Suyog Mody and Anu Menon are two small business owners roasting up a storm in a coffeecup. The husband-and-wife team with backgrounds in computer science and electrical engineering left successful managerial careers in marketing at Sapient to follow their passion, in this case coffee. A year ago they launched Driftaway, a small-batch, hand-roasted coffee subscription service based in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. The area, known for its industrial past, is now filled with small businesses building mostly digital-based products from warehouse studios.
Driftaway, which already ships 1200 freshly roasted packets a month across America and growing, was carefully constructed following months of proof-of-concept testing. Since the coffee market is a crowded one, Mody and Menon were keen to create a business that could hold its own in the ring despite the company’s small size. Using friends and family as a test audience, they turned their evenings and weekends to investigating aspects of the future service such as brand affiliation, tasting preferences, packaging, shipping and roasting equipment. The couple, spurred on by Steve Jobs’ mantra to “love what you do”, soon realized this was their passion-project.
Mody and Menon decided to make showcasing a range of roast profiles, absolute freshness and unique design their business focus. Firstly, they created a service that enables customers to select beans based on the taste profile: from light pour-overs to full-bodied roasts designed for espresso lovers. To maintain freshness, beans are roasted within 48 hours of an order and shipped to arrive no later than 5 days after roast date based on location. Finally each 11 or 7 oz. Driftaway package is designed to “feel” like an experience, with custom-designed shipping tags and vacuum-packed packages emulating vintage Air Mail stationery. An added extra: by creating a mail-order business, Driftaway have managed to keep overheads such as retail space to a minimum, helping to make their small family-owned business more viable.
Another strategic differential for their business is curation. Driftaway begins with a free tasting kit delivered to the customer’s door (only shipping costs apply). The kit showcases a range of coffees with tasting notes. Based on what kind of coffee appeals most to the customer (or customers - Driftaway is unique in allowing customers to select more than one type of coffee per order to accommodate households with a range of tastes) subsequent shipments include beans with the same flavor profile. However since beans and origins vary between shipments based on availability each delivery, though curated, remains unique.
To support the experiential component of the business, the tech-savvy duo also decided to invest in building a mobile app, which has just launched on the iTunes store. The app enables customers to build their own taste “adventures” on the fly with features to rate coffees against a range of metrics. Each rating goes to build a coffee “profile” such as “Explorer”, which in turn helps Driftaway curate the customer’s next order and creates a fun incentive for customers to use the app. In addition to the taste ratings, the app includes options to communicate with the Driftaway team in real-time and learn more about coffee in general.
Driftaway sources from all over the world via green bean purveyors such as Coffee Shrub, fellow Brooklyn-based Crop to Cup and green bean supplier stalwart Sweet Maria’s. Like any small business, learning how to source the right beans, roast and ship them required a lot of dedication and hard work. The couple initially invested evenings and weekends into conducting market research, attended barista trainings and experimented with roasting in shifts at home. They have since graduated from repurposed popcorn machines to electric ovens, gas-powered Huky roasters and finally commercial roasting equipment at a shared facility in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. This final step came out of necessity after one review from a well-known coffee and tech blogger netted them 250 orders overnight! The shared facility helps keep overheads to a minimum while providing contact with fellow coffee roasters.
Beyond testing out the coffee kits, much of what the couple has learned in the process is now shared with other enthusiasts on their “Coffeecademy”. We can’t wait to see what happens next in this coffee adventure!
Order your first tasting kit from: https://driftaway.coffee/
Connect with Driftaway!
KINNEK BUSINESS PROFILE:
Business: Driftaway Coffee Company
About: Small-batch, hand-roasted coffee delivered to your door
Strategy: Lean start-up, coffee curation experts
Location: Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Coffee Shrub Green Bean Supplies: http://www.coffeeshrub.com/
Sweet Maria’s Green Bean Supplies & home-roasting resources: https://www.sweetmarias.com/
Crop to Cup Coffee Importers: https://www.croptocup.com/
Pulley Collective Co-Roasting Facility: http://pulleycollective.com/
Prima Coffee Equipment: https://prima-coffee.com/?gclid=CPmVtvyAz8YCFZMWHwoduyIOKQ