A culture of nonstop grinding and overstimulation has people reaching for coffee like never before. But those endless espresso shots, cappuccinos and Americanos only lead to anxiety, loss of focus and burnout. Enter: Savorista. Savorista is on a quest to redefine the coffee category with their caffeine-conscious blends.
Available in a variety of fully-flavored blends, like Ethiopian (notes of milk chocolate, raspberry, jasmine and honey), Total Eclipse (notes of walnut, baker's chocolate and molasses) and so much more. They even have a subscription, so you'll never run out!
Savorista co-founder, Kait Brown, spoke with Foodboro about how she got her start in the world of coffee, how Savorista works with retail partners, her advice for other entrepreneurs and how she manages work/life balance. Pour yourself a cuppa java and read on.
What was life like for you before starting Savorista?
My journey to start Savorista was a long winding path. I first began working with farmers when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa. I collaborated with them to build an agricultural cooperative to access higher value markets for sesame and earn more for their crops. I supported these farmers to develop relationships with exporters and international buyers and to create systems to operate the business. This led me to realize how business can be so powerful to create a positive impact on the world. From there, I went to the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan to pursue an MBA and then spent three years at Bain, a leading management consulting firm to build out business skills. At one point, I was working on due diligence for private equity funds and the long, intense hours coincided with some of the most challenging times in my personal life. My father was diagnosed with cancer for the first time and Daniel, my long distance boyfriend, had uprooted his life to move to Chicago to be closer to me, but never saw me because I was always working. During this incredibly stressful time, I realized that the caffeine in the coffee I loved was amplifying my stress and preventing me from sleeping. I found myself on a caffeine-fueled road to burnout. I switched to decaf and realized there was a massive need for delicious coffee with less caffeine for coffee lovers who are thoughtful about their caffeine.
My personal experience led me on a search for delicious coffee with less caffeine that turned into a global decaf quest. Daniel and I traveled through Colombia, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia to meet and learn from producers, natural decaffeinators and so many others in the coffee industry. We tasted hundreds of coffees and found our first coffee (what we now call Colombian Inspiration) in a blind taste test. We were astonished when we learned it was decaf and that’s when we set our standards for any new coffee at “astonishingly delicious.” Savorista was born through that journey.
What are retail relationships like? Do you sell mostly DTC? Do you wholesale?
We started DTC because it was the best way to launch with an MVP, get feedback, build relationships and learn from customers, understand buying patterns, pain points and improve our business. We’ve recently started adding wholesale accounts and have a couple locations that offer our coffee. One coffee shop started carrying our coffee because an enthusiastic Savorista customer walked into their favorite coffee shop with a bag of Savorista and asked the shop to carry it!
Who in the industry do you turn to for inspiration?
I’m really excited by brands that are introducing new products or shaking up stale, stigmatized categories. Kuli Kuli foods introduced moringa to the US market, a super-healthy leaf I loved as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso. I love how Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have reinvigorated the plant-based meats category. They took the category from an uninspiring one where frozen veggie patties were the only option to an aspirational one that is mainstreaming. I also love how the non-alcoholic spirits and beers are flipping the old stigma and creating a ton of value in the space.
What other brands in the industry do you admire?
- Athletic Brewing
- Partake Foods
As a founder, what do you do to take care of your health, “turn off” work?
I haven’t been historically great at taking care of my mental and physical health and, like many people, I drank a lot of caffeinated coffee to work longer hours. After burning out, I focused on changing that. First, I drink a lot less caffeine and primarily drink decaf and half caf. This helps keep my stress levels in check and maintain more consistent energy levels than the highs and lows that I experienced when I drank a lot of caffeine. Also, less caffeine helps me sleep better and I aim to get close to 8 hours of sleep every night. I’ve seen myself on extended periods of 4 hours of sleep and I know I feel better and think better when I’ve slept well. I know that sounds obvious, but most people actually don’t sleep enough. I also try to eat healthy foods, reduce toxins in my home and not get too sucked into my phone.
I turn off work by being out in nature. I love hiking, kayaking and just being outside. Spending time with my husband and friends is also really rejuvenating… but it’s not uncommon for many of those conversations to come back to Savorista. I’m grateful to have good friends in a variety of different industries and love thinking through Savorista challenges with them.
Know that there will be challenges and setbacks along the way and that being anchored in a strong “why” will help you weather them.
What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?
- Learn from your customers. Get to know your early customers really well. If you are also your target customer, don’t assume all others have identical needs, preferences and motivations. Always look for input on how to improve your business. Pay attention to early “weak signals” but don’t change your strategy or pivot with every idea or piece of feedback.
- Know WHY you are building this business and identify who can be an emotional support. Entrepreneurship is an awesome, challenging and deeply personal journey. Know that there will be challenges and setbacks along the way and that being anchored in a strong “why” will help you weather them. In addition to finding experts, advisors, and other entrepreneurs you can learn from to build your business, also find entrepreneur friends in the same or different industries with whom you can be really open and vulnerable about the emotional aspects of the journey.
- Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Be really honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what brings you energy and drains your energy. Figure out early on who else you’ll need on your team to build a thriving business. Whether you are aiming to build a scalable, VC-backed business or a small business that supports your needs, you can’t do it all on your own. In the ultra-scrappy early days, if you are doing everything, pay attention to what you love and what you may want to delegate (bookkeeping anyone?) so you can focus on leveraging your strengths to build your business.
What food and beverage trends are over-hyped and which are here to stay?
I’m bullish on caffeine consciousness. I saw early “weak signals” a few years ago and I’ve seen the momentum building since then.
What can we expect next from Savorista?
We are launching a single serve pour over this summer! It will create a fast and quick way for coffee lovers to brew a delicious cup of coffee with less caffeine. To brew, you don’t need any special equipment, just hot water. This format has been in the works for a while and we’ve done a lot of testing with our customers.
- Follow Savorista at @savoristacoffee
- Try Savorista coffee here