This post is part of the “Small Business, Big Ideas” series, in which business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators share their stories of overcoming obstacles and achieving success. “Small Business, Big Ideas” is sponsored by Chase.
one of New York’s most promising business startups, is quickly gaining popularity.The company delivers high-end coffee from roasters like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle to well-known clients in Silicon Alley, including Foursquare, Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Gilt.
Joyride Coffee was founded by three ambitious brothers, none older than 30.
“One of the things that some of the employees we brought in have noticed is that we have a tendency to be extremely blunt with each other,” says David Belanich, the eldest of the brothers. “We argue quite vocally with each other, but we always know that at the end of the day we have each other’s best interest at heart so there is a real implicit trust underlying everything we ever discuss and do.”
David, 30, decided to launch the company after realising a career in academia wasn’t for him. He was pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Yale, which he enjoyed, but he “didn’t like the professional side of academia, like having to fight to get tenure,” he says. “That was the push factor. The pull factor was just that I always wanted to build my own business just to see if I could do it.”
His brother Adam, 26, followed a similar trajectory when he quit a teacher’s assistant position at Dartmouth to come help his brother launch the company. For Noah, 24, the transition was even more natural; he joined the family business straight out of college. All three hold equal ownership in the company.
But the coffee delivery concept didn’t surface immediately. Adam and David started out selling coffee and frozen yogurt in a food truck: “We basically took the same concept as Mr. Softee and tried to make it a little more modern,” says David. But they quite literally hit several bumps in the road: Over the course of one summer, the truck got hit by city buses four different times.
Their first partnership was with Stumptown Coffee, so while selling coffee out of the food truck, Adam and David started bringing Stumptown coffee to offices on the side. They soon gave up the truck and opened an office in Queens in 2011. Their full-time delivery business is sort of like catering, with a twist.
“Our clients become our customers for the long term,” David explains. “We set them up with equipment and we deliver on a biweekly basis, so we get to see them pretty frequently. Whereas with catering, it’s more of a ‘one-off relationship’ like when you deliver a product for a wedding or an event.”
They also offer coffee tastings complete with a professional barista to teach customers everything about the coffee, like how its origins and varietals translate to a difference in flavour. Recently Joyride introduced a new and even more unconventional concept to their business: cold brewed iced coffee in a keg.
Early next week the brothers plan on delivering a five-gallon keg of coffee to Gawker Media. “They’ve agreed to be our guinea pigs,” David says, explaining that Gawker will be the first client to try out their new product. “It’s going to be exciting because we have our own tap and handle and it looks like a beer tap, except coffee comes out of it.”
Joyride created the device themselves because no one had ever made one before. They bring the same fun and inventive aspect they did to the keg concept, to everything they do with their business. Tasting sessions are fun and energetic, and so is their office culture.
When they first started the company, David brought his two Boxers into the office “and then Noah got a dog because we wanted to keep the person-dog ratio even,” he says. “We function like a Google office, minus all the perks.” So far they’ve hired six employees, with two interns joining this summer.
David has several theories as to why the majority of their clients are in the tech world, including an elaborate one that traces how both third-wave coffee roasters and tech companies migrated together from the West Coast to the East. But one of the biggest reasons, he says, is probably that Joyride also embraces the same laid-back company culture as many of its Silicon Alley clients.
“Sometimes it is like a doggy day care centre in here with a Boston terrier and the two Boxers running around,” says David. “I think it plays into our casual work environment. It probably related to the familial work environment we have here where we are totally comfortable with each other.”
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