Changing the Coffee Business Model
In 2007, two parallel paths defied the rules of mathematics and intersected. It was the first day of law school for Noushin Ketabi and her future husband and business partner, Rob Terenzi. A friendship quickly began between two people who had uncannily similar life stories as well as a deep-rooted passion for coffee. Two helpings of entrepreneurial mindset, undertones of ritual and passion, filtered through the nontraditional, all came together to form the irresistible brew that is Vega Coffee.
One had spent time in Nicaragua and the other in Costa Rica, but Rob and Noushin both realized just how convoluted the coffee supply chain was. “We were exposed to the coffee industry at origin where we really fell in love with the people and places. At the same time, we felt a disconnect.” Consumers were paying a high price for coffee in the States, while the farmers who produced the beans in that cup were unable to even sustain their business. Rob suggested, “What if farmers took on more of the supply chain and exported at origin?”
Rob and Noushin were successful in distilling the coffee supply chain into three essential parts represented in their logo: producer, consumer and marketplace. Vega represents the brightest star in a three-star constellation, which is fitting as their unique format is a shining example of a new way of operating in the coffee business.
The power couple refuses to take all of the credit though, as they emphasize that only the best things come in threes: supply chains, constellations and more importantly, business partners. Rob’s best friend from college, Will DeLuca, has been invaluable in building Vega. He developed and continues to maintain the website and plays an integral role in customer service and acquisition. It takes a team to get to the top.
Vega is the first and only specialty coffee subscription service roasting at origin and exporting direct to customers in the US every two weeks. As Rob puts it, “everyone is so busy these days, we want to make thoughtful choices as easy as possible…there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff.” People can come to Vega and have the best while also being confident that the producers and everyone in the supply chain are benefiting.
Unexpectedly, these coffee connoisseurs only drink about two cups a day, which makes quality of utmost importance. “[Drinking coffee] is very much a sacred ritual for us…a very important part of our morning and afternoon, and we want to share that experience with everyone.” But it’s about more than just a cup of coffee for these two. They want to introduce their customers to the people and the places that grew the coffee.
“What most people don’t know is that coffee farmers have been roasting forever.” Rob and Noushin collaborate with these farmers and augment their skills with additional training in roasting and cupping to meet certification standards and to open new doors of opportunity for the farmers. A shorter supply chain not only gives farmers a larger piece of the pie, but also narrows the gap from origin to consumer. “[Vega] connects you with the farmers who have spent years cultivating your coffee. You may live in two very different corners of the world, but you’re actually connected over this extraordinary beverage.” Through Vega’s online subscription service and social media outlets, customers are able to see the faces and hear the stories of the actual people who roasted their coffee!
Vega Coffee has a large presence in Nicaragua and will soon be expanding to Colombia with talks of Guatemala down the road. You can purchase a monthly coffee subscription on the Vega website (Vegacoffee.com), a curation of the finest coffees in Nicaragua — each month offers a new rare and delightful coffee with the beans arriving at your door within five days of roasting! Vega also provides office subscriptions, and are piloting cold brew growlers for any occasion. Just keep an eye out for the wily little fox sipping on a cup of joe under their symbolic stellar trifecta.
In entrepreneurship and in life, Noushin passes on this advice. “Just be humble. Don’t get tunnel vision; consider conversations with an outsider who has a fresh perspective. Don’t be afraid of change and trying new things. Find a balance through fresh perspective and staying true to your values.”
Enjoy 50% off your first bag of beans when you subscribe at vegacoffee.com.
Just use the code: IMPACTMAG at checkout!