The Roasterpreneur Series focuses on inspiring up-and-coming roasters and offers advice on running a successful roastery. This week, we spoke to Melissa Garcia Villanueva, founder and CEO of Brewpoint Coffee Roasters to find out how they went from buying a cafe online to running a coffee roastery.
Seven months into dating, Melissa Villanueva and her partner Angelo were browsing through Craigslist for an espresso machine.
Instead, what they ended up buying was a coffee shop and in 2014, Brewpoint Coffee opened for business.
Eight years later, Brewpoint Coffee is a fully fledged coffee company with four cafes, a roastery, and an event space.
Additionally, Melissa is the co-author of a book called ‘Starting & Running a Coffee Shop’ and the brand has won several awards, such as Business of the Year, and Best Coffee Shop in Illinois.
“Brewpoint was built on a promise to get a little better every day,” Melissa explains. “As a brand, we have an overall dedication to equity and inclusion.
“Brewpoint Coffee is not just a business, it is a platform and ecosystem where we are building the world we want to see,” Melissa says.
From running a cafe to becoming a manufacturer
Two years into running the cafe, it became clear to Melissa and Angelo that if they wanted to profit from the business and pay staff, the brand would have to grow.
“Roasting coffee was our way of extending our ecosystem beyond the local community to a global one,” explains Melissa.
In 2017, the couple renovated a 4,000-square-foot loading dock into a cafe, roastery, and event space. “In December of that year, we opened our coffee roastery as a supporting business to our cafes.
“This year, we are investing in our coffee manufacturing business in order to benefit our farmers, as well as other manufacturing coffee businesses,” Melissa adds.
Currently, Brewpoint is working on a new manufacturing site that is geared towards supporting a fair and inclusive coffee industry.
Melissa explains the space will allow small manufacturing coffee businesses to learn how to roast or house their green coffee.
Alternatively, they can rent time on Brewpoint Coffee’s equipment or have the brand toll roast for them.
“Through Brewpoint’s external partnerships, these businesses will have access to financing, educational business resources, and lower cost of goods expenses,” Melissa says.
“I truly believe that with the changes happening in the specialty coffee industry, small businesses will need to collaborate and work together in order to make the numbers work,” she adds.
Melissa admits one of the largest issues she struggled with was changing her mindset. “It can be difficult to switch from the financial mindset of running a cafe to running a manufacturing business.
“It is an entirely different beast, with different metrics to consider. Creating an environment for a roasting associate is very different from that of a barista,” she says.
Understanding when to refresh your brand
As the brand has grown successfully over the years, Melissa reveals Brewpoint Coffee is about to undergo a rebrand.
Currently, Brewpoint Coffee is packaged in flat-bottom coffee pouches made from sustainable, natural kraft paper. The bags boast a colourful custom print label and the brand’s iconic logo: a hexagon with a triangle fitted inside.
The hexagon represents the six values of the company, which are curiosity, empathy, community, diversity, responsibility, and collaboration. The triangle represents how Brewpoint Coffee makes its impact through coffee, creativity, and community.
While Melissa is keeping the redesign a secret, the rebranded coffee bags are sure to capture consumer attention, much like its current packaging does.
As a business, Brewpoint aims to inspire all players within the specialty coffee industry by collaborating with and supporting smaller enterprises.
For instance, the brand provides these businesses with a platform on which they can share resources, learn from others in the industry, and grow successfully.
Additionally, Brewpoint is making a significant social impact as it provides its coffee farmers with $2 or more above Fair Trade coffee prices. The brand also ensures it purchases full lots of coffee to provide security for the farmers.
More so, Brewpoint has partnered with World Coffee Research (WCR). For every pound of green coffee purchased, 1% will go towards supporting WCR’s research to develop a more sustainable specialty supply chain.
As a brand, Brewpoint is a prime example of how a coffee business can offer great coffee and also be a vehicle for change across the value chain.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to open a coffee roastery?
“I’m very much a ‘learn by experience’ person,” Melissa explains. “So, it’s difficult for me to imagine a different experience than what I’ve done thus far.”
That said, she admits if she could start the process over, she would find a location with a loading dock that did not interfere with cafe operations or events.
Melissa also advises aspiring roasters to understand why they are choosing to open a coffee roastery.
“Is it to support your cafes, or provide customers with transparent, ethically sourced coffee? Will it be done via ecommerce or retail, and will you want to scale regionally or nationwide?” she asks.
Notably, there are a million ways to build a coffee roasting business. However, Melissa says understanding what you aim to achieve can help roasters define their operations and overhead.
“I say this as someone who has all their fingers in all the different pies,” she laughs. Knowing my why is something I have to revisit regularly to ensure I’m building a business for the long run.”
Did you enjoy this edition of our Roasterpreneur Series? Learn more about running a successful coffee roastery by reading our interview with Metropolis Coffee Company.
Photo credits: Brewpoint Coffee