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Joey Cappuccitti On 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Stewarts is our brand and we have been blessed to have the opportunity to continue a legacy started by a different family. But us Cappuccitti’s share the same passion for the Stewarts mission.

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joey Cappuccitti.

With a large background in automotive and a strong passion for the coffee industry, I am expanding my experiences in management to the food and beverage industry to better my skills in organization, communication, and performance.

Through my experiences in both retail and service, I learned both good and bad management habits from different managers around the country. Leaving me with better skills and habits to enhance my own future management styles.

My goal is to build a platform that will grow long past my lifetime and give many the opportunity to work for a place that has a great story and amazing people.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Sure! Very grateful for an active childhood growing up in the NW suburbs of Chicago. I’m one of 4 siblings….the older middle sibling. We are a big sports family and as little ones, we played everything. T-ball, basketball, hockey, and soccer. My brother and I played soccer and hockey competitively but enjoyed playing all sports.

Around 14 or so years old, sports took us to charity events like Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society. At the time, my dad had been with Stewarts Coffee for over 15 years. We shared a passion for attending charity events, so he went out and had a serving truck built out of an old UPS truck. We’d bring that truck out and have fun at the events serving coffee for attendees and that started my journey with Stewarts!

Throughout high school, we attended numerous Relay for Life events and many more charity events spread across the city. The Chicago Marathon and Shamrock Shuffle were two of the largest events we’ve done! Those were fun. So many people!

I grew up loving cars. So, when it came to picking a college, I decided on using that passion to complete a bachelor’s in business but focused to the automotive industry. I didn’t know where the degree would take me, but I knew the mechanical background along with the management education would help in the future.

Timing was everything and towards the end of college my dad orchestrated the big move. With the help of my younger brother and a few of his friends, they successfully moved Stewarts out of city limits to Carol Stream where we are now. And after I graduated, Stewarts Coffee presented itself and my dad and I decided to take a chance to bring Stewarts to new heights.

Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food or beverage brand you are leading?

My ‘ah ha’ moment was the moment I realized my purpose here. I’m sitting at school trying to figure out employment after graduation. As all my classmates are investigating positions in the automotive industry, I’m sitting there thinking, “I’d be stupid not to join my dad in accepting the challenge of taking a 100+ year old legacy like Stewarts Coffee and continuing its evolution as our own.” Many students end up working in a different industry than the one they studied, why couldn’t that be me? Take my knowledge from what I’ve learned in the Automotive industry and apply those concepts to the coffee industry. Who would have thought, repairing engines was preparing me for building coffee roasting and packing systems. Not me, but here we are!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well… I was rushing our K-cup designs and I didn’t fully inspect the final artwork. When we received our printed K-cups in the mail, my dad walked into my office with a box and asked, “Oh yeah? 12oz of coffee in each K-Cup?”

I messed up and every K-cup box that was supposed to say 10 grams had printed “Net weight 12oz (each K-cup).” I learned to you can never have enough people review your artwork.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food or beverage line? What can be done to avoid those errors?

There are so many mistakes one can make so I’ll just touch on a couple.

  1. PLAN — Have a plan, not just an idea. So many have coffee ideas but haven’t thought about materials and where to get those, or shipping and what carrier they would use, or even who they are going to sell it to.
  2. If you have a plan in place, it’ll be easier for you to approach future complications and jump through those hoops to reach your end goal.
  3. SIMPLER IS BETTER — It’s so easy to do too much too fast and find yourself in over your head. Sometimes you’re so excited about an idea you just want to go all in. But realistically you need to break it down and go one step at a time.
  4. Just like a puzzle, you can’t just lay the pieces out and have the puzzle magically fall into place. You must put one piece down at a time. Before you know it, you’ve completed your goal!

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Put a detailed plan together and TAKE. YOUR. TIME. Some things will come to you when you’re not even thinking about your idea. Write a plan on how everything will work. Ask as many questions to yourself as you can and answer them down to the smallest detail. Talk to people about it. Answer their questions. At the end you won’t just have a bunch of information, you’ll have useful information that will provide you criticism to progress!

Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?

Everyone has the same opportunity. It’s just the ones who stay persistent that come out on the other side. Put a plan together and have a way to explain your idea in 60 seconds. Share your ideas with many, choose your conversations wisely. Work with individuals you trust and careful how much information you share with individuals you’re less trustworthy with. People do steal ideas. As much as we want to trust everyone, there are those people out there.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I would say it depends on the idea. If it’s an invention that may require a patent or some type of legal work done, yes a consultant would be useful.

If it is just a business idea, in most cases you can get away without a consultant. But I must say, it is always good to bounce ideas off one another. Sometimes you can get stuck in tunnel vision and another perspective can expand your understanding.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Bootstrapping is the logical way to begin. Use your own immediate resources to get the ball rolling and opportunities for venture capital will present themselves with the right individuals you end up marketing with about your endeavor.

Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?

A patent can be easily filed with a patent attorney. They will inform you of any hoops to jump through to complete the task.

As for sourcing quality partners, this is 100% based on your ability to observe and be a good judge of character and personality. 9 times out of 10 this is trial and error and why so many businesses enter and leave partnerships. There is no perfect partnership. You will always have some hiccups. But what matters is do your partners have good morals and good business practice. If they do, you will be able to work through most complications that arise.

Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand” and why?

A Brand — a name for consumers to know you by.

Stewarts is our brand and we have been blessed to have the opportunity to continue a legacy started by a different family. But us Cappuccitti’s share the same passion for the Stewarts mission.

A Mission — build a brand bigger than yourself.

Stewarts hasn’t been here 100+ years because management was cool. Stewarts is still here because they built a strong community that continues to show its support for each other every year.

A Crew — You can’t do it alone.

Every day I learn more and more about delegating work and working as a team. There are others that are better at a specific task than you are, use their strengths to help everyone reach the end goal.

Good Partners — Don’t be afraid to leave a partnership.

At the end of the day, if a partner makes your business harder or is offering your business a disservice, you should consider meeting other business to see if there is a better fit. Good partnerships lead to smooth operations with brings happy employees and happy customers.

Good environment — You can tell how a business treats their employees by the cleanliness of their bathrooms/breakroom and the taste of their coffee! Too many places don’t allow music, or 15min breaks. The environment is as happy and fun as you make it. You take care of your employees, and they take care of you.

Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

Answer a question that the consumers have, and the product will sell! For example, Flavored coffee. People liked the idea of flavored coffee but didn’t like that the milk was flavored. What did they do? Someone made coffee beans that were flavored before you brew it. And now consumers can use natural milk with flavored coffee.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We do a lot of charity work for various awareness causes. We attend their public events for different communities and donate our time serving coffee to attendees.

We took it a step further and developed an entire coffee brand called Project Donate Coffee that focuses on donating proceeds from various coffee bags to awareness causes of all. We couple bags with specific awareness causes so when a bag is purchased about 40% of that sale is donated to that specific awareness cause you picked. You get great coffee, and the most important thing is that the proceeds are donated to those who need it most.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’d want nothing more than for Project Donate Coffee (PDC) to become a huge success. It’s honestly unknown how much good the program can do. We went from 1 bag to 6+ bags rather quickly! Started with Trigeminal Neuralgia, then Alzheimer’s, ALS, Kids and Clays, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Rett Syndrome, Parkinson’s, Autism, and patiently waiting for so much more!

The math speaks for itself. Coffee is the 2nd or 3rd most consumed liquid on the planet. 75% of American adults drink coffee daily and will spend an average of about $2100 every year. Coffee drinkers could potentially donate an average of 600+ dollars every year if they did something as simple as switch their coffee to PDC. And if we got even 1/10th of that coffee drinking population to drink PDC we could potentially hit billions in donations. That’s powerful stuff. There’s a saying that’s something like, “A man who moves mountains begins by moving small pebbles.”

I’m just trying to build that platform to unite the American coffee community to start moving those small pebbles. Like I said, it’s unknown what good this program’s future can do, but together, we might be able to move mountains.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.