Native Coffee Club started in 2018 as an online coffee subscription service selling Colorado craft coffee. Jake Stechmeyer and Margaret Hotovec founded Native with the idea that local coffee is the best. Their mission: to share all of the great coffee Colorado has to offer. Each month, members receive a bag of coffee, a free drink card and swag from that month's roaster. And supporting Colorado roasters is more important to Stechmeyer and Hotovec than ever.
"I’ve always had a really big passion for Colorado specialty coffee. We have a ridiculous amount of specialty coffee roasters," says Stechmeyer. "As the whole third wave has started to take off, people are discovering new ways to get different flavors out of coffee and understand it as a specialty food item. I’ve fallen more into this category of trying and buying beans and making it at home on my La Pavoni espresso machine."
Someone with an at-home espresso machine undoubtedly takes coffee seriously, and knowing that others did, too, Stechmeyer assumed that a service like Native already existed, but he soon discovered that there were only large, national coffee subscriptions. So he decided to fulfill the need for a local, Colorado-specific service, starting the company while working on his MBA.
"Ninety percent of my studying was done in specialty coffee shops; each cafe has it’s own vibe and community there," he recalls.
Besides offering only Colorado roasters, what makes his model unique is that a free drink card comes with every subscription. "People can go and check out coffee shops that are in their communities instead of receiving a bag and never thinking of them again," he says. Featured roasters have included Loyal in Colorado Springs, Harbinger in Fort Collins and Boxcar in Boulder, but the majority are in the Denver metro area, such as Jubilee, Spur and Lost.
With the mandated closure of cafes because of the coronavirus epidemic, Stechmeyer has made it his new goal to save Colorado coffee, so this week Native launched its #SaveColoradoCoffee campaign. Many cafes turned to online sales nearly overnight because of social-distancing measures put in place by the government, hoping to convey their in-person style to customers on the Internet. Stechmeyer used the online platform he already had to rally behind the Colorado coffee community. "A lot of these roasters didn’t even spend money on online marketing because they had that foot traffic of people who could come in, so it's been a huge disruption to their business model," he points out. "We reached out to all of our roaster partners and said, 'What’s the best way people can support you through this time?'"
"All of these local roasters that are struggling super-hard are the ones that were willing to meet with us when were just super-scrappy, so I feel convinced that I need to help them as much as possible in turn. We’re still able to get out shipments — we’re a small operation — but there are a lot of baristas and coffee shops that are out of work. It’s our responsibility to try to help."
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In the past week, Native set up a page on its website so viewers can learn from each individual roasting partner about how they can best support the roaster and the staff, including ordering beans and gift cards online, giving to donation pools for impacted staff, ordering delivery and curbside pick-up from the coffee shops, and other details relating to the new norm.
From now until the end of the shutdown, any purchase you make of coffee, gift cards, to-go drinks, snacks, apparel or anything else from a Colorado coffee shop or roaster will allow you to enter to win weekly prizes from the coffee community: bags of beans, merch, or $10 gift cards to the cafe of your choice. Just go to the Native Coffee Club website and fill out the online form to let the company know about your purchase; it's on the honor system, so you don't even need proof of purchase.
"We are purchasing the gift cards ourselves; we aren’t expecting them to give us anything, we’re just hoping that it helps them get through," says Stechmeyer.
Each entry also counts toward the grand prize drawing: a three-month subscription to Native's Coffee Club, with a drawing date still to be determined.