or buyer.  But there is more…what moti­vated these Trend Setting Producers to attempt mar­ket­ing via auc­tion. I was able to inter­view Arturo Aguirre S., Finca El Injerto, and Antonio Meneses, Santa Felisa Organic Estate.  Thank you to both for their time and open­ness in answer­ing my many questions.

Why did you decide to auc­tion some of your cof­fee?
Arturo and Antonio knew there were roast­ers inter­ested in unique cof­fees but had no way to reach them.  The auc­tion sys­tem pro­vided a non-traditional way to build their cus­tomer base.  Additionally, Arturo wanted to sell some new vari­etals and small lots that they had found on the farm.  He had no idea how to price them.  The auc­tion is a great tool for deter­min­ing price.

What per­cent­age of your pro­duc­tion do you present for auc­tion?
Arturo …3 per­cent    and Antonio…5 percent

How do you decide which cof­fees will be auc­tioned?
Both pro­duc­ers begin with cup­pings on the farm to select the cof­fees they will send to either an inde­pen­dent pro­fes­sional cup­per and/or to ANACAFE for eval­u­a­tion.  This year Antonio invited Joe Hsu, from Taiwan, to par­tic­i­pate in the final cup­ping panel. Arturo “selects only lot that cup 89+”.

Income aside…what are the addi­tional ben­e­fits you receive from the auc­tion?
Arturo…”First of all, it’s a great sat­is­fac­tion for our fam­ily and our peo­ple that this was a suc­cess­ful project, since past gen­er­a­tions we have worked hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves.  This has moti­vated our team to con­tinue to work hard because they know we are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”
Farm recog­ni­tion and access to new mar­kets has been fan­tas­tic.  Antonia said that in three short years they have dou­bled the num­ber of vis­i­tor they see on the farm.

What are your pri­mary chal­lenges of an Estate auc­tion?
•    The need for trace­abil­ity requires doc­u­ment­ing every aspect of the cof­fee from the seedling to the exporter.
•    Working directly with the buy­ers, begin­ning with sam­pling and ulti­mately ship­ping the cof­fee, is a logis­tic chal­lenge.
•    Must offer some­thing unique and inter­est­ing and meet the wants and needs of the roast­ers.  Making these selec­tions can be risky business.

Do you feel that auc­tions are a viable mar­ket­ing tool for Estate cof­fee?
Both pro­duc­ers answered “Yes!”  But, cau­tion fel­low pro­duc­ers to only par­tic­i­pate if you have proven excep­tional qual­ity.  It is help­ful to be active in the indus­try.  It is impor­tant to be will­ing to spend money and time to uti­lize the auc­tion for mar­ket­ing.  Also, to under­stand that pay­ment for the cof­fee doesn’t come until long after the cof­fee has been harvested.

Do you watch the auc­tion?
Arturo…Of course, all the fam­ily meet and we have break­fast watch­ing it!
Antonio…For sure, we get ner­vous and don’t sleep the night before.

There is a new orga­ni­za­tion in Estate auc­tions… Alliance for Coffee Excellence, ACE, the orga­ni­za­tion behind Cup of Excellence has entered the Estate auc­tion arena.  On April 25, 2013, ACE con­ducted their first Estate auc­tion in con­junc­tion with Fincas Mierisch.  Fifteen cof­fees were fea­tured, sep­a­rated into thirty-nine small lots, in a selec­tion named Los Favorites. The lots sold from $4.90 – 100.90 per pound.

Are Estate auc­tions a trend or here to stay? If you ask Price, Arturo, and Antonio then the answer is yes!  They will con­tinue to seek those unique won­der­ful gems from their farm and take the risk of sell­ing them at auc­tion.  In November, 2013, Daterra Coffee of Cerrado, Brazil will be added to the list of Estate Auction participants.

Reference web­sites… If you want to learn more about Estate cof­fee auc­tion con­tact
Hacienda la Esmeralda    www.haciendalaesmeralda
Finca el Injerto
Santa Felisa Estate
Stoneworks Coffee Platform

So You’ve Opened a Coffee Shop. Now What?

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

A lot of cof­fee house own­ers begin with the impres­sion that the hard­est work is behind them once they open their doors. Like Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s char­ac­ter in the movie “Field of Dreams,” they believe cus­tomers, like Ray’s ballplay­ers, will appear as if by magic now that they’ve built their cof­fee shop.

The truth is, your most intense activ­ity will come in the months after you open. Coffee busi­nesses are built incre­men­tally. You need to attract cus­tomers and keep them com­ing back, all while becom­ing an expert at other aspects of run­ning your busi­ness. Here are some solid strate­gies to put you on the path to success.

Ease into Operating Hours. It is best not to set for­mal oper­at­ing hours when you open your doors. During the first sev­eral weeks, you will not know the exact traf­fic pat­terns of your loca­tion. Therefore, plan to open the doors around 7 a.m. and stay open until you con­sis­tently see a long break in cus­tomers, which may be in the late after­noon or early evening. If you want to expand your busi­ness hours, do so in stages. If for exam­ple, there is a line of cus­tomers wait­ing when you open, try open­ing an hour ear­lier. Remember that once you post your oper­at­ing hours, you have made a com­mit­ment to your cus­tomers and must not fail to open on time or close early.

Practice to Perfection. Specialty cof­fee cus­tomers will walk past ten com­pet­ing cof­fee shops to get the best espresso. How do you become the best? Source the high­est qual­ity beans, syrups, dairy, and other ingre­di­ents that you can find. And then prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice. You will usu­ally have some peri­ods of slow cus­tomer traf­fic dur­ing your first months of oper­a­tion. Use this time to per­fect your drink prepa­ra­tion skills. Remember, cus­tomers hate to wait, so you must craft a per­fectly pre­pared drink in a mat­ter of minutes.

Get the Word Out. You’ve already invested in your suc­cess with a great loca­tion and promi­nent sig­nage, but this is just the ante in the game. You need to tell every­one in your com­mu­nity – fam­ily, friends, area res­i­dents, and busi­nesses, about your cof­fee shop. Leverage the power of social media to con­nect with friends and fans through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and the like. Try out some of the grass­roots mar­ket­ing tech­niques I dis­cussed in my April 2013 col­umn. One of the sim­plest yet most effec­tive is to hand out pro­mo­tional cards offer­ing any espresso drink for $1 (about the cost of the drink). Every time one of these cards is redeemed, you have a chance to acquire a cus­tomer at no cost to you. Savvy mar­keters con­sider this a win-win proposition.

Track Customers and Sales. The more you know about your cus­tomers, the bet­ter you can sat­isfy their needs and keep them com­ing back. So track their habits and col­lect feed­back. When do they come in? How much time elapses between cus­tomers dur­ing busy peri­ods? What are the most pop­u­lar drinks? How many $1 espresso cards have been redeemed? How much is your aver­age sale? What is your ratio of espresso drink to drip cof­fee sales? What are cus­tomers say­ing about your drinks? (If they’re not rav­ing about the qual­ity, find out why!). Collecting this type of infor­ma­tion allows you to tai­lor your hours of oper­a­tion, menu, and staffing pat­terns to enhance profitability.

Set Up Systems. Operational sys­tems estab­lish order and help staff mem­bers under­stand and mas­ter their respon­si­bil­i­ties. You should put sys­tems and check­lists in place for every­thing from drink recipes to open­ing and clos­ing the shop to order­ing and stor­ing sup­plies and main­tain­ing equip­ment. You will want to keep indi­vid­ual recipes and check­lists where they are eas­ily acces­si­ble and assem­ble every­thing in an oper­a­tional man­ual. Refine and update sys­tems as you iden­tify bet­ter ways to do things.

Get Backup. It’s lonely at the top with every­one depend­ing on you. It’s a good idea to cre­ate a sup­port sys­tem of peo­ple who can help you through the rough spots. You can set up a for­mal advi­sory board or make time to con­nect infor­mally with men­tors, busi­ness peers, and bankers. Your busi­ness, and your spouse, will thank you.

If you fol­low these strate­gies, your cof­fee shop should begin to fill up with a reg­u­lar cast of return­ing customers.

Greg Ubert, founder and pres­i­dent of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, has been roast­ing cof­fee in small batches since 1991 and has taught hun­dreds of busi­ness own­ers how to run suc­cess­ful inde­pen­dent cof­fee houses. The author of Seven Steps to Success in the Specialty Coffee Industry can be reached at

Operations: Designing the Customer and Staff Experience

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:


From Tip 1 – We cre­ated your Brand Experience

From Tip 2 – We learned about your Customers

From Tip 3 – We explored your Identity

From Tip 4 – We cre­ated your Space

From Tip 5 – We cre­ated your Physical Space

From Tip 6 – We cre­ated your Business Plan

From Tip 7 – We ana­lyzed your Location and Customers

From Tip 8  – We pre­vented Nasty Permitting Surprises

Cafe SeriesNow that we have cre­ated your brand, your phys­i­cal and vir­tual expe­ri­ence, and your per­mit process is well under­way, let’s design the staff and cus­tomer experience!

In our Tip 7 arti­cle, you learned about your cus­tomers and loca­tional demo­graph­ics. With this infor­ma­tion we have a good cus­tomer under­stand­ing. Sharing this infor­ma­tion with your staff will be help­ful in their train­ing and under­stand­ing of your poten­tial cus­tomers and brand.

Having a for­mal­ized and ongo­ing train­ing and engage­ment pro­gram is impor­tant in retain­ing great employ­ees. This includes a writ­ten man­ual for all oper­a­tional processes, menu com­mu­ni­ca­tion, human resource poli­cies, and any items that your staff or man­age­ment needs to refer to easily.

Pre-opening train­ing should start at least 1 week prior to open­ing – prefer­ably 2 weeks. This is after you have already inter­viewed and selected the key peo­ple.  Having clear and writ­ten com­pany poli­cies for being late, miss­ing work, sick days, hol­i­days and vaca­tions will aid in clear communication.

The major­ity of your staff will be the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion (those born between 1983–2000). This group appre­ci­ates being engaged more than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Getting to know their hob­bies, fam­ily, friends and inter­ests will gain their respect and loy­alty. Having a happy and engaged staff is your goal so hire for atti­tude and you will have a win­ning recipe for cus­tomer service.

Now that your staff and man­ager are trained, let’s engage the cus­tomer with your new brand. Similar to your staff, get­ting to know your cus­tomers on a per­sonal level is impor­tant in build­ing cus­tomer and brand loy­alty. You are in the cus­tomer ser­vice busi­ness; there­fore always make your cus­tomers feel wel­comed and valued.

Observe your staff’s con­ver­sa­tions with cus­tomers and pro­vide feed­back as nec­es­sary. These cus­tomers will be more likely to sign-up for your pro­grams because they want to be a part of your com­mu­nity. This may seem like com­mon sense, but cus­tomer can dif­fer­en­ti­ate you from the competition.

If you chose to use mar­ket­ing ana­lyt­ics and pro­grams, eval­u­ate their ROI over an annual period.  Geo-fencing is being used in some areas to under­stand cus­tomer pref­er­ences in your geo­graphic area – and then inter­face with your mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. Mobile engage­ment of your brand with your cus­tomer is grow­ing rapidly.  Get to know the options and have a respon­sive web­site. Make it easy – have peo­ple sign-up for your pro­mo­tions by sign­ing into their Facebook. Make sure staff are aware of your mar­ket­ing cam­paign so they can sup­port the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of your cam­paign to cus­tomers. There are many sophis­ti­cated and costly meth­ods of mar­ket­ing and reach­ing your cus­tomers, but the one-on-one rela­tion­ship build­ing is often the best.

Think about rewards and incen­tives for cus­tomers to return on a con­sis­tent basis. Some ideas could include a hol­i­day event where you give a per­cent­age of your sales to a com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tion that your staff or cus­tomers have selected. Listen to what your cus­tomer is say­ing about you. Look at your online reviews and respond quickly and effectively.

Having a strong train­ing pro­gram is worth money in the bank. Having fun and engag­ing staff will keep cus­tomers com­ing back. The cost of turnover can be high, there­fore cre­at­ing a sound pro­gram that includes a firm under­stand­ing of your brand, the menu, the cus­tomer demo­graphic and on the job train­ing will go a long way in retain­ing great staff and customers!

Melanie Corey-Ferrini is the founder of Dynamikspace ( She has cre­ated the “10 Tips to Jumpstart your Café” work­books and speaks at indus­try con­fer­ences on how to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful café.

Direct Trade: a Honduran Success Story

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Aside from sourc­ing awe­some cof­fee, one of the thrills of direct trade is con­nect­ing with the farm­ers who grow the crop. At Crimson Cup, we’ve been for­tu­nate to build a rela­tion­ship with David Lopez, one of the dri­ving forces behind the trans­for­ma­tion under­way in the remote Honduran vil­lage of El Socorro de la Penita. Working with David and other local farm­ers since 2011, we’re see­ing sig­nif­i­cant impact in the com­mu­nity school and improve­ment in the qual­ity of coffee.

Growing up in the vil­lage, David attended its one-room Jose Cecilio del Valle ele­men­tary school through the sixth grade. Formal edu­ca­tion ends there for 95 per­cent of the community’s chil­dren. David how­ever, was deter­mined to keep learn­ing. He left to attend junior high and then high school in larger communities.

After grad­u­at­ing high school, David took a job at one of the area’s larger cof­fee mills. There, he received a ground­ing in the cof­fee trade. Among other lessons, he learned the impor­tance of qual­ity in deter­min­ing cof­fee price. He wit­nessed the power of coops in nego­ti­at­ing prices. And he expe­ri­enced the enhanced qual­ity of life that came about as a result.

DSC00329A deep com­mit­ment to his her­itage drew David home in 1999. Upon his return, his father gave him 18 acres of land that were being used for cat­tle pas­ture. He began the process of cre­at­ing a cof­fee farm, plant­ing shade trees, and high-quality cof­fee trees. He did not see a yield until 2003, when he har­vested six bags of cof­fee. Ten years later, he owns 40 acres, with 15 ded­i­cated to cof­fee. Through David’s focus on proper cul­ti­va­tion, yields have grown steadily so that, this year he har­vested 11 tons of cof­fee. He projects a 13-ton crop in 2014.

As in many small com­mu­ni­ties, the 21 cof­fee farm­ers in El Socorro had been at the mercy of cof­fee coy­otes when sell­ing their crop. They earned barely enough to cover the costs of cul­ti­va­tion. David decided to change that. He helped orga­nize his neigh­bors into Coop Cultivadores del Reino, allow­ing them to nego­ti­ate higher prices by sell­ing as a group. He also built a wet mill to process their cof­fee locally, improv­ing its qual­ity and consistency.

David’s hard work came to our atten­tion in 2011. Since then, we’ve devel­oped a direct trade rela­tion­ship with David and other coop mem­bers designed around four pil­lars of impact – price, qual­ity, pro­duc­tion, and education.

Cash is the fuel of com­mu­nity growth, and the amount of cash cir­cu­lat­ing in the com­mu­nity depends directly on the price of the cof­fee crop. Crimson Cup has com­mit­ted to pur­chase a large amount of El Socorro cof­fee at a pre­mium over mar­ket price.

We’re in the busi­ness of sup­ply­ing the best cof­fee avail­able and the farm­ers under­stand that price depends on qual­ity. The secu­rity of know­ing that they will be paid for high-quality cof­fee gives them an incen­tive for using bet­ter pro­cess­ing meth­ods and invest­ing in sus­tain­able cul­ti­va­tion techniques.

Having a com­mit­ted buyer also strength­ens the coop and moti­vates the farm­ers to main­tain con­sis­tent pro­duc­tion. They are will­ing to rein­vest prof­its in equip­ment, nurs­eries, and rust-fighting pro­to­cols to keep pro­duc­tion where it needs to be. Moreover, they are look­ing at putting more land into cof­fee pro­duc­tion instead of mov­ing to other crops.

The demand for qual­ity has inspired a renewed focus on edu­ca­tion. With David set­ting the exam­ple, com­mu­nity mem­bers’ eyes have been opened to what edu­ca­tion can achieve. To sup­port edu­ca­tional improve­ments, Crimson Cup has donated new text­books, com­puter desks, and other improve­ments to the school. We’re get­ting ready to launch a crowd-funding ini­tia­tive through Indiegogo to raise funds for an English-speaking teacher for the school.

In 2013, we spon­sored a ser­vice learn­ing trip to the vil­lage by five stu­dents from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Working with David, other com­mu­nity lead­ers and Stephan Erkelens of Axiom Coffee Ventures, we helped the stu­dents craft a thriv­ing cof­fee enter­prise. We will be work­ing with Ohio State stu­dents, David and other local lead­ers to imple­ment the plan.

Of course, the stu­dents learned as much from the farm­ers as the farm­ers did from them. That is the beauty of direct trade – it is a con­tin­u­ing cycle of mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial relationships.

How to Reconcile 3rd Wave Coffee and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

A Snob, as defined in Free Dictionary:

1. One who tends to patron­ize, rebuff, or ignore peo­ple regarded as social infe­ri­ors and imi­tate, admire, or seek asso­ci­a­tion with peo­ple regarded as social superiors.

2. One who affects an offen­sive air of self-satisfied supe­ri­or­ity in mat­ters of taste or intellect.

A 3rd wave cof­fee shop has made a com­mit­ment to cel­e­brat­ing the unique fla­vors in cof­fee and brings their pas­sion for the prod­uct to their cus­tomers. So a snobby barista in a 3rd Wave cof­fee shop that hand-crafts a sin­gle serve Chemex for you, and then looks down at you for not being as cool or pas­sion­ate as them, can drive a per­son insane. Snoppy busi­ness own­ers will encour­age the cre­ativ­ity of its employ­ees and embold­ens their egos by giv­ing them a bit of train­ing and con­vinc­ing them that they are “socially supe­rior” and should be “admired.”

The cus­tomers, unfa­mil­iar with this new breed of rude baris­tas, enables the behav­ior by pay­ing $5 for a brewed cup and assumes that some­one so full of them­selves MUST know what they are doing. This ends up doing a dis­ser­vice for the entire indus­try. An indus­try built on the idea that peo­ple should come together in a cof­fee­house to openly share ideas and be social with their neigh­bors is being undone by snobs in fedo­ras serv­ing up atti­tude and treat­ing the patron as infe­rior. Who would want to hang out there?

One can be reminded at times of the Seinfeld episode fea­tur­ing the “Soup Nazi.” It’s like a Coffee Snob yelling from behind the counter, “NO COFFEE FOR YOU!” Don’t you dare speak to the barista or ques­tion what they do!

Thank good­ness not all, or even most of the good cof­fee shops do this. But there are enough to tar­nish the indus­try. One of the best expe­ri­ences you can have is to be treated to a hand crafted cof­fee and then be engaged by the barista as to why this cof­fee is spe­cial and who grew it and what to look for in a taste profile.

There has been a dis­cus­sion now among cof­fee folk about whether or not fla­vor­ings should be allowed in 3rd wave shops. Some will say they com­pletely ruin the cof­fee. If the idea is to cel­e­brate cof­fee why would you want a Coconut ½ caf ½ decaf cap­puc­cino with nut­meg on top? Why indeed? Others argue that if you do not offer this, you are a cof­fee snob. The irony here is that the same cap­puc­cino drinker could well be a cof­fee snob as they look down on those that would not serve them what they want when they want it.

So let’s break this down and use a great hol­i­day favorite in our example:

A guy walks into a cof­fee bar and orders a “Double Pumpkin-Spice Latte.” Let’s find the snobs.

1)    The barista says, “We don’t serve that here cause it ruins the cof­fee!” SNOB or NOT SNOB?

2)    The cus­tomer says, “It’s the hol­i­days and I always get these. Why are you guys so stuck up that you won’t serve it to me?” SNOB or NOT SNOB?

3)    The owner over­hears the customer’––s ques­tion and answers, “Look, the farmer put a lot of sweat and effort to get us this cof­fee and we would never alter the fla­vor of his work with a sugar syrup. Would you put sugar in wine to make it sweeter?” SNOB or NOT SNOB?


Everyone above has a valid point. Everyone wants what they want for valid rea­sons. The prob­lem with snob­bery is that they only see what they want and don’t stop to con­sider the other per­son. Here is another way the above could have transpired:

A guy walks into a cof­fee bar and orders a “Double pumpkin-spice Latte.” He is greeted in the fol­low­ing way:

1)    The barista says, “Oh I’m sorry. I love Pumpkin Spice lattes around the hol­i­days as well. Our shop, how­ever, has taken a posi­tion that the cof­fee is so del­i­cate in its fla­vors that if we add fla­vor­ing we will stop cel­e­brat­ing the hard work that got it here. Can I get you a reg­u­lar latte instead?”

2)    The cus­tomer says, “Oh bum­mer. I was really look­ing for­ward to that. I under­stand your posi­tion so I guess I will have to go some­where else to get one.”

3)    The owner real­iz­ing he is los­ing a cus­tomer says, “Hang on a minute! I will make you a deal! Let us make you a latte. Our espresso blend is awe­some and we directly sourced the beans from Ethiopia, Honduras, and Brazil. We think it has a great fla­vor in a latte, and I would love for you to expe­ri­ence that. So please have a latte and take a few sips and see if we did our job okay. If you don’t like it, it is on the house! After that, if you wish, I have a bot­tle of Pumpkin Spice and would be happy to mix it in. We both win; I want you to expe­ri­ence our cre­ation and you want a pump­kin spice latte.”

Welcome to a snob free zone! It would be even a bet­ter solu­tion if the owner had stayed with his com­mit­ment to qual­ity and devel­oped his own sug­ary spicy con­coc­tion made from organic pump­kins and fair trade spices. He would be set­ting him­self apart from every­one else and enhanced the expe­ri­ence of fla­vor­ing in a coffee.

So the debate asks the wrong ques­tion. Instead of, “Should a 3rd wave cof­fee shop serve pump­kin spice lattes?” it should be, “How could a 3rd wave cof­fee shop stretch its pas­sion for cel­e­brat­ing cof­fee find a com­pli­men­tary way to add pump­kin spice with­out com­pro­mis­ing its val­ues for quality?”

Snobs stand on elit­ist prin­ci­ples. Good cof­fee peo­ple and smart busi­ness own­ers will find a way to sat­isfy the needs of their cus­tomers with­out aban­don­ing principles.

Use the cre­ativ­ity of your staff to develop prod­ucts and ser­vices the patrons have been ask­ing for. The baris­tas hear it every day from their cus­tomers and they should be involved in the process of find­ing solutions.

By the way, if you are read­ing this and think­ing, “This Rocky guy is full of crap!”… You are prob­a­bly a snob!

Rocky can be reached at as well as

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Hey every­body! Today we are feel­ing kind of groovy, so we landed in Salem, OR to chat with Molly Wilkes, the owner of Toadally Joe Coffee. It is a col­or­ful spot that has won the heart of their com­mu­nity not only because of their great cof­fee, but also their deli­cious treats. Here she is, to tell us a lit­tle bit of her story:

V. Can you tell us how this whole adven­ture started?
W. I used to serve tables at Olive Garden before this. I have been in fine din­ing for most of my adult life, but this is my first time as a busi­ness owner.
My grand­mother is a baker and bak­ing is some­thing that has been a part of my fam­ily his­tory; so, every­thing started years ago when I offered her to open up our own place. I always thought that it would be great to not just have baked good­ies, but to also have a cof­fee shop to go with it. And I always wanted a drive through and a cute clean lit­tle build­ing. It just hap­pened that I came upon a loca­tion and my dream just sort of took off from there.

V. What is your style as far as the prod­uct and the image you present to your com­mu­nity?
W. I care­fully choose the cof­fee that I carry. I inter­viewed local roast­ers and ended up decid­ing on what I thought was the best choice, which is Pacifica Coffee. It is all organic, so all cof­fee and espresso that we serve here is organic and fair trade. I really wanted it to be my thing because it matches what my grandma’s cook­ies are about– all organic.
For every­thing that I try to do, for the most part, I try to stick with a local com­pany. I also have a wall space avail­able for local artists who are wel­come to hang their art at no charge. I like to sup­port other people’s entre­pre­neur­ship as much as I can with the space that I have. We also hold fundrais­ers here to help local com­mu­ni­ties as much as we can. I like to help out in any way that I can.

V. How has your expe­ri­ence with cof­fee been so far?
W. I have been self-trained, but I feel like I have become a pretty good barista. I can’t dec­o­rate a latte yet or do some­thing super fancy, but taste is every­thing and our cof­fee is amaz­ing. I feel like I am doing a pretty good job and I also have a super fun menu that I have cre­ated myself. We do some­thing that we call our Toadally Favorites, and there are 33 items on our menu at the time. All of our drinks can be served in any way you like – hot, cold, blended, etc., and we do not charge a dif­fer­ent price for it.

V. What kind of cus­tomers does Toadally cater to?
W. We have a vari­ety of peo­ple. Our mas­cot is a horned toad in a tie-dyed shirt with some glasses. I thought that my mas­cot and the tie-dye sign would attract mostly younger crowd, but we do have older groups of peo­ple that like to come in and have tea. We do every­thing – iced tea, hot tea, green tea, macha tea. We have the best chai in town and we have a lot of peo­ple com­ing here for my chai. I think our cus­tomers really like the cof­fee and espresso that we carry and the fun menu. They can also cre­ate any­thing they want here with all the high qual­ity ingre­di­ents that we have.

V. How is the busi­ness been going so far?
W. Economy could be bet­ter, but it seems like it is pick­ing up. When I started here, I was mak­ing a quar­ter of what I am mak­ing now. This was a sim­ple cof­fee house before, they weren’t doing well and they went under. Once we took over we made many changes. I included the term café in our name because we serve food now, which is another thing that brings more peo­ple in the door. We serve break­fast in the morn­ing and lunch with amaz­ing sal­ads and fresh organic sand­wiches. Not long ago I started mak­ing a salmon burger, which is pick­ing up in pop­u­lar­ity. As far as pro­mot­ing, I am kind of old-fashioned and Facebook is some­thing that I am still try­ing to fig­ure out.
We also do some­thing for the kids. If you are under 12 years old, you can pick any­thing you want off the drink menu for $1.50 with the pur­chase of the adult bev­er­age, of course with the child being present.

V. What advice could you give to future busi­ness own­ers?
W. Be patient when you start a busi­ness because it takes time to be dis­cov­ered. Never give up and put a lot of thought into the prod­ucts that you carry. Price isn’t every­thing. It makes a big dif­fer­ence to your guests if you carry the high­est qual­ity of ingre­di­ents that sets you apart from your com­pe­ti­tion. I have made sure to be very accom­mo­dat­ing to my guests. When peo­ple come through the door and ask for some­thing that I don’t have, I try to incor­po­rate it; so that way the next time they come back it will be here.

Toadally Joe Café

1120 Royvonne Ave SE
Salem, OR 97302
(503) 584‑1725
Molly Wilks

What Happened to Our scaa and Appreciation? Part 2

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Clearly last month’s col­umn has struck a nerve in our indus­try. In fact, the first indi­ca­tion was when the num­ber of Facebook “Likes” on this edi­to­r­ial out­num­bered the num­ber of cur­rent SCAA Members before the issue was even dis­trib­uted in print. Then the com­ments, calls, and emails started to pour in. Here are just a few…

  • Bravo for tak­ing the stand with SCAA to let them know how under appre­ci­ated we, the firms that have con­sis­tently paid dues and been trade show sup­port­ers are.  We have exhib­ited con­sis­tently, with­out miss­ing a show since 1988.  We’ve always taken 2–4 booths.  I can’t remem­ber any­one from the orga­ni­za­tion stop­ping by to even feign inter­est.  I have spo­ken in many ses­sions a fea­tured speaker and served on pan­els, yet the pat­tern of the organization’s sup­port­ers get­ting benign neglect is consistent.
  • I had to thank you for your October 2013 The View regard­ing the SCAA. Over the years I have been a sup­porter of the SCAA but I too feel that it has been off of the rails for a few years. I have been a vol­un­teer pre­sen­ter sev­eral times and have vol­un­teered in other ways. Two or three years ago I attempted to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the man­age­ment of SCAA regard­ing two spe­cific things, the joke that is called elec­tions and the chaos that is the vol­un­teer sup­port within the SCAA. After being blown off and spo­ken down to I gave up. It seems that the only options are to sup­port other cof­fee and related busi­ness groups or cre­ate a new one.
  • I hear those sen­ti­ments all too often. I, too, would love to get involved in a com­mit­tee again, but no one from SCAA will even acknowl­edge me. Even when I helped with the first two Symposium’s there was no thank you for the work – or fol­low up, or any­thing – Just a pompous atti­tude of we don’t need your help any longer (although they never said those words, their actions spoke for them). It’s a shame – it’s an insider’s club, and if they don’t want you in it, then for­get about it (to your point of being ‘invited’) I used to hear all about the call for com­mit­tee mem­bers – and yes, the board nom­i­nees are basi­cally future board mem­bers – all groomed to walk the walk and talk the insider SCAA talk.
  • I want to applaud you on the arti­cle that you wrote about the SCAA. I have to con­cur with you 100%. Being a long time mem­ber and exhibitor for that mat­ter, I feel that I have the cred­i­bil­ity to com­mend you on a well-written “rant.”
  • As I was read­ing the let­ter to the SCAA I went between think­ing it was I who was writ­ing it and becom­ing incensed. With some slight dif­fer­ences in details my expe­ri­ence over the last year plus has been the same: over 12 years serv­ing on a sub­com­mit­tee and not hav­ing the com­mon cour­tesy, man­ners, pro­fes­sion­al­ism nor appre­ci­a­tion to tell me there is no more need nor want of my vol­un­teer time. Over 12 years of time, money, effort and an evening before each class I was to teach of worry that the class I am giv­ing will go off well. A PAID class!! My vol­un­teer, unpaid time– all for the ben­e­fit of the SCAA! I won­dered if I was the only one. I won­dered if I was being petty. I won­dered if I should show more pro­fes­sion­al­ism. Well, there are many oth­ers like me. I will truly recon­sider where I spend my company’s dol­lars. Next year will the begin­ning of mak­ing the con­fer­ence a lower pri­or­ity. Many other areas I can put those lim­ited dol­lars if it is not as needed nor appre­ci­ated by the SCAA.
  • There are a few gems on the staff and vol­un­teer base of the SCAA that would lis­ten to me and agree. But NO ONE from a higher level of the SCAA staff or vol­un­teer base ever reached out.
  • It is about time they get a wake up call as to what they stand for and what is their respon­si­bil­ity to US, their membership.
  • Thank you for being the brave pio­neers to put this out there. I know for a fact that there are many more that feel the way we do.
  • I am an old timer around SCAA and I agree with many of your points, includ­ing the ben­e­fits and cer­tain indi­vid­u­als of SCAA. My expe­ri­ence and per­cep­tion is the SCAA has an elit­ist atti­tude that includes a lot of exclu­sion. If you don’t look the look and talk the talk you are dis­missed. The whole milieu smacks of an intel­lec­tual and cul­tural hubris, as opposed to hum­ble and help­ful ser­vice. I have made my per­cep­tions clear at a few SCAA: they lose good hard work­ing spe­cialty cof­fee com­pa­nies all over the coun­try because of this atti­tude. I hear it all the time from our cus­tomers. Nonetheless, we con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate in the hope we can cre­ate some change, but it ain’t easy.
  • I sup­pose I’d be hop­ing too much that some­one from the SCAA actu­ally said “Hey, you said some poignant things, let’s talk about it.”?

This last state­ment is a great ques­tion! In response I have sent emails with the hopes of start­ing a dia­log directly to SCAA:

  •  “My goal is truly to help the SCAA become a bet­ter and more respon­sive orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports its mem­bers. We have had so much response to the edi­to­r­ial that it is very clear the issue should be dis­cussed. Would you like to talk?”

No word as of yet. However, the hope is still there! So here is one final quote from another member…

  • It’s never too late SCAA!!

What Happened to Our scaa and Appreciation — The View

Categories: 2013, OctoberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Back in the early 1990’s, when I was much younger and extremely naïve, I was on the out­side of the SCAA look­ing in. I had heard some good things, but my per­sonal expe­ri­ence was that there was a lack of respect and car­ing. What did I do? Being a young, feisty new pub­lisher, I wrote an arti­cle about the orga­ni­za­tion express­ing my concerns.

Well that started my jour­ney into the inside of the asso­ci­a­tion. The result of my “rant” was being invited to the SCAA com­mit­tee meet­ings in Minneapolis, MN and get­ting to see first hand the pas­sion of the vol­un­teers. Then, as well as now, it is the vol­un­teers who are the heart and soul of this orga­ni­za­tion. It was an amaz­ing eye opener and I was sold. I became a ded­i­cated vol­un­teer next 15 years serv­ing on, co-chairing, and chair­ing committees.

Unfortunately, pol­i­tics hap­pen. Changes in lead­er­ship, changes in atti­tude hap­pen. Being a vol­un­teer is a tricky thing with the SCAA. One day you are on a com­mit­tee, or even co-chairing the com­mit­tee, and the next, you find out your com­mit­tee no longer exists and you are not invited to the annual meet­ings. Yes, you must be “invited”, or you are sim­ply not wel­come to attend. It doesn’t mat­ter if you have already pur­chased your non-refundable plane ticket, your name is “not on the list”, and you sim­ply are not invited. I know of at least three of us “old timers” who have expe­ri­enced this very thing, and I assume there are more of us out there.

Okay, I really do under­stand there comes a time to make way for the next gen­er­a­tion. New vol­un­teers who want to give back to the indus­try. New mem­bers who sim­ply want to become “involved.” Unfortunately, it appears that some things never change. Just this sum­mer, a brand new mem­ber of SCAA and Roasters Guild was excited about the oppor­tu­nity to vol­un­teer after I had encour­aged her to “get involved.” It went some­thing like this….

  • Call the SCAA and let them know you want to help! (She did, no response.)
  • I called the SCAA and let them know of this member’s desire. This mem­ber has a par­tic­u­lar set of skills and back­ground to be truly use­ful in the upcom­ing Seattle Events. I asked if some­one could call her, as she had no response from her first attempt to vol­un­teer. I was promised this would happen.
  • She was tele­phoned and told that no such com­mit­tee exists. She was not offered any sug­ges­tion for how she could become involved. She didn’t men­tion this to any­one, think­ing this is just how the orga­ni­za­tion is. I found out weeks later about this and was embar­rassed that she had been treated in such a way. I made another call to the SCAA staff mem­ber, again ask­ing she be invited to vol­un­teer (you know… give her time and money to help the asso­ci­a­tion). Result: one voice­mail and zero follow-ups again.
  • Finally, while I was at the com­mit­tee meet­ings this last week­end, I was able to find a staff mem­ber who actu­ally did appear to care about mem­bers and even appre­ci­ate the offer of help. Dorit, you rock! The end result, I believe she will now be allowed to vol­un­teer. Success! I promised her that once she was actu­ally involved, she would see the pas­sion of the vol­un­teers and it would be a reward­ing experience.

So how did I end up being invited back to a com­mit­tee? The same way I was invited to my first com­mit­tee expe­ri­ence back in 1995. I sent “rant” out into the SCAA uni­verse, but this time only as an email cc’ing the SCAA Board and Roasters Guild Council. It seems the only way to “help” the SCAA is to make a pub­lic com­plaint. I could go on for awhile with this topic, but thank­fully for all of you, our space is lim­ited. However, given my con­tact with so many mem­bers with this cen­tral theme of lack of appre­ci­a­tion and more, I would encour­age the SCAA lead­er­ship to explore this appre­ci­a­tion topic in greater depth.

Questions I would love to see addressed by the lead­er­ship of the SCAA:

Why is it so hard to vol­un­teer and what hap­pened to com­mon cour­tesy?
Here is a quote from another Old Timer I spoke with just yes­ter­day, “I was a com­mit­tee chair. I called the SCAA office… to find out when their plan­ning ses­sion was and I talked to a staff mem­ber. He said… oh, um, well it’s com­ing up on such and such but you are not on a com­mit­tee. I said oh really, I am on that com­mit­tee. He said no, we dis­banded that com­mit­tee. No notice, noth­ing. We worked our butts off on that com­mit­tee. Why would they get rid of the com­mit­tee and not notify the sit­ting members?”

As told to a cur­rent mem­ber think­ing about run­ning for the board by a cur­rent board mem­ber in the last 30 days: “If you think that get­ting on the board of direc­tors is a demo­c­ra­tic process that is elected by the mem­bers, you are wrong. The can­di­dates that run ARE the can­di­dates that are going to get elected.”

When was the last time the SCAA appre­ci­ated its Exhibitors… those com­pa­nies that account for the largest per­cent­age of your income?
Here is a com­ment from a for­mer exhibitor, “Not only were we an exhibitor,we were also a dues pay­ing, card car­ry­ing mem­ber of the SCAA. The cal­lous and cav­a­lier atti­tude of the SCAA staff forced us to decide never exhibit again with SCAA, nor con­tinue our allied mem­ber­ship. And this was after being a mem­ber and exhibitor for sev­eral years.”

A for­mer poten­tial exhibitor told us, “We have cho­sen not to join the SCAA because you would expect lead­er­ship in the indus­try. After sev­eral attempts, we were not able to find out within even a 10 per­cent mar­gin of error how many cof­fee shops there are in the USA. If any­one should know, it should be them. If they won’t pro­vide the lead­er­ship, we should. We will not be joining.”

How about this com­ment,“We have exhib­ited at many of the related Coffee and Food Service shows (not only the SCAA event) over the years, where the SCAA has had a booth exhibit­ing what they do, mem­ber­ship ben­e­fits and that sort of thing.  Not once, in all those years, despite our post­ing a printed place card show­ing our mem­ber­ship, did any­one from SCAA stop by the booth to just say hello, or ask if there was any­thing they could do for us, or just show their thanks for the sup­port­ing mem­ber­ship etc. Nothing.”

And this com­ment, “We have felt for a few years now that the orga­ni­za­tion really did not care too much about the exhibitors, despite exhibitors being the lifeblood of any tradeshow/convention. And now they want pay­ment two years in advance!!! No way. I run a busi­ness, I have my own bills to pay, salaries to pay etc. They think I am going to tie up money two years in advance to be a sim­ple exhibitor? Nope, not going to hap­pen here. NO show is that good!”

A past exhibitor shares their story: “Last year, our com­pany suf­fered a ter­ri­ble period of time where due to ill­ness and an acci­dent, our trade show staff was just dec­i­mated. We had to can­cel our show par­tic­i­pa­tion just prior to the can­cel­la­tion dead­line, as we were just not in a posi­tion to ade­quately staff our nor­mal booth. We sent in all the required paper­work etc., in the man­ner required etc. We never got a con­fir­ma­tion, or any reply back that the paper­work and can­cel­la­tion request was received, accepted, or any­thing for that mat­ter. The only way we were able to con­firm it, was that on the show floor plan lay­out, our booth had been reas­signed. But noth­ing sent to us con­firm­ing etc.  We had to con­tact repeat­edly to get any response. On top of that, the refund never came, and we were told we had to con­tact some­one else in account­ing in their office!And then the per­son we con­tacted, shuf­fled it off on some­one else. Incredible. We were already deal­ing with major has­sles due to the ill­ness and acci­dent recov­ery of our staff, and these clowns couldn’t even acknowl­edge a can­cel­la­tion as per their own require­ments, and they were too lazy to walk the paper­work across their own office.”

A mem­ber com­ments, “I belong to two other asso­ci­a­tions. When I need their help I can find staff more than will­ing to help. They make me feel like they are work­ing for me, what a great feel­ing right? When I call the SCAA, I feel like I have reached the wrong num­ber. As a “First Responder,” I gave to them even when it was hard for us to do so. But to give was what I felt was the right thing to do. Does any­one even know what a “First Responder” is any­more and what they did to save the SCAA? Why do I feel like I need to watch my back when I attend ‘The Event’?”

I think it is high time the asso­ci­a­tion lead­er­ship under­stands that SCAA’s “The Event” is NOT the only option out there. In fact, one for­mer exhibitor states, “I have exhib­ited as a Roaster in my own home town and it gen­er­ated lit­tle results. My impres­sion is the attendee at the SCAA show is the roaster and the attendee for Coffee Fest is the retailer. It just makes more sense to exhibit at Coffee Fest if you sell to retailers.”

SCAA: It is time to respect and appre­ci­ate your exhibitors, or lose them to another show.

And this par­tic­u­lar com­ment is very telling. Imagine how this cur­rent exhibitor must feel to have this response to my ques­tion of their opin­ion of the SCAA staff: “I can’t really go there. It’s a pretty bru­tal orga­ni­za­tion. Been there and learned that impetu­ous actions with folks like them bite you back. Next thing you know you’re in a booth between the bath­rooms and the food concession.”

Favoritism… Are you treat­ing your mem­bers equally and fairly?
Is it really okay give all of the expo­sure and/or oppor­tu­nity to one par­tic­u­lar mem­ber of the com­pany when there are 5 or 6, or more that are in the exact same cat­e­gory and can pro­vide the exact same ser­vice? Since when does the SCAA staff get to say, “We like that rela­tion­ship. We don’t have any record of how it hap­pened, but we like it and will not but out a bid or RFP, or even bring it up with the board. It is our deci­sion.” Even when asked about the oppor­tu­nity for the orga­ni­za­tion to review if this is the best fis­cal choice to be made for the SCAA Budget. This empow­ered atti­tude of “we will do what we please and there is noth­ing you can do about it” is a recipe for dis­as­ter and can only be fixed if the atti­tude changes from the top down.

SCAA Mission / Strategic Plan… when did it become all about the money?
I found the fol­low­ing on the SCAA web­site: “It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that SCAA is a non-profit, which exists solely for the ben­e­fit of its mem­bers.” And yet, at every turn what I actu­ally hear about is bring me the money. The cur­rent strate­gic plan pre­sented by the SCAA President of the Board had the fol­low­ing three top objec­tives: increase rev­enue, diver­sify income, and increase net assets. Sorry, but where was the focus on actu­ally ben­e­fit­ing mem­bers? I really do under­stand that the asso­ci­a­tion, or any orga­ni­za­tion, must be fis­cally respon­si­ble to be able to con­tinue to serve its mis­sion. However, with­out a focus from the top down on appre­ci­a­tion, the deci­sions seem to have become, how can the SCAA make money, not focus on its mem­bers. To me, this is very short-term think­ing. Without mem­bers, there is NO SCAA.

And as long as I seem to be on a once every 20-year rant, when did it become okay for a trade asso­ci­a­tion whose mis­sion is to ben­e­fit its mem­bers, to become com­pe­ti­tion to their own mem­ber­ship. It seems like more and more I am see­ing SCAA sell­ing things their mem­ber com­pa­nies used to sell. Again, it goes back to the atti­tude… If they exist to make money (funny for a non-profit?), that this makes sense. What was the strate­gic plan focus on again this year: increase rev­enue? What about increas­ing rev­enue for their members?

It would be easy to think, “oh the heck with them!” But then I expe­ri­ence a few staff mem­bers that actu­ally DO care. And I hear them speak directly about mem­ber value. Ildi Revi, just pre­sented an amaz­ing IDP class in Seattle, WA and her com­mit­ment to mem­bers is some­thing to be applauded. The resources of the SCAA are truly amaz­ing. Or rather, they can be, if you know how to find them and ask the cor­rect peo­ple. So no, it is not time to throw out the baby with the bath water. But rather, maybe it is time for lead­er­ship to exam­ine their atti­tudes so that the entire orga­ni­za­tion can be more like those few indi­vid­u­als that are ded­i­cated to ben­e­fit­ing membership.

And back to the begin­ning: Appreciation
Appreciation… CoffeeTalk truly appre­ci­ates all of the amaz­ing work being done in this indus­try to give back. This is pre­cisely why we began ded­i­cat­ing our July issue each year com­pletely to Making A Difference years ago. It is impor­tant to give back. Whether it is your organization’s mem­bers, groups within the com­mu­nity, and/or those in need.

The Making a Difference issue as you may know, high­lights the var­i­ous non­profit orga­ni­za­tions around the world striv­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the cof­fee com­mu­nity. These orga­ni­za­tions put their own needs aside, and they help oth­ers first with­out expect­ing to receive some­thing in return. Each non­profit orga­ni­za­tion fea­tured in this issue sub­mit­ted a full-page story. This enabled them to not only spread the word about their cause, but it allowed read­ers and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to join them in their mis­sion and help make a difference.

We are proud to announce the win­ner of our 2013 July Making a Difference view/click con­test and the recip­i­ent of a $1,000 per­sonal dona­tion for their cause from CoffeeTalk own­ers Kerri & Miles: Pueblo a Pueblo: Maternal Child Health and Education. This pro­gram is designed to reduce the excep­tion­ally high mater­nal and infant mor­tal­ity rates among the T’zutujil Maya in Santiago Atitlan region. MCH cre­ates a con­sis­tent, one-to-one part­ner­ship between inter­na­tional spon­sors and Guatemalan fam­i­lies, giv­ing moth­ers and their chil­dren cru­cial med­ical and edu­ca­tion sup­port.
You can check out these sto­ries, as well as the sev­eral oth­ers fea­tured in this year’s issue online in the back issues sec­tion of the website.

It is when a small spark is lit that a fire of change can spread. Please, be inspired and make a difference.

Kerri & Miles

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