You know the scenario. You’re a passionate roaster with a small but thriving business. You want to expand, but you’re worried that it may compromise your integrity and enthusiasm. But why should roasters have to choose between passion and profit, when it’s more than possible to have both?
For an artisan coffee roaster, finding the balance between the two is key. When speaking to our customers, it’s clear that the passion is there: after all, who would invest in the equipment, training and time needed to source high-quality beans without a serious commitment to coffee?
The uncertainty comes when that original 3kg roaster can’t roast quickly enough; when the quantities you’re selling make you question whether you can do business on your own – and increased demand for your beans makes you realise you’re going to have to invest in growth or turn new customers away. For many, this is the crunch point: can you continue to expand but still demonstrate the same level of enthusiasm for which you’re known?
Expansion doesn’t mean selling out
The good news is, you don’t have to choose between being commercial and retaining your integrity. Growth isn’t “selling out”: you can still demonstrate the same love for your product whether you’re roasting 3kg, 30kg or 300kg of coffee daily. A love of quality should help power growth – not work against it.
Growing your business should lead to benefits beyond a better bottom line. Roasting higher volumes will encourage bigger buys from chains who once wondered whether you could keep up with demand. Increased customer numbers mean that your brand will have a greater reach. Contrary to popular belief, business growth won’t mean that you’re perceived as purely focused on profit – as long as it’s passion that’s fuelling that growth.
Such success stories are easy to find. Take Has Bean Coffee. Owner Steve Leighton began with a cheap coffee shop in Stafford town centre and a 2kg roaster, but now has a well-known and thriving coffee business, offers a free 10-day course to turn anyone into a coffee expert and provides useful advice, tips and guidance on his website.
Keep it personal
The best way to demonstrate that the passion’s still there despite growth? Keeping it personal.
Take Illy, for example – a corporate giant that recorded revenues of €437 million in 2015 but one that has also produced a documentary to show its commitment to sustainability and levered its family history to add personality to the brand. For CEO Andrea Illy, business means following his grandfather’s dream to offer the greatest coffee. Andrea studied chemistry to be able to produce better coffee, as did his father before him: he represents the third generation of the Illy family to lead the business, with other family members also still involved.
Using passion to fuel profit is simple when you believe in what you do, and demonstrate this passion to your customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: if you were buying beans and had a choice between a large roaster with an impersonal, ‘facts and figures’ type approach, or a large roaster with enthusiasm and the desire to continually improve, you know which option you’d take.
This passion is powering change in the coffee industry, encouraging big corporates to adopt the behaviours and attitudes so loved in smaller roasters. Integrity is not something to be sacrificed: taking a personal, involved approach actually powers growth.
Trish Rothgeb and Nick Cho of Palo Alto-based Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters know this. The pair teamed up in 2010, but were already known in the industry: Trish is credited with coining the term “Third-Wave Coffee” back in 2002, and Cho was known as the founder of murky coffee in Washington DC. Their commitment to coffee is clear: the pair have conducted interviews, spoken at coffee events and Trish is a licensed Q-grader. Since their launch, they’ve built their own roastery and offer both consumer and wholesale services. They’ve grown from humble beginnings, from a pop-up café to a walk-up window to a full-blown coffee shop. They’ve built a brand that’s succeeded because of their vision. Read more about them here.
Standing out from the crowd
It’s this enthusiasm and drive that can help make your brand unique. No matter the size of your business, these qualities offer customers an inspirational experience to keep them coming back. If you want to be passionate about your business but are also keen to grow, consider the merits of telling your story and how you may present it, listening to what customers want and showing you care about every single bean that’s sourced, roasted and sold. Happy customers mean increased sales – and proof that passion really can fuel profit.
Looking for something new to offer to customers? Check out our current coffee list.