Although a variation of the term is used in her new business name, Catalyst Coffee Consulting, Emily McIntyre is not altogether comfortable with the label “consultancy.”
“We take clients not based on money, but based on how our goals mesh,” McIntyre recently told Roast’s Daily Coffee News. “Catalyst is an umbrella for us to do what we do really well, and be able to make our own schedules.”
The “we” in Catalyst is composed of Emily, her husband Michael McIntyre, and their 3-year-old daughter Eire. The McIntyres bring with them a diverse range of skills and experience. Eire is the charmer; Emily is a former barista with experience in beverage and coffee marketing, copywriting and event planning; and Michael is a licensed Q-grader, coffee roaster and licensed SCAA lead instructor.
Michael and Emily met in coffee at Aaron Duckworth’s quality-forward Espresso Dell’anatra in Kansas City before the shop closed. Emily was a new barista while Michael was more seasoned behind the bar. Following an awkward first encounter in which Emily says she was overly enthusiastic in meeting her then-more-well-established peer, the two have been together for six years and married for four. During that time, they developed largely divergent skill-sets surrounding their mutual love of coffee in Kansas City, Los Angeles and now Portland, where those skills are merging with Catalyst.
“Basically, I’m doing a wide range of marketing operations for people,” says Emily, whose current clients include Cup of Excellence organizers the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, and her former employer, craft beverage marketing firm The LAB, where McIntyre led some infamous Caffeine Crawls throughout some of the country’s top coffee cities.
Catalyst also works with a small, rotating group of roasters and/or retailers, where they provide some combination of Emily’s marketing services and Michael’s behind-the-scenes operational expertise. “Michael offers roasting training as well as some contract roasting, usually in a capacity where we’re actually training the shop or the business,” says Emily. “He also provides Q-grading services to importers and other interested parties.”
While not technically a green coffee importer, Catalyst is also helping facilitate relationships between roasters, importers and even cooperatives and farmers with whom they have direct ties. For example, Michael last set out for Ethiopia with an importer who specializes in Ethiopian coffees, as well as the head roaster of Catalyst client Caravan Coffee.
Emily says she and Michael are not opposed to the idea of bringing on associates who could further widen Catalyst’s skill umbrella as the business grows, but that decision would have to develop naturally and organically, much like Catalyst’s associations with clients.
“We’re not just looking for new clients or to just get bigger,” says Emily. “We really deeply believe in relationships, regardless of whether we’re going to make any money or not.”
Emily describes the family business as a “perfect storm” of relationship-based coincidences.
“We made the decision to pursue making our living in coffee and to do it in a way that reconciles with our passions and the transparency that we both desire,” says Emily. “I have spent my life not being afraid to make giant leaps of faith, and usually I land on my feet after some flailing around.”