Business and Finance

How this Founder and ‘Shark Tank’ Veteran is Fighting to Create a More Inclusive Coffee Category


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Over the previous yr or so, I’ve developed a variety of obsessions. I’ve grow to be obsessive about easy routines like making my mattress, unloading the dishwasher and discovering all of my children’ lacking socks. I’ve grow to be obsessive about a variety of collection on Netflix, together with discovering Broadchurch. And lastly, I’ve grow to be obsessive about consuming cups of prompt espresso with heavy doses of milk to get me by these pandemic days.

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Copper Cow Coffee

While pals and colleagues will joke about my obsession with prompt espresso, it jogs my memory of my visits to Kolkata, India. My mashi (aunt) would at all times have a cup of Indian-style prompt espresso prepared within the morning. She would combine the moment espresso and sugar in a cup, then pour scorching milk on prime of it. The odor of the espresso transports me again to my childhood days.

On a journey to develop my espresso palate, I stumbled throughout Copper Cow Coffee. These single serve filters come packaged in a chic field with an embossed copper cow brand and brew a wealthy Vietnamese-style cup of espresso in 90 seconds. My favourite a part of the expertise is including the sweetened all-natural creamer that comes with the equipment.

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Image credit score: Copper Cow Coffee

“Vietnamese coffee is known for its creamer,” says Debbie Wei Mullin, CEO and founding father of Copper Cow Coffee. “The creamer is the super power. It completes the cup.”

When many people take into consideration the place the espresso we devour comes from, we consider Brazil, Colombia or Ethiopia. Often neglected is Vietnam, which is the second-largest producer of espresso on the planet. The world espresso market is anticipated to develop at a substantial CAGR over the subsequent a number of years. According to the National Coffee Association, greater than 70% of consumers desire making ready espresso at dwelling to shopping for it from a store. Consumers are additionally more and more in search of certified products which are good for espresso farmers and all of our communities. Copper Cow Coffee’s flagship product, a single-use, pour over format that matches into a espresso mug, addresses precisely what extra and extra customers are looking for.

With Copper Cow Coffee, Mullin is on a mission to carry Vietnamese espresso tradition to the world. Here are three classes Mullin has picked up on her journey to create a extra inclusive espresso class:

1. Build a workforce tradition the place all can take part

As a baby, Mullin was at all times aggressive and beloved taking over new challenges. In highschool, she determined to be a part of the wrestling workforce. “The team was looking for smaller weight wrestlers, so with no experience, I signed up,” she says. “I was the only girl on the team.”

From that have, Mullin ended up beginning a ladies’s wrestling workforce so extra ladies and ladies might take part, and she went on to captain not solely the lads’s workforce, but additionally the ladies’s workforce her senior yr. “I learned a lot about team dynamics from those early experiences. I am constantly thinking about how I can create a competitive and supportive environment where all women can thrive,” she says. Today, Copper Cow Coffee is women-owned and women-led, with an all-female board as properly. 

For Mullin, the continued problem as a chief is building a team culture the place there’s house for everybody. “You need to create space for everyone to succeed and where it’s possible for everyone to be a star. You don’t just choose favorites; you must recognize people for their contributions.”

Related: How This Entrepreneur Is Changing What We Put on Our Kitchen Tables

2. Build relationships with those that perceive your mission

“Sure, fundraising is a really tough journey,” Mullin acknowledges. “I remind myself that you can always find cash. More important is finding people who are aligned with your mission.”

Some of the early suggestions Mullin acquired in her fundraising journey made it clear to her that buyers didn’t perceive the market alternative. One investor instructed that Mullin develop her line with Guatemalan espresso. Another investor thought it was too narrowly positioned as espresso for Vietnamese individuals. 

“Greek yogurt isn’t just for Greek people,” Mullin says. “What we are building is a beautiful expression of brew. Our mission is to share the vibrant heritage of Vietnamese coffee, all while elevating the coffee-drinking experience.”

Although Mullin is aware of the market alternative is enormous, she acknowledges that it’s laborious for buyers to see one thing as investable when “you and what you are building are so different from them and their life experiences. We need more investors from all different backgrounds and life experiences writing checks.” 

Being a feminine founder might be a lonely journey, however Mullin has been fortunate to construct key relationships with buyers — her cap desk is primarily ladies shareholders. Roger Chen of Silverton Partners was one of many first buyers who understood the market alternative and has been a champion for Mullin and different feminine founders. “I didn’t have to explain it to Roger; he immediately understood where this business was headed given his background and life experiences.” Cultivian Sandbox Ventures rallied to get Mullin a time period sheet the week her child was due. To date, Copper Cow has closed $8.5 Million in Series A funding. 

Related: This Founder Is Disrupting How We Consume the World’s Most Popular Beverage

3. Build sustainability out of your model’s inception

After constructing her profession on the World Bank and the Asia Foundation, Mullin realized that entrepreneurship was a higher means to make an affect within the ecosystem. “I realized the system wasn’t built for me to succeed. I felt so constrained and like I was no longer effective.”

As she introduced espresso again from journeys to Vietnam and began constructing Copper Cow Coffee, she knew she had to discover methods to help Vietnamese espresso farmers. From its inception, Copper Cow has been devoted to sourcing ethically and sustainably from Vietnamese farms. Its farms follow natural agricultural and processing strategies. This means utilizing polyculture and natural matter compost and abstaining from pesticide use. 

“Our farmers are paid two times the market rate to ensure a higher quality of life and the most delicious coffee we can produce,” Mullin says. “This is the reason why I started this company. I want to lead by example: We can build sustainability into the way we do business and also be successful and make an impact in the world.” 

Related: These Sisters Relied on Side Hustles to Pay the Rent While Bootstrapping Their Food Business: “We Were Pinching Pennies Then Would Walk Into a VC’s Office and Act Like We Didn’t Need Their Money”

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