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  • Startup Roaster Brakes For Coffee

    “We didn’t have cars. We love riding bikes so we just thought, hey, let’s jump on bikes and deliver this.

    Upstart: Gamechangers

    Bicycle Coffee’s Brandon McKee pedaled across Geary Street in San Francisco this week during a coffee-bean delivery to lower Pacific Heights.

    Bicycle Coffee Co., a San Francisco start-up, is taking green and local to an unusual level: It roasts coffee beans in-house and delivers them by bike to about 200 businesses.

    “We didn’t have cars. We weren’t interested in getting cars and we love riding bikes so we just thought, hey, let’s jump on bikes and deliver this,” said Cameron McKee. At 27 years old, he is the youngest of the three brothers, a cousin and a family friend who co-founded Bicycle Coffee.

    One coffee company in San Francisco is biking its way into local companies, cafes and grocery stores, delivering fresh coffee weekly by bike only. Stacey Delo reports.

    Every week, the crew delivers about 1,000 pounds of organic, fair-trade coffee to customers that include online game maker Zynga Inc., cafes and grocery stores, including one Mollie Stone’s and seven area Whole Foods Markets.

    “They were passionate about what they were doing, and I said, sure, I’ll bring it in,” said Jacques Corbin, the coffee and tea buyer for the Whole Foods on Franklin Street in San Francisco.

    To deliver the coffee, the team loads bags into large backpacks, sometimes carrying as much as 60 pounds. For heavy loads, they also use pannier-style side bags or rear bike racks. For even larger deliveries, the bike deliverers tow a hand-built cart laden with boxes. The cart doubles as a mobile tasting station.

    The owners say sales at the nearly two-year-old business are growing about 20% a month, and that they are profitable enough to employ three of the five founders full time. The company charges retailers an average of $12 for a pound of roasted beans.

    The partners came from varied backgrounds. One of the brothers, Brandon, owned night clubs. Another, Cameron, is a special-education teacher, and the oldest, Matthew, is a consultant with Mission Workshop, a bike-gear company. Brad Butler, the cousin among the founders, was in the mortgage business, and Mikael Kirkman, the friend, was a ceramicist.

    Beyond developing an interest in the family farms that grow the beans after a trip to Central America, none of the team had any roasting experience, though two had been baristas at Starbucks. They began roasting in a wok on a stove, turned to a stove-top popcorn maker and eventually built a natural-gas-powered roaster.

    Of course, the sustainable delivery ethos promoted by Bicycle Coffee only accounts for the last few miles of the coffee’s journey. The beans are imported from countries including Peru, Panama and Ethiopia, through the Port of Oakland, where they are trucked to their offices a mile away. Mr. Butler says the company tries to make the process as sustainable as possible once the beans are in their control.

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    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Gamechangers


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