Posts tagged sourcing
Sourcing and Why It Matters

Brief Update

Where to begin? We received our first order of beans from the Hingakawa Women's Association (more on them later), Jon has been up to his eyeballs in beans roasting over the past two weeks, I've been in discussions with some incredible potential partners, we purchased a new roaster, started with a great wholesale client, sleep has been harder to come by, and we're loving it! The feeling of controlled chaos I mentioned in this post has become both more controlled and chaotic at the same time. It's kind of like raising a kid or pet. You learn how to handle what they throw at you as it happens. But as soon as you figure one thing out they pull something new out of left field to throw your way. It definitely keeps us on our toes.

Community In Coffee

As I have mentioned in other posts, Mark Smesrud and Purple Door Coffee taught me how not to compromise the standards of a high quality product while still cultivating true, lasting growth in their employees. Parallel to that Scott Byington, the owner of Queen City Collective Coffee, has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the beauty and necessity of creating community through coffee every step of the way from sourcing to storefront. When I say community I mean relationships that are ongoing and real. I'm not talking about slapping a fair trade sticker on a bag then making one trip to a farm and taking some pictures to post online or put in your store. Scott has been integrally involved with farms around the world helping get their products to roasters in the US while also assisting them to improve their products and increase their own profits. He also knows that to truly help farmers and their communities we cannot just helicopter in at our leisure with good intentions. We have to listen: listen to who they are, the roads they've walked in life, what they need for their farms, what they need for their children and communities, and listen to what is most effective for us to do in their eyes, not our own. What works well here may be ineffective, or actually destructive, somewhere else. Because as much as we think we know, we don't know much.

Hingakawa

Scott has spent a considerable amount of time in Rwanda where the Hingakawa ("let's grow coffee") Women's Association is located. Oh Hingakawa, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously, they are incredible. Scott has a close relationship with the person instrumental in building the farming network there to be what it is today. Many of the women who work with this farm, and another smaller one called Dakundakawa ("we love coffee"), lost loved ones and family members during the Rwandan genocide. Hingakawa has been incredibly effective at providing restoration and sustenance for these women and their children. Not only does it provide work and income, there is also a system in place that allows the women to cultivate the land around the farms to produce more income for their communities to use at their discretion for essential needs. As amazing and impactful as this is, the amount of revenue generated by coffee only goes so far. We're working to build a relationship with these ladies that best benefits them both as individuals and collectively in their communities. I'll write more on this as it develops and we'll have their beans available in our online store within the next couple weeks. Can't wait for you all to try them!

Learn More

These are a couple great reads from The Perfect Daily Grind on sourcing methods that explain what relational, direct trade, fair trade, and actually are.     

Micro Roaster? Here's What Producers Want You To Know.    

How Roasters Can Build Good Relationships With Farmers

This one is written by Torch Coffee and provides more info on Hingakawa.

The Story of Hingakawa Women's Coffee

 

 

 

April 20 - Roasted Coffee Sales, Raising Capital/Investment, Mobile Cart

Soft Launch of the Pop-Up Cart

Jon successfully ran our first pop-up cart in collaboration with Textile Hall. There was more excitement and buzz than we anticipated. He had great conversations about the business and employment model we're working to build as well as chatting about coffee in general. Multiple people commented that our model sounded similar to Purple Door, which was awesome! I'm working with Mark, Purple Door's executive director, to figure out how I can continue serving on the board after moving to Greenville as well as how PD and BC can partner together in the future. It was encouraging to Jon and me that people know about Purple Door across the country in Greenville in general, but that they also connected our model to it. All in all, our first event was a success.

Where We Are In Building Bridge City

As mentioned above, we had our soft launch for the coffee cart last week. In the immediate future we will be focusing on 3 things...

1. Wholesale and individual accounts for roasted coffee  Info for wholesale and any of our beans for individuals will be on the website soon. We are very excited and proud of the sourcing model we're building. Typically, in the coffee world, beans can pass through as many as 8 different parties before reaching your cup (farmer, co-op, washing/processing, exporter, importer, distributor, roaster, shop). While this is definitely necessary in a variety of contexts, it isn't always. We're in the process of finalizing some key relationships. However, by late 2017 all of the coffees, yes all, you will have the chance to experience through Bridge City will be sourced and handled in ways that we trust by people that we know, trust, and support. Our goal is to always provide full transparency with our coffees and our sourcing model is designed to minimize the number of hands that touch every bean we use. This will maximize the profit our farmers and their communities receive, allow us to maintain more direct and authentic relationships with them, and in the end create a better product with real community through it all. We'll talk more in depth about how we do this in future post. Or you can reach out and ask us for more details, we'd love to tell you about it!

2. Raising capital and exploring investment opportunities To get our physical shop location and the employment model up and running we need a substantial amount of capital, substantial to us anyway. The good thing is that as our wholesale and general accounts increase, the amount of investment we need decreases. While this is a positive thing we would rather have the shop up and running as soon as feasibly possible. Thankfully, we recently obtained our first investors! This was a big deal for us both tangibly and intrinsically that people believe enough in what we're doing to invest. Thank you, you know who you are! Having said that, we still have quite a bit to procure to get the shop up and running and this will be a focus for both Jon and me in the foreseeable future.

*Update We are currently talking with a huge potential client that would speed things up for purchasing a bigger roaster and warehouse space.

3. Continuing to utilize the mobile cart  We plan to continue this at different events throughout the Greenville and Anderson areas (Jon lives in Anderson). We'll post a schedule on the website as we solidify more events and you can also stay up to date via Instagram @bridgecitycoffee

Why This Is Being Written - Personally

I grew up in the rural North Carolina mountains playing soccer most of my life. Our town’s slogan was “2 hours from anywhere.” To fill you in if you’re not from a small town in the south - The hierarchy of sports begins with football head and shoulders above everything else. Baseball, basketball, track, golf, and wrestling descend in varying orders on a totally separate plane from football. Then far off somewhere in a muddy cow field you have soccer.

Anyway, when I was 13 one of my best friends, Zach, and I received letters asking us to play in a soccer tournament in Sweden. It was one of those things that a lot of kids probably received. But it was still a trip to Europe and the chance for some exposure to coaches and recruiters for club teams we never had where we lived.

I’ll never forget stepping on the field to practice before the tournament. There Zach and I were in Sweden with the rest of the team assembled from different states on the east coast ready to impress the world! I’ll also never forget what happened when the gravity of it all hit me and I self-destructed. My nerves got the better of me being around so much talent and I decided that it would better not to try and to fail rather than to give it everything I had and fail. I have regretted that decision the rest of my life and took more than a decade to truly get over it.

The point of writing that is to illustrate why I am doing this blog in the first place. While there is still a huge chance of failure, I refuse to be that 13 year old boy on the soccer field wasting his dreams away again because something is difficult and not guaranteed. If I fail this time it won't be for lack of effort and it won't keep me up at night wondering what could have happened if I had only tried. As painful as it could be to publicly fail, we want this endeavor to begin with the same level of authenticity we plan to fuse into our sourcing, operations, hiring, and final products. So we invite you to follow along as we attempt to build Bridge City Coffee and feel free to spread the word!