For as much as the specialty coffee industry invokes the concept of “community,” it remains tightly bound by the constraints of competitive business.
Providing some hope that these two concepts may not be diametrically opposed is The Coffee MBA, a new venture led by longtime specialty coffee professional turned business coach Miranda Caldwell.
Caldwell recently rolled out The Coffee MBA Community, a new collaborative online venue designed to promote business success and professional growth in specialty coffee.
“We’ve got the coffee part down. We’re really good at that as an industry. Let’s start talking about the big picture and how we’re going to keep this thing going,” Caldwell said when launching the Coffee MBA Community earlier this summer. “Because if coffee roasters don’t get profitable, producers won’t be profitable, importers won’t be profitable… nobody will be profitable. We won’t keep these engines running.”
The service, which offers different free or paid membership types, is hosted largely in the Circle platform. Benefits to members include networking-driven knowledge exchange, resource libraries and templates, expert workshops and access to group or individualized coaching, depending upon the membership type.
Caldwell began working in specialty coffee in 2000 and has since held numerous management positions for companies such as Counter Culture Coffee and Verve Coffee Roasters. The Michigan native, who recently relocated to Berlin, Germany, served as COO of Madcap Coffee just prior to earning an MBA in 2022.
“Through this journey, I learned that I loved coffee, but supporting the successful operations of the business and team was really what got me out of bed in the morning,” Caldwell recently told DCN. “Grad school and my out-of-coffee experiences pushed me to realize that there’s no reason these small to medium sized specialty coffee businesses couldn’t adopt the same principles multinational corporations and startups use for massive sales. They just need to be scaled appropriately.”
As with multinational corporations, even the smallest coffee businesses exist in a competitive environment. However, Caldwell hopes The Coffee MBA Community will help working coffee folks feel like they’re part of a wider community of people with similar goals and interests.
“One of my favorite things about the specialty coffee industry is the community. One of my least favorite things has been the gatekeeping of knowledge and information and the ego that prevents folks from making meaningful improvements in their business,” Caldwell told DCN. “I wanted to take what I loved and solve for what wasn’t working by creating a space that was safe and non-judgemental, where folks could come and share with each other, learn foundational business practices and skills, and bear witness to one another’s progress.”
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