The State of 321: July Edition


My name is Lindsay, and I am a co-founder and the CEO of 321 Coffee. I’m glad you’re here.

I’ll be writing monthly blog posts answering the same questions about what we’re experiencing in growing 321 (successes, failures, highlights, and pains). I hope to be completely transparent with you and share insights into this entrepreneurial process. It’s definitely a learning experience for me, but I’m loving it.

What have we been focused on?

The past two weeks, we have had all hands on deck with the expansion construction. We did this all ourselves (I did the nail gunning!). Dave Evans (Michael’s dad) came down from Pennsylvania to help lead this project. This was huge. He brought all the tools we’d need and helped us determine supplies to get from the hardware store.

When Dave left, Michael took the lead for the rest of the construction. This was slightly out of his area of expertise, but he did a phenomenal job. It’s tiring being looked to and being the one making decisions and calling the shots, but he truly rose to the occasion.

Once we were ready to paint, we realized one of the walls extended too far back into the space and completely blocked the view of the whole coffee shop. That is not at all what we wanted. At this point, Dave (along with his knowledge and tools) had left Raleigh. I sent a message out to a number of people in the area trying to acquire a nail gun and a saw. Fortunately, people were willing to lend. Additionally, many of our friends in Raleigh were willing to change their schedules around and help measure, saw, nail, and paint. These friends were incredibly selfless. We were there working long hours in a building with no AC. No one ever complained, and they continued to offer to come back the next day. They wanted to help contribute. This willingness and kindness demonstrate the power of the 321 Community.

Next step: learn how to roast!

What am I most excited about?

In March, we were making great traction towards the storefront. We had success raising donations for startup expenses, we formed key partners and a great team (ex. Brokers, designers, an architect, etc), and we had come across a great opportunity of another restaurant looking to open in Downtown that was willing to give us 1,500 sqft of their space rent-free. Truly, it all felt too good to be true. On Monday we were touring the space, and on Tuesday COVID was in Raleigh and everything was shut down.

At the time, I was definitely bummed. It felt as if every time we got close to a storefront coming together, it would fall through. We pivoted our immediate next steps to expanding at the Farmers Market and potentially roasting. We didn’t know much about this industry, but the more we learned the more doable it appeared.

Now, I am so excited about the potential that roasting has! We started evaluating this opportunity with a customer discover survey (I likely asked you to help take it). In the past when we have done surveys, the max number of responses I have ever received was 18. This one, we are up to 276! This is amazing! To me, it demonstrates the growing community, the willingness to help and support where you can, and the enthusiasm behind this new product. Moreover, 80% of the responses said they were interested in learning more about the new subscription service. This doesn’t even capture the excitement we’ve received from businesses about ways to incorporate 321 beans into their business (either in the office or as a gift/benefit for employees).

I truly think that roasting has a great opportunity to grow significantly. I love how it creates a new job opportunity in our company, and that the job allows employees to develop different skills and highlight different strengths. I love how it creates a new way for people to engage with and support 321 (321 at home!). And I love how it allows new people to interact with 321 even if you aren’t based in Raleigh. I think there is so much potential here, and I can’t wait to see what it brings and the impact it will have on 321.

What am I most worried about?

Honestly, the subscription service worries me a little bit logistically. All I can think about is the fluctuating order quantities, fulfilling large quantities of bags, and tracking packaging and shipping. This sounds operationally daunting. However, I know that other companies have operations that do this, so it’s not impossible. I also fully believe in Liam (he handles our operations) to figure out this piece of the puzzle. It will be new to us and I anticipate a learning curve, but I know we’ll make it work.

A moment that stands out?

Friday was our first day of the expanded space being reopened. We had an amazing day. At the end, we had finished cleaning and were standing around just chatting about how happy we were with how the day went. A woman walked by and said, “Oh shoot! I didn’t realize you were closed. I saw you on the news this morning and was so excited to come to visit, I’ll definitely be back tomorrow!”. So kind to hear people who see and then want to take action. She then said to us, “I work for a commercial cleaning company, and I told my boss about what you’re doing, and he said that we’d be willing to come clean and sanitize your space every week for free.”

I think stories like these are so cool. Obviously the donated service is generous and extremely appreciative, but what stands out the most is how people want to support 321’s mission, so they find a way to give what they can. This is how we’ve made progress and found success. People are not only willing, but they want to contribute and help create something bigger than themselves. It’s beautiful, and I’m so appreciative.

Thank you for reading this through. I’d love to hear what you liked, found boring, or want to hear more about. Please feel free to get in touch with me at Lwrege@321Coffee.com.