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Kopi is the latest online venture from Philip Wilkinson, who co-founded Keynoir, which was acquired by Time Out last month

Kopi offers monthly deliveries of gourmet coffee to its subscribers.

I've been asking Philip about the new business, how the site was launched in the space of just four weeks, and his plans for future growth. 

In one sentence, what is Kopi?

Gourmet coffee every month, delivered to your door.

What problems does Kopi solve?

There's a real increase in people wanting fresher, better coffee to drink at home or in the workplace.

It's actually hard to find fresh amazing coffee beyond anything but the most specialist places in the main cities, and supermarkets are full of the same old brands that have been sitting on the shelves for months.  

You also get bamboozled by choice and it is hard to know which coffee to go for when presented with a myriad of options that may or may not be any good. The gourmet (i.e. better than the shops) coffee market has also not been that accessible outside of the niche communities it inhabits.

There is something about making more people feel at ease in trying things out and educating them about how to enjoy the best coffee experience at home.

So in that respects, Kopi wants to help people discover one new outstanding gourmet coffee every month, freshly roasted, delivered to your door, with a great booklet about where it comes from and a little bit of education about this new coffee world.

Are there parallels with the wine industry? 

Yes, in the sense that gourmet coffee is where the wine industry was 25 years ago. People used to drink just any old white or red and now they want to know the year, where it comes from, how it was made, and all the provenance and tasting notes that go with it.  

Coffee is the same way, there are so many different tastes and qualities depending on where it's from and how it goes from bean to cup.

Our coffees are known as "100% Arabica, single-origin" which mean they come from a single farm or co-operative and the beans are so good that they don't need to be mixed with anything else.

When and why did you launch it?

We launched in October 2011 after spending four weeks setting up the business, designing and building the site, sourcing the coffee and building the team.  

Seriously - four weeks from napkin to taking orders. We wanted to move quickly as my experience in setting up businesses means we have everything we need to jump all the hurdles you normally have, and also wanted to get going to get real customer feedback as soon as possible to refine the proposition.

Who is your target audience?

Generally, it's people who already drink fresh coffee at home and want something new and better, and also those who drink coffee in high street chains but are looking for a more economic solution to drink more at home.

Also, 70% of all coffee drunk at home in the UK is instant coffee so there's a bigger market and challenge there in tempting them to try fresh coffee.

What are your immediate goals?

To gather data and refine our product based on our members demands. Already we've learnt that some people want smaller bags as they only drink coffee at weekends and we'll be launching a new plan along these lines next year.  

We want to measure our cost of acquisition, how long people stay members for, churn rate, referral rates, and about another 10 key metrics that we have set ourselves goals around.  

What were the biggest challenges involved in building Kopi?

Packaging and fulfilment. My co-founder (Simon I'Anson) and I come from a digital background and having to deal with real physical products brings all sorts of challenges.  

I think we spent four days just working out the box design! We're very picky about how everything looks and what the customer experience is, everything from making the box slim enough to fit through letterboxes to putting a one-way valve in our coffee bags in order to keep them fresh once they've been roasted.  

After that, we have to make sure everyone gets the right product at the right time once a month.

How will the company make money?

We've been making money from day one and already making gross profit. The beauty of a subscription business is monthly recurring revenue and some packages have upfront payments that really help our cashflow.

Who is in the team and what does it look like?

So there's me and Simon I'Anson (who has done design and usability work for many top brands including BA and was formerly at MadeByMany here in London), we're the co-founders.  

On top of this we have an amazing copywriter for the coffee brochures each month and she has set the tone and style of the writing on the site.

There are three ruby on rails developers based out of Cardiff, one front-end coder from Germany, an ex-packaging designer from Innocent, and three highly experienced guys from the coffee world who have advised and sourced coffee for some of the top brands.  

These are the people who choose and taste over 75 coffees every month to pick the very best to give to our members. The team is always growing, so drop us an email if you want to join.

This time around, I've been very selective about who comes and does any work for Kopi. They have to be the best at what they do, no exceptions.

Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?

In a years time we'd like to have a really good volume of members enjoying outstanding coffee every month and for Kopi to be associated as being the main driving force behind this new movement of "real coffee in the home".  

In three years, we'd like it to be in multiple countries across the world, and in five years we'd like to think we'd be running multiple e-commerce brands in a wide variety of subscription verticals.

Remember, life's too short to drink bad coffee!

Graham Charlton

Published 9 December, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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