You have seen him standing in the hallway during lunch, you have read the emails on Community News – but do you really know the story behind Brown Coffee? I interviewed Grade 12 student Corrigan Brown ’14 to find out more about his venture into the coffee business.
#1. What motivated you to start this business?
There were a couple things actually; firstly I’d never done anything like this before in my life, and I was dying to try it out. I’ve always had an attraction towards business, whether it be the hands-on running of a business or the managerial side, but at the time I didn’t care and just wanted to start something. The actual idea of bringing gourmet coffee to Ridley came to me halfway through my grade 11 year. I had recognized the need for specialty coffee at Ridley, and before I knew it, I was pitching the idea to a friend, who encouraged me to go ahead with the plan.
#2. When did you officially open for business? What steps did you take to get the business started?
I officially started on Tuesday the 12th of October 2013 after about a week of what I called pre-sales. Essentially I started selling coffee cards, which cost 10$ and have 6 cups of coffee on them. Through these sales I was able to raise enough money to go ahead with the creation of Brown Coffee, buy machines, buy the actual coffee and set up the stand, which was the bulk of starting up the business itself.
#3. What have you learned from the experience?
I’ve learned more about people, relationships and connections than I had expected. Of course I learned a lot about running a business and other things like marketing, but I also learned that running a business is a heck of a lot more than just the day-to-day operations. There’s a whole other side to business that often goes completely unaccounted for, and that’s the relationships you’ll develop with people as a result of running the business. Brown Coffee is a one-man operation, so there’s nothing between my customer and I, so hopefully it feels like a better experience than just going to get a coffee at an urn.
#4. Why did you choose to give the profits to house charities?
In order to secure school support, I felt that it was more appropriate to make Brown Coffee a non-profit business. What will happen is at the end of the year, I’ll pool together all of the profits the business has made over the year, and divide it out equally amongst the 9 Ridley house charities.
#5. What has the response been to the business from the Ridley community?
Overall the response has been very positive. This isn’t only reflected in sales, but in the comments and the emails that I get from various faculty members and students. I’ve been very happy with the support I’ve been getting; people have offered to make a commercial for me, to help me with setup or takedown and of course, the marketing team that assembled before the Christmas break.
#6. How has the business evolved since you started?
What’s changed mostly is the array of products I’ve offered. I went from offering, Tim Horton’s and Starbucks coffee to offering both hot chocolate and French vanilla, which have overcome Tim Horton’s and Starbucks in sales since their introduction.
#7. Do you have any future plans for the business?
I have a couple plans, hopefully soon a new variety will be introduced, but I’m still in the planning stage for that. I am also planning a Starbucks clearance sale that will start on the 27th of January and run until the end of the week.
#8. What do you hope to do in the future?
I still have no idea what I want to do with my life in terms of career, but I know that I will attend university for commerce and continue my studies in business. Maybe one day I’ll open the first Brown Coffee chain, and everyone from Ridley graduating after me will remember the business and its origins. I must admit though, it would be cool to graduate, then come back many years later to see Brown Coffee still running strong.