Connecting over coffee: Startup sustains local roasters by bringing coffee home.

During tough times, subscription startup Trade Coffee is helping other small businesses and keeping the coffee community connected.

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With COVID-19 shutting down so many American businesses, New York City–based Trade Coffee is doing what many other small businesses can’t.

“Coffee roasters have experienced a huge disruption,” says Melissa Spencer Barnes, CMO of Trade Coffee. “They usually see a huge amount of business from their retail stores and from wholesale orders to companies or other coffee shops and restaurants. Now they have to shift their focus to online sales.”

Enter Trade Coffee: an e-commerce–based coffee delivery startup that thoughtfully pairs everyday java drinkers with local specialty roasters from across the country.

“We’ve pivoted a little, but we’re basically sticking to our mission,” says Barnes. “We’re just amplifying it now, given the circumstances of what is going on and how badly it has disrupted the coffee community.”

For coffee roasters who’ve had to deal with the loss of demand from coffee shops, Trade Coffee gives them a way to connect directly with stay-at-home brewers, a demographic that’s grown exponentially during the pandemic.

Some roasters have seen their orders through Trade increase by two or three times. For example, Red Rooster Coffee, a Trade-affiliated roaster based in Floyd, Virginia, says their business has changed drastically.

“Virtually overnight, we moved from 60% wholesale bulk coffee sales to cafes and restaurants that are now closed to 75% online sales,” says Haden Polseno-Hensley, the owner of Red Rooster Coffee.

“Through that relationship, we’ve been able to keep people on staff that otherwise wouldn’t have jobs today.”

Coffee shop blues mean more home brews.

The need for quality coffee beans in home pantries is greater than ever, and Trade’s digital marketplace is a way for local roasters like Red Rooster to continue to meet the needs of consumers and sustain their businesses.

“It’s really supporting people where they’re at right now, which is getting them fresh coffee when they need it as they’re literally stuck at home,” Barnes says. 

Using coffee, community, connection to give back.

Even as home brewing becomes the norm and online sales increase, many roasters in Trade Coffee’s network have had to lay off or furlough a portion of their workforce.

“The other side of it for us is to raise donations for roaster employees to help make up for their lost wages and tips,” says Barnes.

To help ease their burdens, Trade pledged to donate $2 from each first coffee order toward funds set up to benefit its roasters’ employees. Yogurt company Chobani even noticed the effort and joined in, offering to match each dollar contributed up to $20,000. And to drive even more donations, Trade set up more than 40 links on their website allowing others to leave virtual tips for the employee funds of their favorite roasters within the network.

“With roasters just feeling devastation, many were already starting funds on behalf of their employees,” Barnes says. “We wanted to find the easiest, quickest way for us to give back.”

To Barnes, coffee is “inherently all about connection.”

“When I think of connectivity, I think of the role that coffee plays in human connection and how we are able to keep that connection alive even in this new world that we’re living in,” she says.

“We’re still delivering that coffee to people all across the country, and they’re still able to share those moments of connection with one another. I think it comes down to that community that we’re creating by connecting coffee drinkers and roasters.”

Want to join Trade Coffee in supporting local roasters across the country? Learn more, buy coffee and leave a virtual tip for employee funds of local roasters on Trade Coffee’s website.

You can also join Verizon’s #PayItForwardLIVE initiative benefiting local communities by sharing ways to support small businesses.

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