At first glance, Just Love Coffee Roasters might look like any other coffee business. However, that is far from the truth. Sure, they are selling coffee, ground or whole bean, like many other coffee companies do, but their coffee is also fair trade. They even donate a part of their proceeds to help build a school for older children in Ethiopia. On top of it all, they also offer a fundraising program for families that want to adopt, people currently going through the adoption process, or organizations.
I had the opportunity to speak with Rob Webb about his unique business and the good he is doing with it.
Tell us a little about Just Love Coffee Roasters.
Just Love Coffee Roasters is a specialty Fair Trade artisan roaster whose mission is to artistically roast fine Fair Trade coffees while helping those in need.
What inspired it?
I grew up in the coffee business. After leaving the music business to go into the family business, Webb’s Refreshments, I had a desire and a passion to roast coffee as opposed to just buying the coffee roasted and reselling it. When my wife and I were going through the adoption process through Ethiopia I was looking for ways in which to fundraise to help offset some of the travel expenses they were going to incur. After a couple of raffles I realized quickly that fundraising was a lot of work for little yield on the hours labored. I thought that surely there was a program out there that was turnkey and worked for the fundraising individual. After doing a little research I couldn’t find what I was looking for. At the same time, I was doing research on Ethiopia since my two soon-to-be daughters were Ethiopian. I found a lot about coffee and how important it is to the Ethiopian people. I also read confirmation of the poverty that I had heard about growing up. Feeling a bit unfulfilled in my work I came up with an idea that would fuse a turnkey fundraising model to help those in need with a small batch artisan roasting company. The fundraising idea was to allow the fundraising individual to setup his/her own storefront within the justlovecoffee domain. They could customize it with an image, title, statement and unique URL. Now all the fundraising party would have to do is market their unique URL and Just Love Coffee Roasters would take care of the rest including customer service, order fulfillment and send out proceed checks once per month. Since no other coffee company had this business model it was difficult to gauge how much the company could give back and still break even. I came up with a $12.95 retail price that would give $5 back.
We offer over 20 different coffees from over 11 different regions. We do not add any flavor extract to our coffees. We believe that the inherent complexity of flavors in the coffee beans themselves need not be masked by artificial flavor.
Many coffee businesses are not fair trade, what made you decide to break the mold and take that route? What are the benefits? Setbacks?
I wanted to be sure that if one of the groups the company was going to assist was adoptive families and benevolent organizations that help children in coffee growing regions, then it would be contradictory to attempt to do this at the expense of the farmer. If one of the leading causes of the orphan crisis is poverty then we needed to be paying top dollar for our coffee. Fair Trade coffee guarantees the farmer a minimum wage. Being certified Fair Trade is important so that every party in the process from the farm owner to the roaster complies and is paying what they should be paying. The benefit is that it is sustainable for the farming families. They are being paid a living wage. The setback is the cost. It is expensive to buy Fair Trade coffee and it is expensive to be certified through Fair Trade USA. As I am typing this answer my Roast Master is reporting our purchases to Fair Trade USA.
Tell us a little about your adoption fundraising opportunity.
The fundraising opportunity through Just Love Coffee Roasters extends much further than adoptive families. We help benevolent organizations of all types, foster families, mission teams, churches, schools and we are in the process of launching a program for families with children with severe medical needs such as cancer. Our group fundraisiers kick off with a traditional door-to-door campaign. We provide all of the materials necessary for the door-to-door campaign. This is followed up with the online storefront that is customized for the fundraising party. The great thing about the online storefronts is that they never end and they are not confined to a small geographical footprint. If you have supporters 20 states away, they can support you by purchasing coffee and apparel from the beneficiary’s Just Love Coffee Storefront. Each fundraising party can run reports to view sales and anticipated proceeds. If the customer gives permission then the beneficiary can see who purchased from their storefront so that they can send thank notes and encourage them to spread the word.
How does it work?
To get started you simply go to [our website] and click on one of the fundraising buttons on the top menu. Select the category that you fall into and fill out the form. You will then setup your storefront with a few fields. We will review the submission. Once approved you will receive an email and you can start marketing your storefront’s unique URL on Facebook, Twitter, email, websites, mail, tasting parties, events, etc. You can view how much you have sold online and who purchased (if the customer released their contact info). We send you a check every month.
What are your requirements?
You must have a need for financial assistance to do good. No cost, period.
Are there any goals that you hope to accomplish in the new year?
We are launching a completely revamped website. We hope to reach those families with children with medical needs and child sponsorship organizations who are interested in teaming up with Just Love Coffee Roasters to spread the word about their needs and help raise money for the children. We just open a new brick and mortar location called, “The Roasterie.” It is over 2500 square feet and completely open. Customers come in and enjoy fresh roasted coffee. They can see the roasting process since the facility is wide open. We have a wall-to-wall balcony and loft filled with classic 80’s arcade games (quarter play). There is a 200 square foot stage for musicians to perform and a 133” projector screen. All of the brewed coffee profits go to help a local non-profit organization each month. This month it is the Murfreesboro Boys and Girls Club. We hope to spread to word locally this year about our company and its mission.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
When you plan your business model and expenses, take the amount of money you foresee spending and double that estimate. It takes a dogged persistence and discipline to get people to notice you. You have to make yourself stand out otherwise you’re just white noise. When your marketing plan doesn’t work in the time you allotted, do NOT stop the campaign. Repetition and consistency is paramount.
Any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?
It took many ideas for businesses that failed before I succeeded. Be sure that what you decide you want to create has meaning beyond dollars and cents. Money is so deceitful. It will not sustain itself on its own. You must have a passion and great belief in what it is you are doing. When you have that stroke of brilliance and you decide to take the risk of starting a new business, be conservative. If your business blows up in a year or two then great, but if you are growing 10% a year you are setting yourself up for a very solid and lasting business. Cash is king and debt can kill you. Cash is the blood flow of the company. Without it, it will die. Don’t get sucked into the trap of lines of credit and financed assets. Pay that initial business loan off and then start building cash for the company. Most importantly… HAVE FUN!