This is a follow up story for Firebean Coffee Roasters. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello again! Thanks for circling back! My name is Michael Russo and I’m a Coffee Pedaler. I run a micro coffee roastery in Canada’s Beautiful Yukon Territory. Our flagship product is our pedal-powered and fire-roasted coffee, but we’ve also done a lot of unique collaborations with other local businesses here in The Yukon! We’re having a lot of fun with Firebean!
I call myself a “Pedaler” because I do just that to roast my coffee. Our modified pizza oven is connected to an old stationary bike which we use to spin the drum above a roaring hot wood-fire. It’s an old school traditional way of pushing heat to beans and I can’t get enough of it, while the bike part just happened out of necessity. Using intermediate technologies (fire and pedal) to power our operation feels free and sustainable and is truly in line and suited to our lifestyle in the North.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We’ve been moving more and more coffee every month. I’ve been busy pedaling and I have the calves to prove it! We are continuing with local farmers markets and holiday shows and wholesale partners as our main streams of revenue, we even launched a simple coffee counter on Main Street at one of our favorite family-run gift shops “The Midnight Sun Emporium” this helps with marketing and sampling our coffee to locals and tourists.
Act as if the results you seek are already with you, and if it needs to be adjusted then adjust things as you move along. DON'T WAIT FOR CONDITIONS TO BE PERFECT. Things take time too, so put things on a long time-line.
One of our biggest growth strategies in 2019 was simple grassroots networking. The goal was to build relationships with the local Chamber, the local tourism industry association, connect with local festivals, and associations and entrepreneurial spirits like me. Collaborate and be there when they need coffee for events, meetings, and fundraising. We met and continued to meet a lot of people, and we found ourselves happily offering coffee at a good price or even giving the coffee away.
Another growth strategy was to develop a website and eCommerce. We spent a year learning about that universe and started taking orders from far and wide. We’ve sent our coffee to all parts of Canada, the United States and even overseas. People visit The Yukon and bring our coffee for souvenirs, we've seen social media about it in Alaska, Ireland, Australia, and even Japan. A humbling thing to be a part of since.
Since COVID-19 in 2020, our website sales have almost doubled and we are continuing to learn how to reach and serve our audience. We now offer “No Contact” FREE LOCAL delivery within Whitehorse, and that’s going pretty well.
We have been leaning into our local newspapers to help us advertise too. One publication Yukoners like browsing is called “What’s Up Yukon”. It's a weekly publication that highlights the happenings in the community. One of the publications we were a part of was a “LOCAL FOOD SECTION” complete with contests and giveaways. It was nice to speak directly to our neighbors who love local food!
Another marketing initiative I am trying to learn more about our Facebook Ads. These have an amazing reach and so far have provided an acceptable return on investment. I will continue to fiddle around with these for sure.
To date, we haven't hired any full-time employees. It’s still a one-man-band. I like the lean and mean sole proprietorship model. If at any time I feel overwhelmed I call on friends and teenagers to help out here and there.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest lesson I have learned this year is that the customer is my boss. Find out what they expect from you and listen to them and serve them.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I want to grow in a direction that allows us to invite people into the roasting room. I want people to visit Firebean Coffee Roasters and experience all the things I have come to love about it. But more than that I want to inspire people to DREAM. Put their ideas into action and live their STOKE!
In the short term, I plan to continue to serve our local community and existing online customers. I will definitely continue learning about ecomm too! In the long term, let's say (5 years down the line) I am excited about having a bigger setup. I would love to have the ability to host roasts and have visitors experience everything that Firebean represents. Maybe even a small retail space.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
To be honest I have not read any physical books this past year. I have been on podcasts, mostly on motivational topics.
One that I like these days is called OPTIMAL LIVING DAILY. It's a curated collection of personal development, minimalism, productivity, and more offered daily and narrated for free. The host chooses some of the top blog posts from the internet and just reads them to you...genius!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I always hesitate on these types of questions because we are all on unique business journeys! What works for some does not work for all, and it’s hard to offer generalized responses.
The best thing I think we can do as entrepreneurs are to visualize the outcomes, and manifest them into your life. Act as if the results you seek are already with you, and if it needs to be adjusted then adjust things as you move along. DON'T WAIT FOR CONDITIONS TO BE PERFECT. Things take time too, so put things on a long time-line. I have found that if things are on long timelines...like “What does this look like in 10, or 20 years, then the day to day obstacles and challenges you run into won't seem to be as much of a problem.
Finally, collaborate with others online and in your local community. Some will welcome it, some won’t. Find helpers.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At the moment my legs feel strong and I’m not looking to hire any new employees.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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