Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Orazure Hand Roasted Coffee

I recently got back from a cross-country road trip where I drove from Chicago to Portland, OR. Besides putting nearly 5,000 miles on our rental car, my travel companion and I also became connoisseurs of gas station coffee.  We became well-versed in the difference between “pot has been sitting here since yesterday, “tastes like dirty water,” and “nope, will not and cannot drink this.”

So it was a breath of fresh roast (so to speak) to come back home and find this week’s small business spotlight in my inbox. Inspired by the period of blue light before the sun sets or rises completely, Orazure Hand Roasted Coffee aims to bring that richness and beauty to their artisanal roasted coffee.  The name is derived from the Latin words “hora” meaning hour and “azura,”  meaning blue.

Coffee ordered from Orazure is hand-roasted and then mailed the next day, guaranteeing that customers receive the beans at peak freshness. Orazure will be launching its ecommerce site in the next few weeks, so if you’re a coffee lover, be sure to sign up for the mailing list and be one of the first to order.

Founder Michael Marinelli speaks more below about getting into the coffee-roasting ecommerce business:

How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?

We roast coffee the old fashioned way; we select great coffee beans from around the world and hand roast them in small batches, using our senses to bring out the best flavors in each distinct coffee. When you order from us, we roast and ship your coffee the next day so that it is at peak freshness when you receive it. You can order coffee beans from our website or we’re happy to assist you on the phone as well.

What are some industry specific challenges you faced?

Many people say they “love coffee” and most of them are drinking industrial roasts. They haven’t been introduced to the flavors and freshness of coffee from an artisan roaster. So the challenge is to continually reach out and educate people about things that really make a difference in the cup –better coffee beans, better brewing techniques, etc. — to compel them to switch to a better-tasting, hand-crafted coffee. I think it’s the same challenge faced by all artisan food producers, whether it’s chocolate, beer, bacon… getting people to appreciate the craft. I want them to taste my coffee and say, “Ah, now that is love.”

What was your biggest learning curve/experience?

I have no background in ecommerce, which is frightening since it’s such an important part of a business. So creating an online store has been my biggest challenge. I want the site to be easy to use, interesting and useful for people, and to communicate the Orazure brand identity effectively. I think that’s a tall order. Thankfully, I’ve been able to reach out to few friends for advice and found many helpful articles and presentations online. It took a lot of work, but I’m really proud of my website now and I consider that a big accomplishment.

What made you use crowdSPRING?

I had a detailed list of requirements for what my logo needed to be and do, but no idea how it should look. I just knew I wanted something captivating. What I liked about crowdSPRING was the idea of having fifteen or more artists working on my project, as opposed to using an agency where I would only get ideas from one. I liked that it was a competition, and thought their process would result in the best logo. I found a lot of really creative examples on their site. It’s also very affordable. In the end, I found the whole thing to be a fun and invigorating experience!

What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?

It must be the story about the moment when I decided to start the company. I was on a business trip and had just landed in Kuwait. I could never in a thousand years have imagined I’d be there, and at the time my wife and I had a one-year-old daughter at home. I was standing in front of a sign that read “Kuwait International Airport,” shaking my head in disbelief. Maybe that’s not so crazy, but I had wanted to start a business for a long time and that was the turning point for me.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?

That’s a hard question for me.  At one point I considered starting the company on a part-time basis while still holding down another full-time or part-time job. There’s so much upfront work to complete before you’re ready to offer your products to people that it would have been nice to have that “safety net” while I was working on all of that. But with a family with really young children, it would have been very difficult to balance everything. So I’m really not sure if that would have been a better option or not.

How do you see your company growing in the future?

I think there’s real opportunity to expand our product offering once our clients trust that whatever we do, we do it really well. I make several specialty beverages for my family that are big hits, including a unique iced tea, fresh lemonade, and a cold brew coffee. Perhaps I will bottle those for the local market. I also would like to open coffee shops and I would be excited if our company brought artisan foods (like baked goods, chocolates, olive oils, etc) to our clients.

Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.

Love to wear many different hats.

Orazure Hand Roasted Coffee’s call for a new logo received 551 designs.