Ep 4.32 Transcript
Lisa: Hi, welcome to episode 32 of season four of Outside by Design.
Iris: Hey, Hey, I'm Iris.
Lisa: I'm Lisa. From Wheelie, a creative agency in Whitefish, Montana. I can't believe we've recorded 32 podcasts this year.
Lisa: It's amazing.
Iris: We’ve spent a lot of quality time huddled around a microphone together.
Lisa: I know, and we've gotten to talk to so many amazing human beings throughout the industry.
Iris: Yeah. So if you're new to the podcast, you should scroll back and check out some of our episodes going way back to January and even last year's episodes, ‘cause we have some incredible guests talking about all sorts of topics in the outdoor industry.
Iris: And today we have Jenny Verrochi, co-founder of Wild Barn Coffee.
Lisa: I like Jenny. I've never met Jenny, but I think that we're friends.
Iris: I think you are too. [laughs] I didn't even talk to her and I think we're friends.
Lisa: She's got great energy.
Iris: Jenny is co-founder of Wild Barn Coffee, and Wild Barn Coffee is canned nitro coffee for your outdoor adventures, and it is filled with organic superfoods. It has goji berries and cacao nibs and extra caffeine to fuel all of your crazy adventures.
Lisa: Yeah, and remember the controversy from Backcountry.com from a few weeks ago - or, I guess last month? Jenny was part of that, so she talks a lot about that time Backcountry decided to trademark the word backcountry and then went after any companies that had the word backcountry in it.
Iris: They were originally Backcountry Nitro.
Lisa: Backcountry Nitro, and now they have a name change - and now they’re called Wild Barn Coffee. So we talk about that.
Iris: They have only been in business since earlier this year, and they've already gone through a lot. So let's hear from Jenny, her entrepreneurial journey.
Lisa: Perfect. Jenny, thank you so much for being here today on Outside by Design.
Jenny: Thank you for having me.
Lisa: And the first thing we ask everyone is to describe where they are and what they're looking at.
Jenny: Awesome. I am in Boulder, Colorado, and I'm sitting at my home office looking out into the backyard, which is a little bit of mountains and a little bit of alleyway.
Lisa: That's cool. That's cool. So you, do you run the whole company- well, I'm sure... Yeah. How does this work for you?
Jenny: Yeah, so, um, I started this company, Oh, a while ago, or I had the idea to start this company, you know, about five years ago when I was living in San Diego. And when I moved to Boulder, um, that's where Alyssa and I… Alyssa’s my, my co founder, she does the branding and the packaging. And somehow I was able to convince her to jump on board full time with me. And so the two of us started this company in March of this year.
Lisa: It seems so well put together for just being around since March.
Jenny: Thank you.
Lisa: And from already having to go through a rebrand.
Jenny: Yep. [laughs]
Jenny: Yeah. So, um, yeah, we did. We were... we started off with a successful Kickstarter. We asked for $30,000 and a lot of our efforts the next couple months following the Kickstarter, we're going towards, you know, putting the rewards together. And we had over 260 backers. So most of our time and our money went to just giving, giving the backers what they, what they ordered. And then slowly we've been doing sales. Um, but then the... the trademark issue came up. So we had to stop business for a little bit.
Lisa: Should we talk about it? I feel like, I feel like everyone wants to know about it.
Jenny: Everybody wants to know. We can, we can absolutely talk about it.
Lisa: Let's do it. So, um, so I'm sure you were the first person to hear about Backcountry with trademarks. Um, so, um, I'll just let you kind of tell, tell your story of how that went down.
Jenny: Yeah. So actually, um. We... so they contacted us in September, and I had thought that we were, you know, one of the only ones. And I opened that email up and it's always scary getting a letter of cease and desist, you know, it's pretty demanding. Um, and so from that point forward, we knew we had to pivot and to rebrand. And at the time I thought that we were the only ones. Um, I thought that, you know, I had done something wrong and, you know, we're, we're having this forward momentum. It's like, okay, well, we're obviously going to keep going. Let's just change the name. We don't have money to deal with these lawyers. Um, so that was our decision. And our plan was to do the relaunch and rebrand - I think it was two Mondays ago. And it just so happened that the Colorado sun came out with an article on that Saturday before the re, the relaunch that backcountry.com had actually gone after almost 50 other small businesses. And so that's when I realized like, okay, we're not alone in this. You know, maybe there's something that we can do.
And I was curious why nobody else was kind of reaching out. And I then learned it's because everybody else had signed an NDA. Um, I did not sign the NDA. I was, you know, our business was so small, there is no way we were going to fight this. So I didn't sign it. Therefore, we were able to have a voice in all of this. Um, so, you know, Alyssa and I kinda did what was possible to help the other small businesses and Backcountry.com got a lot of heat. They got a lot of backlash. I just don't think they knew who they were messing with. I mean, there's… this happens, this trademark issue happens all of the time. Big companies go after smaller companies. It's just normal. It's part of business. It's not a pretty part of business, but you do have to move on.
The outdoor community is interesting though, because it's a group of the most passionate humans you'll probably ever find, you know, so that, that was a lot. And you know, thank God for that backlash because since then, the CEO of Backcountry.com has flown out to personally meet with Alyssa and I. And he's also doing that for all of the other companies that he affected. So we're just in the process of, you know, making, making a deal and making this work. And um, having… making sure that he extends his arm out to everybody and give them a similar or equal opportunity that he's given to us. And together I think that, you know, we can, we can be a positive example for future, larger, large companies, you know, everybody messes up and it's just all about how you take it from there. So I truly believe it's a powerful thing that this CEO is extending his hand out to all these companies and giving them a platform to spread their wings on.
Lisa: And so will you be carried in Backcountry?
Jenny: We will. So he - we're gonna use him for distribution, so you'll be able to buy us on Backcountry.com. And he also is allowing us to be a part of their Stoke Series events where we'll be handing out coffee all over the country. And he is slowly making deals with all of the other companies as well. So he partnered with Backcountry Babes. Um, he's helping out Weston Backcountry, continue to do sales on their sites and expand their business. And I'm not sure what he's doing with the other companies just yet. I know that it's not as easy, you can't just, you know, put a blanket over all of us because every company is so unique and they're different sizes and carry different products. Um, so I'm curious how it'll help everybody else, but it'll definitely be different.
Lisa: Yeah. That's wild.
Jenny: Yeah. [laughs]
Lisa: What a... what a wild introduction to entrepreneurship.
Jenny: Holy cow. I feel like I just went to like a rapid business school in the last three weeks. I feel like I've grown a lot.
Lisa: Yeah. That is bananas, I feel for you.
Jenny: Thank you. Thank you. You know, it's been good. It's a learning experience, and we're trying to change this into a really negative situation into a really positive one for everybody involved. Um, and I think, I think it's... it's got legs and it's, it's going that way.
Lisa: That's cool. Um, yeah, I mean, that's amazing. And I think, like, I'm so excited to actually talk to you about, um, the product.
Lisa: And, you know, the superfood in coffee, canned. Like how, how are you doing this? Are you a scientist?
Jenny: I am no scientist, that's for sure. But I grew up in the coffee industry, so my parents actually own a coffee roasting company and we... their company is called the Red Barn Coffee Roasters. So we started roasting coffee in the barn in my backyard, the little red barn in my backyard in 1997 in new England. And you know, since then, I've obviously moved out West. And, um, I was working at breweries in San Diego for a while, and that's kind of when, you know, this was about seven years ago when when cold brew coffee started coming on nitro taps. It was an option. And so I thought I would take that concept, um, and can it. So when I moved to Boulder, it was easy for me. I really, I’m really into health and nutrition, and I think it's crazy and sad… we need to pivot away from all of the dairy and the sugar and the extra additives in all of these drinks that we're having.
Um, so I made a super, it started out, I made a superfood tea, so out of goji berries and cacao nibs. And since then I'm actually cold brewing that in with the beans. So it provides extra antioxidants, protein, more caffeine, no dairy, no sugar. And then we put it on nitrogen, which makes it super smooth and creamy, almost like a a Guinness pour. So you've got that thick, frothy, foamy head on it, so it tastes like there's dairy and sugar in it, but there's not, it's, it's good for you.
Lisa: I really like this because it is nonalcoholic.
Lisa: And I feel like, I mean, we work with lots of breweries and that's a good time, but I love that there's another option where you can take a can to a lake and you don't have to be putting alcohol in your body.
Jenny: Absolutely. And there's a lot of caffeine in this, where it's 200 mill- 240 milligrams of caffeine. But you feel good, you know, it's not like you're going out and you're drinking a Starbucks super sugary or like, or Red Bull. You know, you actually want to climb that mountain after you drink the coffee. You don't want to just, you know, be all jazzed up and then have a major crash. This is good for you.
Lisa: That’s amazing.
Lisa: I'm so excited that this is on the market.
Jenny: I am too. And you know what? We weren't, I'm excited to ship some to you. We haven't been able to ship yet because it has not been shelf stable, but this coming week - we’re brewing a huge batch, um, today and tomorrow actually that will be shelf stable. So we'll be able to ship you girls some and um, we'll have our online store back up and running soon.
Lisa: Oh, that's so cool.
Jenny: Thank you.
Lisa: I’m so excited that this exists. I love, I love coffee.
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Iris: So, Lisa, we talked about the Backcountry controversy a few episodes ago cause it was all going down in November, and Jenny was right smack in the middle of all of it.
Lisa: Yeah, she was. She provided a really good voice throughout that controversy because she didn't sign the NDA. Um, but she still navigated conflict with grace and kindness. And I think that that speaks volumes to her tact as an entrepreneur and probably as a human being. So I think, I mean, I think in business it's hard not to be reactive sometimes when shit like that is going down. But, um, she - handling it with such grace, I think is really, really, really indicative of, of how her company is going to be and what kind of leader she's going to be as she grows and hires employees.
Iris: Yeah, and I think it's another lesson in, like... entrepreneurship is just constantly dodging things being thrown at you and like trying to climb the next hill and get over the next thing. And so this was like a huge wrench in their journey, but I think it also has really paid off because they got to be part of this large movement. People are trying to support all these companies that ended up having to go through rebrands and that sort of thing. So it might've turned out to be a bit of a blessing.
Lisa: If you can Dodge a wrench, you can Dodge a ball.
Iris: It's true. So let's get back to Jenny.
Lisa: Yeah. And so, okay. Most of our audience is, you know, in the creative industry within the outdoor industry. So like a lot of writers and photographers and journalists. Um, and so I'm super curious, because your website is very fun. Um, kind of... like, what led to your creative decisions with your diction, um, with the word choice? Like, grab some goods. Buds and brews. Like, um, kind of like, what... I dunno. Like, what was your creative direction there?
Jenny: Yeah, so Alyssa is my best friend and also my co-founder. And one day we were just kind of sitting up at this ranch. I was, I was horse... horse sitting actually, and we kind of sat down with a pen and paper and was like, okay, let's eliminate everything that we know. No rules. What would be the most authentic can of coffee that we can produce? Like, we already have a good product, but how do we want to portray this? And I think what the market is really missing is authenticity. And, um... We wanted to be as much as ourselves as we could. And you know, we thought that, okay, well, coffee is connection and we love the outdoors. We love our friends, our friends do wild and goofy things in the outdoors, and it's, it's fun and it's hilarious. So let's just kinda, you know, use that language. So we would kind of just sit around and w- we would be talking and we were like, up! That's funny. Write it down. You know, because we don't have... it's kind of, it's cool to be your own treaters and your own business ‘cause we don't have any bosses telling us what to do or how to do things. Um, there are literally no rules. So we had it, um, you know, inspired by our rowdy group of friends. We bring you an equally adventurous coffee and the naked skier... It's, you know, some, some of the things that our friends do do in the backcountry. Like, we'll have fun. And, um, we just wanted everybody to feel a part of that. Because I know that the outdoor community, everyone is so close with their friends. You can get, you can get super close, you know, in just one camping trip, um, a backcountry trip, a river trip, anything. You, you... strangers will become family overnight. Um, and we wanted everybody to kind of feel an involved in that and speak from a voice of authenticity and, um, something that everyone can relate to.
Lisa: I love that. I also have a followup question. What do you, what does one do when they horse sit?
Jenny: [laughs] Besides sitting on the horses? Um… I grew up riding. I, I just, you know, taking care of the horses, feeding them, training them, exercising them, all that jazz.
Lisa: That's cool.
Lisa: Um, in Colorado, you were doing some horse sitting?
Jenny: Colorado. Yeah.
Lisa: Very nice. Um, cool. I like that. I am actually chicken sitting later in the month.
Jenny: Oh! [laughs] You know, and connecting with people in the outdoors. It's like how many people can you have a conversation about chicken sitting?
Lisa: Yeah. It's going to be… it’s just part of life. Um…
Jenny: I love that.
Lisa: But I like the, the, your, like, brainstorming session. You're like, okay, like I'm horse sitting, come on over.
Jenny: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Lisa: That's how it goes. That was awesome. And so, like, okay. So you, then you brought Alyssa on to help you launch this?
Jenny: Yes. Correct.
Lisa: Cool. So how's, how's that going? She, she runs creative and you're running operations maybe?
Jenny: Exactly. So, right now it was... at first it was kind of, it was both of us together doing absolutely everything. And that was really overwhelming because we felt like there were so many... you know, we're, we're learning together. There were so many tasks that were just hanging out in the air. And it's like, okay, who's going to grab that task? Because we didn't really have our roles yet. So since then, since, you know, everything's kinda been been blowing up really quickly, we've finally established our roles. Um, she's handling all of the packaging, the creativity, the branding, the design. I'm doing operations and the social media, all the PR stuff. Um. You know, she, she doesn't want to be in front of the camera or, um, on the podcast, you know, which I totally respect and somebody has got to take that job. So, u... so here I am! And it, this, this stuff is fun to me. You know, I really like to connect with the consumers and everybody in the industry. So now that we have our roles down and we’re… we're co-founders, and it's a great partnership and it's, it's been interesting to balance our friendship and the business, but I think that we're learning to smooth out those edges and keep our friendship in the business completely separate. Which has been great. We're also neighbors. She lives two doors down, so we see each other every day.
Lisa: Ooh, her, her car is gone. Wonder what she's doing.
Jenny: Yeah, yeah. It’s great. We have so much fun together.
Lisa: Cool. Um, the word of the month on our podcast is synthesis.
Lisa: So when you hear that, like what comes up for you? What do you think of?
Jenny: So synthesis is a combination of a bunch of ideas. Or theories, right, that come together to form one, one thing, one system, one theory. So creative- or creatively, synthesis for me would be... um, you know, first it was the idea, the coffee. And then what is, what does coffee do? It's, it's, it's a form of connection. Um, who are you connecting with? Your friends. Where are you connecting? The outdoors. You know, and then you add a little bit of cheeky branding and you come up with Wild Barn Coffee.
Lisa: That's awesome. Like, literally cheeky branding.
Jenny: Cheeky branding. We're using the hashtag, um, #barntobewild. And also, because you have to shake the can to activate the nitrogen. So when you open it, it sprays a little bit. So we're using #showusyourcrack.
Lisa: Oh, that's fun!
Jenny: You know, you gotta play up on your flaws. You're going to get a little coffee on you when you shake it up, but it's fun. So if you can, you can film it and use #showusyourcrack, we'll share it.
Lisa: [laughs] That's really fun. I like, I like that you're just kind of owning it. And infusing the brand with a lot of personality.
Jenny: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, it's been, it's been super fun. It's, it's, and we've made a lot of friends doing it too. You know? How cool is that?
Lisa: That is cool.
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Iris: Lisa, what do you think about starting a business with your best friend?
Lisa: You know, I, I think if they are communicating that from the beginning and really able to navigate the difference between a work conversation and a personal conversation, then there will be success there. But that's, that's an interesting thing to navigate and I'm so excited to follow that journey. I think, I think if you, if you're starting from the same place, it's a lot easier than bringing someone on to a culture that already exists when you're already... like, one person owns a business and they bring a friend in versus people with a, even hierarchy, like a, just a, like a horizontal equilibrium instead of a vertical power ladder. You know? I think, I think that they're setting themselves up for success.
Iris: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's a unique challenge to balance friendship and business. Um, but like they said, establishing different roles and being in those roles to be able to balance each other out. And if you're compatible that way, then I think it is an excellent way to run a business.
Iris: Let's get back to Jenny
Lisa: And so... I guess... like, I am a millennial. You might be a millennial…
Jenny: Mmhmm. I am. Yep.
Lisa: Yep. So like, how are you, how are you experiencing being, being a millennial in business up against maybe more traditional models? Or, um, have you not come up against that or like, I don't know. What's that looking like for you?
Jenny: Yeah, I think we're kind of paving the way right now. You know? Where... business can be so many different things, but what we want is to use business for good. Um, I believe that by having this company, we have a voice and we have this, this powerful platform where we can treat or share our values and our mission. So we want to be as environmentally friendly as we can. We would love to move to full direct trade. Um, we want to be better to our environment. So we want a certain, you know, 1% for the planet, and we want to give back to... we're, we're a proud supporting partner of Protect Our Winters. You know, that stuff is really important to us.
So I think using business as a way for good is kind of a newer way of like the millennials thinking right now. And also that we don't have to be so vanilla. We don't have to be just another coffee can on the shelf, you know, we can have fun and if we want to slap a naked skier on the can, no one's telling us not to do that, you know? Um. So just, yeah. Most, the most important is to just be better to our planet and to the backcountry where we all connect and want to drink this.
Lisa: Oh, that's cool. And like, where are you sourcing... like, do you have a special secret goji berry mystical source?
Jenny: So we source our goji berries and our cacao nibs from the same place. It's actually a place, um, in, in Rhode Island right now. But our coffee beans - so right now it's 50 50, but we would love to go full direct trade - but we are actually sourcing from, um, this farm called Cafe Solar, and it's a female owned and operated, fully sustainable coffee farm in Honduras. So it goes from a female company in Honduras, and then it goes to my parents' company in Massachusetts, which is also female owned, um, my mother is the primary owner of it. And then it goes to Alyssa and I in Boulder, Colorado. Where we’ll brew- where we, that's where we do the, um, the actual brew with the beans and the goji berries and the cacao nibs and we can it and everything right here.
Lisa: Oh, that's sweet.
Lisa: Wow. Wow. And, uh, why is that important? I know why it’s important to me, but like, why is it important to you to work with other female owned businesses?
Jenny: You know, I think that this is, it's another movement. And you know, sometimes I think... you know, being a feminist and can be taken a lot of different ways, right? Um, but as long as... I think it's really important to support other female entrepreneurs, and if we can make, you know, a big commotion about it now and get these... you know, inspire other females to start their own businesses, eventually all of this commotion and this feminist act will level out the playing field. And we hopefully one day will no longer have to say, Oh, she's a female business owner. She's a female entrepreneur. It can just be, you know, this girl owns a business. [laughs]
Jenny: So I'd love to eliminate that and just have an equal level playing field for everybody. But right now in this time of change, it's, it's, it's important to, I think, be known as a female company and to support other female companies.
Lisa: Yeah. And that female, like your female company doesn't have to be really proper and you can kind of just literally like, let it all hang out on the front of the can.
Jenny: Exactly. [laughs] Yeah, you're right.
Lisa: You know, I really like, I really like that because there's something pretty irreverent and like... just a little bit wild and uh, I really appreciate that in your brand.
Jenny: Thank you. And you know what? It was funny, it was such a huge conversation around that at first, when we first did it, Alyssa sketched up a guy. So the very first can was a naked man skier, and we're like... well, you know - and the reason why we did that is because we were scared. Like if we put any good women's gear on there, like what kind of feedback are we going to get? You know, it's all around this hashtag me too movement. It's like, are we going to get negative feedback? And then at the end of the day, after we ran through that first batch of cans, we're like, no, this is us. This is who we are. Let's make a statement.
Lisa: Oh, that's funny.
Lisa: That's really interesting. So, um, will you guys ever release the, the man on the can?
Jenny: I don't think so. I mean, we could do definitely special orders, but I - you know, we're a female owned business. Let's stick to the lady.
Lisa: Yeah. I love that. I think that's a good call.
Jenny: Yeah. Thank you.
Lisa: Cool. And, and so like, what's, what's next for you guys, do you think?
Jenny: So we're now gearing up because Backcountry.com just made a huge order from us. This is going to be, we're going from pretty much infants to adults overnight. Um, we're, so, we're dealing right now with production and figuring out how we can provide these extremely large orders and get them out. So we're going to deal with the Backcountry thing first, get that up and running, and then we are still just trying to own our home in Boulder and we would love to be all over the Boulder community and give back there. And then eventually be in every mountain town.
Lisa: Yeah. It fits right in with mountain culture.
Jenny: Right. And then hopefully, you know, our online sales will be up and running soon, so that'll be huge for us.
Lisa: Yeah. Is there, are you one of the only cold brew cans on the market?
Jenny: We are not. We are... there are very few nitro cold brew cans. So that we have, um, a little bit of a leg in, and there are no superfood infused cold brew cans. So that's great. So we are the first there.
Lisa: Oh, that's cool.
Lisa: Mhmm. I'm very excited.
Jenny: Thank you.
Lisa: Yeah, it's going to be good. Um, is there anything else that I have not asked you about that you think our listeners would want to know about.
Jenny: Um, I don't know. Gosh, I feel like I just talked about myself, but I guess that's the point of a podcast. [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah it is [laughs]
Jenny: Um, no, I think that's good. I just want to shake up the coffee game, you know, and let, let people take, you don't want people to take life so seriously. We don't want people to take business so seriously. At the end of the day, we just want our friends to connect. And, um. Yeah. And share... and share and spread this love and passion for the outdoors, and we'll have coffee to help fuel them, you know?
Lisa: Yes, yes. That, that goes really in line with my business philosophy, which is that, like, I secretly wanted to always be a firefighter.
Jenny: Oh! Me too!
Lisa: Yeah? So I'm just like, that's the coolest job. Um, but, but we're not firefighters, right? We're just like, we're just nerds with like, computers, like ideas and dreams.
Lisa: And shit like that. And so, and so, like, you know, we're not saving lives. So, you know, there's never a reason to yell or get too upset.
Jenny: Exactly. Nobody’s... exactly. I respect that.
Lisa: Mhmm, and like, yeah. I just love, I just love that you will definitely make someone's outdoor experience better by having canned coffee, nitro cold brew.
Jenny: Thank you, we hope so.
Lisa: Yeah. I am just... again, so sick of drinking beer.
Jenny: Yeah. Yeah. And now seltzers. I'm over... I don't need a seltzer. I don't… [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah. I don’t need it.
Jenny: Give me the caffeine.
Lisa Yeah. Right.
Jenny: They tell ya… Who tells you not to get high off your own supply, but holy cow, I I’m always caffeinated.
Lisa: That’s… see, that's why you're growing so quickly. It's the caffeine.
Jenny: Right. It’s the caffeine.
Lisa: It's all the caffeine. I do have a question though. What like what's your approach, cause you're like young fun and life infused company. What's your approach to social media?
Jenny: Whew. So social media right now has been crazy just because of the backlash that Backcountry.com is getting. And now we're kind of a part of that. We're getting a lot of negative backlash. People are calling us sellouts or, um, you know, Alyssa and I have both, you know, kinda gotten into this Boycott the Backcountry group and, you know, tried to leave some positive comments, but at the end of the day, people are just kind of firing, firing back. So we left that. But, you know, I think just remaining positive and social media is, is huge. It's, it's everything. So we need to, you know, be on there as much as possible and just spreading those good vibes.
Lisa: It's, I mean, haters gonna hate.
Jenny: Yeah, you're right.
Lisa: And you guys, yeah, you guys are kicking ass, so.
Jenny: Thank you.
Lisa: Yeah, I think, I think you're going to go huge.
Jenny: Thank you, Lisa. We hope... We hope so.
Lisa: Yeah. Cool. Well, thank you so much for your time today.
Jenny: Thank you.
Lisa: And um, thanks for making coffee and yeah, I think our audience is gonna love this one.
Jenny: Awesome. Thank you so much, Lisa. This is really fun.
Iris: Thank you so much for being here, Jenny. We can't wait to see where Wild Barn Coffee goes and we can't wait to try some.
Lisa: Yeah, Jenny, seriously, let's do a collab, I'll call you.
Iris: [laughs] And if you are listening in your car on your way to work or on the chairlift, you should, when you get done driving or when you get back onto the chairlift a second time, take a second and leave us a review on iTunes. It really helps get the show to more people and it lets us know if we're doing a good job or if we're not doing a good job. We don't know. We just keep talking into a microphone and we'd love to hear what you think about it. So thank you for being here and we will see you next week. We have two more episodes in 2019. Aah!
Outside By Design
A business podcast for people who love the outdoor industry.