Launching a New Coffee Brand
Oval Coffee Roasters: A New Coffee Brand from NYC
If you’ve been following this newsletter consistently, you may have picked up on the fact that there are a lot of young entrepreneurs who have been launching their own coffee companies recently. With plenty of grit and hustle.
So you may be wondering, what does the launch of a new company look like for industry veterans? For those who have been in the trenches longer, and presumably, possess the foresight and experience to tackle this process without a hitch.
Oval Coffee Roasters is a new coffee brand founded by three friends – Chris Alspach, Chin Mong, and Josh Craig – in the heart of New York City. With the distinction of having Chris, a 16-year industry veteran who had previously co-founded Portland’s Upper Left Roasters back in 2013, at the forefront.
The idea behind the venture initially came about one evening at the Chelsea Hotel. Where Chris and Josh met up for drinks and discussed business ideas involving a physical product. They went through a few iterations before landing on coffee (naturally).
The idea took shape and a company was born.
Incidentally, Chris also took the shape of the bean itself (an oval) as a source of inspiration to come up with the company’s name. He explains: “It’s an aspect of the coffee that you don’t immediately think about or notice. But it’s an aspect of that experience. And really just the simplicity of it. It’s one word, the shape of the coffee, and not trying to tie in other things.”
Simplicity also drives the strategy behind the company’s launch and operations. In contrast to his first go-around at Upper Left, which had sufficient capitalization to operate its own roasting facility and cafe, Chris has opted to go lean this time with Oval. Avoiding the cost drivers of managing a brick-and-mortar store, and running the company’s production at a shared roasting facility. Which you can think of as a rented space where different companies share the same roasting equipment.
Chris Alspach of Oval Coffee Roasters
“They’ve enabled a lot of companies to start roasting. With people from all levels of experience. And at different scales. The co-roasting spaces really changed things. You see different approaches, different ideas, and it doesn’t require all the investment financially, or the time,” says Chris.
It’s worth noting that these facilities have not only removed a traditional barrier to entry but have also convinced experienced entrepreneurs like Chris to divorce themselves from the idea of running a cafe at any point in their company’s lifecycle.
He explains: “I think roasted coffee is a good business model. Opening a cafe can be a huge drain. Every roaster that I’ve seen fail is because they opened a cafe that became less lucrative and more time-consuming. A drain on time and resources.”
It’s a sentiment that will likely resonate in cities like New York where monthly expenses can be enormous burdens for small businesses. To the extent that retailers are often forced to compromise with products that are driven primarily by economics rather than quality or brand equity.
For first-time coffee-preneurs, shared roasting facilities as well as the vast library of resources you can find online these days make it easier than ever to get started.
So what exactly are the advantages of being a serial entrepreneur in the coffee world today? Other than having better visibility of where the land mines are located.
Three Khuns – Oval’s single origin from Myanmar
The answer: Relationships.
If you spend enough time in the coffee industry, you’ll likely come across this often repeated statement: “Coffee is a relationship-driven business.”
In that sense, a coffee business is more than just the people who are operating it. But the sum of all of their relationships and connections invisible to the naked eye. Built over time and harnessed through mutual value-add.
“I think your relationships are the most important thing. You need strong connections because you want to work with people you know and trust. That’s the most important thing, more than anything else. Getting to know people, working alongside people,” explains Chris.
Whether you’re founding a business for the first time or starting your second venture, it’s likely that things won’t always go according to plan. In which case, who will you turn to for advice and support?
Chris elaborates on this crucial point this way: “The knowledge base you have access to is important. If I run into a problem, it’s not just me. There’s always someone that I can call. That could be a problem with my roast profile, sourcing a certain blend component, or a contract issue. When you talk to me, it’s not just me, but everyone in my network.”
Reflecting on this question, Chris also muses that his perspective has changed in the 10-year span that separates the founding of his two companies.
“In 2013, I would have thought that having the unique lot in Ethiopia is the most important thing. The novelty level of excellence of my highest offerings,” he explains.
Indeed, bright shiny objects have a tendency to distract inexperienced entrepreneurs from the important things that matter. For Chris and his team at Oval, however, it turns out that they can offer up the shiny stuff without the loss of perspective.
Which in the end we all get to benefit from.
Riverside Blend – Oval’s half-caffeinated blend
Today we’re excited to offer two coffees from Oval Coffee Roasters on our marketplace. At an exclusive discount for our subscribers.
1) Three Khuns – Oval’s single origin from Myanmar. This naturally processed coffee boasts profound sweetness and complexity that stem from its dried fruit undertones.
Think golden raisin, brown sugar, and a hint of molasses.
With its pronounced ferment character, Three Khuns is a brilliant choice for both espresso and pour-over brewing.
2) Riverside Blend – A taste of sunshine. This unique half-caffeinated blend has an extraordinarily bright profile. With notes of golden apple, fig jam, and cane sugar.
A personal favorite among Oval’s offerings. It may change the way you look at blends.
Oval roasts on Mondays and ships within 2 business days.
Shipping: $5 Flat Rate
Office Subscription Service (NYC)
We’re making it official here: We’ve launched our Office Subscription Service in NYC!
Good stuff starts with good coffee. And we’re on a mission to deliver the premium stuff to offices here in New York.
Curated by us and sourced from the best roasters around.
If you’d like to learn more, reply back to this email to get in touch.
And if your office is suffering through those awful coffee pod machines, we have some solutions for that as well.
As the saying goes…
“Good stuff starts with good coffee. So give your team the premium stuff.”
– Dalai Lama (rumored)
Supernatural by Superlost (free shipping)
Kossa Geshe Natural by Unity Coffee
Of Land & Women Blend by Kula Coffee
Nyamasheke by Kula Coffee
Kayonza by Kula Coffee
Ambition Blend by No Sleep Roastery
Ethiopia Belayneh Bariso by Elm Coffee Roasters (free shipping)
Arches - Colombia Natural by Park Pass Coffee
La Favorita by Good Citizen Coffee Co.
Rocky Mountain Blend by Park Pass Coffee
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