Like many small businesses, Bizzy Coffee was born out of a personal need -- and a little bit of a mess.
Co-founders and once-roommates Alex French and Andrew Healy were training for The World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour obstacle course challenge, while holding down jobs at General Mills’ venture capital division 301 Inc. and St. Jude Medical, respectively. To get energized, they often made cold brew coffee at home, “which is a real pain in the butt,” French says. “It’s really messy and it takes a lot of time and energy.” Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, if there was a simpler, more convenient way to keep cold press coffee around?
They started brainstorming on a cold press coffee concentrate that would be sold in multi-serve and single-serve bottles, an idea they developed further after quitting their jobs and moving to New York for a 13-week accelerator program. By day, they developed a business plan, a marketing strategy, and learned about online commerce. At night, they slept on the office floor.
“At the time, we were so naïve. We were on this new journey and we were living in this new city and we had raised a little bit of capital, so we were very, very optimistic,” French says.
Finances forced them to leave Manhattan and return to Minnesota after three months -- today, they operate out of the Food Building in Northeast. (“It was winter and we were selling a cold beverage. There was a little bit of anxiety,” French admits.) But they went ahead with production of 16-ounce bottles of cold brew concentrate, and Bizzy Coffee launched on Amazon in 2016.
“The first three months, it felt like we were going nowhere. The second three months was kind of like a roller coaster,” Healy says. “It’s almost like a snowball effect. Once you get a little momentum, that’s really when it happens.”
Within six months of its debut, Bizzy Coffee became the number one selling cold brew coffee on the Internet. They currently sell single-serve shots as well as 32-ounce bottles of cold brew concentrate in vanilla, black, and caramel coffee flavors on their website and on Amazon. The shots are also on shelves in around 1,000 stores across the country and the 32-ouncers just launched in retail and are sold locally at Kowalski’s.
What makes Bizzy Coffee unique? For starters, it’s organic, plant-based, and 100 percent natural. “There’s nothing fake about it,” French says. It’s naturally calorie- and sugar-free, which sets its energy boost apart from Monster or Red Bull.
The difference between cold press coffee and traditional hot brewed coffee is that “you’re replacing temperature with time,” Healy explains. They soak the coffee grounds for 12 to 24 hours in room temperature water. (Hot water extracts acids and tannins into coffee, making it bitter and harder on the stomach.) Because cold brew coffee has lower acidity, the texture is smoother, the taste is sweeter, and it’s less likely to cause acid reflux. It’s also concentrated, which means you can adjust the caffeine level to your liking. Want it strong? Drink it like a shot. Prefer a gentler lift? Mix with water, almond milk, or cream for an iced coffee drink.
Athletes will particularly appreciate the convenience and portability; you can drink a serving pre-activity to boost calorie burn or down a shot during your workout if your energy dwindles. “It’s just coffee and water. You don’t have to worry about what you’re putting into your body like a lot of performance supplements out there,” Healy says. “It’s really a cross between health, convenience, and getting your energy in a plant-based way.”
In addition to its healthy attributes, the company is committed to sustainability. When Healy worked with medical devices at St. Jude Medical, he liked the fact that he was helping people, and French shares that passion. They knew they wanted their company to be sustainable “from the bean to the bottle,” Healy says. Those beans are ethically sourced and USDA organic; the bottles are BPA-free and recyclable. The company minimizes waste in the production process, and all of their spent coffee grounds are composted at local farms. What’s more, the Food Building where Bizzy Coffee production occurs has solar panels on the roof for clean energy.
As for the sustainability of the company itself, no worries there. The founders have new flavors in the works, including seasonal and mainstream flavors. A different product format is also forthcoming, but you’ll have to keep your eyes on Bizzy Coffee’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and for that revelation. The company doesn’t do any traditional advertising -- no radio, print, or TV -- instead relying on social media to directly share the healthy mindset and active lifestyle that inspired them to sign up for that crazy obstacle race in the first place.
Not bad for a couple of guys who toiled in corporate America just a few years ago.