As a concept, the monthly goodie box subscription service has become old hat, but entrepreneurs are still trying to put a new spin on the idea.
Sydney startup Joe Merchant Co is using the model to help subscribers discover new coffee. Upon returning to Sydney after a few years in London, founder and coffee lover Vikash Radia saw that a crop of new artisan roasters had popped up. Having seen the coffee membership model in the UK, Radia thought it would be fun to start a similar service in Australia.
“The trend towards home brewing coffee also seemed to have grown in the couple of years that I was overseas, and more people were getting serious about trying new coffees at home. More Australian households have coffee machines than ever before and more people are also exploring alternative home brewing methods as well,” Radia said.
“This has seen a steady rise in the demand for freshly roasted coffee beans and consumers have become more interested in exploring different options and discovering the latest and greatest coffee roasters.”
Radia, whose previous work was in the financial services sector, immersed himself in the London and Singapore startup scenes while on sabbatical to learn about tech and the lean startup model. In Sydney, he began talking to roasters to gauge their interest.
“After confirming that roasters were interested in working with us, I spoke to some fellow coffee lovers about their coffee habits and built a basic site myself using some readily available tools and plugins, as I’m not a tech guy by trade. The whole operation was launched in a lean manner and continues to be refined as we learn from feedback,” Radia explained.
Joe Merchant Co offers 250g subscriptions for $22.50, while a 500g package will set customers back $35, with shipping free.
“Specialty beans are usually sold in a pretty standard price range so there’s a benchmark of sorts. The price of our membership should be as close as possible to what it would cost a customer to order similar quality beans from the roaster’s website directly and in fact, it’s actually less most of the time. We take pride in curating, packaging and providing information about each month’s featured bean, which is where we add value to each month’s delivery,” Radia said.
The startup is working with independent and artisan roasters who source their beans ethically and sustainably. At the moment, these roasters are all Sydney based.
Radia said, “Inherently, these guys have so much passion for coffee that it shines through in their bean offerings, which are of course taste tested. We try to provide a different taste profile each month so our customers get to experience different origins and varieties, developing their palate and knowledge of coffee.”
The monthly coffee subscription isn’t new – No BS Coffee offers subscribers packages from Melbourne roasters, while various roasters around the country offer their own delivery service. However, Joe Merchant Co is the first service to showcase a variety of Sydney roasters and, if it manages to build a sizeable following in the city, may be able to expand. Given how much this city – and Australians generally – loves its coffee, the odds are good.
Radia’s passion for coffee and his attention to detail is also clear – upon sign up, the site asks how customers brew their coffee, which will ensure they receive the appropriate roast profile and grind type. Customers can also choose whether to have their coffee ground or sent as whole beans, a feature Radia said he introduced after listening to customer feedback.
Though the business is still new, Radia is already thinking internationally.
“If viable, we’d love to start offering the service to international customers, as Australia is known on the world stage for its coffee. There are plenty of global coffee enthusiasts that would love to get their hands on Aussie roasted beans.”