Coffee & More, LLC

The Company

Coffee & More, LLC, based in San Antonio, Texas is a small company offering high quality, expertly roasted, coffee blends. Robert Allen, CEO, was originally a senior partner for an Internet service provider but was inspired to enter the coffee industry, and started buying green coffee beans in small quantities, roasting and reselling them. In 2006, he created Coffee & More LLC, an idea which grew into a business selling over 36 varieties of coffee, and which recently expanded with a line of teas and chocolates. The company buys the best coffee beans from around the world, and adheres to a “one world” concept of making sure all the humans and animals used in the production process are treated with dignity and respect. Their coffee is sold to private users, government offices, businesses, schools, coffee shops, and specialty stores.

ffee & More Gift Basket

Basket of assorted Coffee & More goods

The Challenge

Coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world after oil, so Coffee & More needed to come up with a way to differentiate its products from the competition. Drinking coffee is a cultural experience, and the way coffee is roasted and prepared differs from country to country. “In some countries people drink coffee with a consistency of molasses, while others like their coffee to be weaker, more like tea,” said Allen. “People thought we were cutting our throats by exporting, and I admit we had our own doubts. However, we knew the customer base for our product outside the United States was large, and so was the potential for success.”

The Solution

Coffee & More started working with the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) San Antonio office early on. In 2007, Allen participated in the “San Antonio Export Leaders Program,” a program created by the City of San Antonio, the U.S. Commercial Service, and the University of Texas San Antonio. During the training, Allen received trade counseling, customized market research, and information on market entry strategies. The export planning and preparation served Allen’s business philosophy, “that in business, people do not prepare to fail, they fail to prepare.” As a result of knowledge gained from the program, Coffee & More made large international sales to Mexico and Italy. CS San Antonio collaborated with the Foreign Agricultural Service and CS offices abroad, and continued to assist Coffee & More as it successfully exported to Iraq, Australia, and Japan.

“Now international exporting has become an integral part of the company,” says Allen. “Our international exports went from 2% of annual income in 2005 to 60% of annual income in 2009, and we’ve been able to add more jobs.

Coffee & More’s exporting strategy focuses on what they do best: offering quality products and service while giving back to the community.

“Customers buy coffee the way they want it with a promise of quality, purity and freshness. If we fail on any point, the order is replaced or refunded,” says Allen. Since each customer receives a customized product, we are effectively addressing cultural differences in coffee drinking.”

Based on the success of Coffee & More and the knowledge gained through exporting, Allen started an export management company, Stoic International, which helps other companies learn about exporting.

Lessons Learned

CEO Robert Allen states, “My advice to other companies considering exporting is to go for it, but be smart and do your homework first. Educate yourself and use your local U.S. Commercial Service office. If it was not for the CS San Antonio office I would be out of business, there is no doubt about that!”

Allen recommends getting insurance on all international orders, and establishing a relationship with a broker/forwarder. “Do not change the way you do business just because it is international. Good business is good business everywhere,” says Allen.

Action

  • Identify your drivers of success. Coffee & More identified the launching of a quality product and responsiveness to customers as key factors to attaining success in domestic and international markets.
  • Get a freight forwarder/customs broker. They will ensure your products are delivered on time.
  • Use your local U.S. Commercial Service office. CS trade specialists will connect you to the resources and information you need. Like Coffee & More, you can participate in local or virtual events, to help enhance your knowledge on exporting.