Where did the time go? Honestly?
This means not only is our business 20 years old, but I am somehow 20 years old-er. We started roasting and serving coffee 20 years ago this month in the side room of Ed's Cantina, a long established restaurant in Estes Park. Coffee wasn't really a "thing" in Estes at that time. There were a handful of places with espresso machines like Notchtop Cafe and Restaurant and Macdonald's Papeterie, but they had other focuses to their businesses. Starbucks was out there, but it wasn't here. We were roasting coffee on site, creating custom blends that were specific to Estes Park, and of course, serving specialty coffee drinks. I remember the first winter we were open and we might have 7 customers come through, in a day. Good thing though, because it gave us lots of time to create our brand identity and start wholesaling our beans around town.
As we came into our own as a coffee company, we quickly realized that while our name reflected WHERE we were located, it really didn't identify WHO we were. As we grew over the next few years, we began sourcing only certified organic coffee, learning about fair trade practices, and flooding the Estes Park area with our coffee in hotels and restaurants. Our next step was to have an online presence (easy enough...) and to start wholesaling outside of Estes Park. Only problem was people outside of Estes Park didn't really connect with our brand. Estes is a unique mountain town that EVERYONE loves to visit, but we found it challenging to market our coffee on a wholesale level beyond.
At this point, we had a couple of big decisions to make. Our 5 pound Diedrich roaster would only do enough volume for our shop if we discontinued wholesaling. And we really couldn't find a way to be successful wholesaling the EPCC name outside of Estes. Rock and hard place? So we thought. But, being the entreprenuers we are, we decided to move the roasting and wholesaling business out of the downtown, buy a BIGGER roaster, and rebrand to something that was not only more marketable on a national level, but more importantly one that reflected our business values and practices. And so KIND COFFEE was born.
Changing our Name was Hard.
Not everyone loved the name when we first picked it. I did though. And I suppose in the end, that was the most important thing. I had to completely believe in the brand so I could sell it. It was definitely scary to think we were going to basically abandon our EPCC identity and start over, but we thought we were well known enough, but not enough, if you know what I mean, that we could make it work. Rebranding to KIND COFFEE allowed us to showcase our commitment to the enviroment, to the social impacts of coffee, to the community we were supporting, and to sell it outside of Estes Park. And somehow, we pulled it off. We have had wholesale accounts across the country, we are long time members of 1% for the Planet, and we are a founding member of the Estes Park Give Back Program. If I ever was concerned if people would still come to our shop (if it didn't have the words Estes Park or "mountain" this or "rockies" that in the name,) I am no longer. Now, I regularly hear people say "I'll meet you at KIND." They don't even need the word "coffee" to know where they want to be. And I love that.
"we kind of realized that, you know, the word business is, you know, essentially kind of a busy-ness that is mostly common sense and a lot of work."
Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream said that in an interview with Guy Raz on the podcast How I Built This. I HIGHLY recommend this episode (and podcast series) to anyone in business or wanting to go into business. Sometimes you hear words that ring so true in your brain. They might seem obvious, and aren't necessarily profound, but they somehow make sense of a part of your life that you hadn't put your finger on yet.