Friday, March 16, 2018

Interview with Old Katy Coffee in Texas

I met Derrick when he personally delivered coffee beans to my uncle’s house in Katy, Texas. I came to Texas to visit my uncle, a tea drinker. We were both unfamiliar with specialty coffee in Katy, TX and after a few days, we gave up trying to find my regular cup of java. By chance, I wanted to visit Old Katy and stumbled on Derrick’s business—“Old Katy Coffee”—online. Below is a brief, impromptu interview with Derrick, the husband of the husband-wife team of Old Katy Coffee
Me: Thank you for personally delivering the coffee.

Derrick: I’m glad we resolved the shipping issue. I was able to modify our website to allow free shipping because we’re so close to you. Regular customers allow us to eliminate or reduce shipping costs. 

Me: Why don’t Houston and Katy have more specialty coffee?

Derrick: If you’re in the city, in trendy areas such as the Heights and Montrose, there will be some specialty coffee places. I enjoy coffee so much, but everything here is spread out, so it’s tough for any small or new business to gain market share. Plus, there are so many Starbucks. 

The biggest thing is education. Farmer’s markets are a big thing in Houston, and they’re great because they offer fresh products, and we get a chance to interact with people. Good coffee isn’t rocket science. It needs to be high quality and fresh. Peak flavor is 3 to 14 days after roasting. The key is to get it to people quickly and make sure people taste it during that peak flavor time period. The flavor is still good for 30 days but starts to decline thereafter. Typically, the coffee on the [store] shelf has been sitting there for a while, and that’s what people are used to. New customers often tell me they can drink straight black coffee for the first time. Again, education is the key. Once they drink our coffee, mine is fresher, and customers usually develop a taste for fresher, higher quality products.

Me: I went to the address listed online and in your Facebook page, but I only saw a postal office. 

Derrick: That’s our P.O. box. We don’t have brick and mortar shops yet. We do “pop up” shops at markets, stores, neighborhood amenity centers and corporate locations. We'll even partner with yoga and other wellness studios. 

We also support the March of Dimes and participate in hospital events, where we donate 100% of our profits. Right now, I’m trying to build a brand, and our brand is about using coffee as a means to connect with the community. 

Me: How long have you had this business? 

Derrick: About 5 months. 

Me: Can I ask what you did before?

Derrick: I’m a finance and management guy by trade. It’s similar to law, very transactional, lots of numbers. It feels good to serve and interact with people. As I’ve become older, I’ve found it very rewarding to serve people. Coffee is cool because it’s so universal and so diverse, but also something common that allows you to interact across cultures and cities. I’m trying to build a community, which is the goal of most specialty/craft coffee [sellers]. 

Me: What’s been the most difficult part so far, other than building a brand? 

Derrick: Getting recurring customers. If we get enough volume and demand, we'll open a store but we need to feel comfortable putting up capital. I’m a CFO by trade. I’m still doing part-time CFO work, assisting businesses, helping them get banking relationships in place, accounting, and so on. 

Me: I see you offer coffee beans from many different countries. How do you manage the supply chain and import/export issues? 

Derrick: Houston is of course an amazing port city with easy access to many coffee-producing countries, especially in Latin and Central America. As a result, our suppliers have good selection. We offer seasonal menus based on availability and most importantly, what our customers enjoy. We also like to throw in a few non-standard regions and flavors in order to present customers with some variety. 

Me: Are you originally from Houston? What made you choose Katy? 

Derrick: We've been in Houston and Katy for about 4 years now. I’m from Southern Oklahoma. Katy is a great place for family. You can’t beat the schools and the people here. I’ve got kids. At a certain point, you go where it’s best for the kids. 

Me: What’s it like, working with your wife so closely in this new business? 

Derrick: In certain cases, you have to separate the personal from the business. It’s a challenge but it’s also exciting and rewarding. We’re a good team, and there’s more positives than negatives. She handles sales and marketing while I work on back-end items such as systems, supplier logistics and of course accounting. 

Me: Thank you for your time, and best of luck!

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