Mid-way between Madrid and Barcelona, in the city of Zaragoza you will find Ezequiel Garces, head roaster aka the captain and Jano Cabello, responsible for marketing and branding at San Jorge Coffee Roasters.
San Jorge has recently ordered a Genio 30, and Neil Maree, fascinated by their unique business model and social media following, spoke to the team in Zaragoza online from Durban, South Africa, during the Creative Coffee Week.
Genio: Tell us about the San Jorge team and where it all started and how you built up your company?
San Jorge: We started the company in 2015-2016, which is roughly five years ago. We started with the intension to be a small local roaster for the people of Zaragosa, being far from the major centers in Spain. There wasn’t any real good coffee culture then. So, that was one of the main reasons why we started. It was quite a tough start because in the beginning there was no real demand for that kind of coffee in Zaragosa, but after working very hard we managed to make people want good coffee.
There are still very few roasters, but we hope there will be more and that it will change the way people see coffee in Spain. Fortunately, we have an advantage in the sense that Spain is already well known for good food and drink, especially wine, and now also coffee.
San Jorge Coffee Roasters is based on a crowdfunding model – Tokens for Warriors. What made you decide to use crowdfunding to fund your business and not bank funding?
“Tokens for Warriors” came about because we do not want to do business with the same people who finance the bad coffee.
There is another reason, which is that banks do not really like us that much. Our social media videos are very real, and they are fun, but sometimes it is hard to come across as a serious company with the banks. But there was absolutely no doubt that there were so many people involved in this and they were all willing to help us and co-operate with us. So, we decided to marry this whole crowd of people who decided to support us with our business.
People are encouraged to invest in San Jorge by buying tokens, but how do these tokens benefit them?
As an investor in “Tokens for Warriors” you have access to many benefits, not only financial, but also moral in the fight against bad coffee. There are different ways in which we organize this. Our standard benefits which all investors receive, include: a lifetime discount in the shop; an invitation for coffee on your birthday; access to exclusive San Jorge merchandise; a personalized mug so you can have coffee when you visit us; and more. We want our investors to participate and share in our company.
By investing in more tokens, you can unlock larger additional rewards until you reach the biggest rewards. Depending on the amount invested, you will receive direct rewards ranging from free special edition coffee, free San Jorge Coffee merchandise, roasting your own coffee with our roaster, to joining the San Jorge team on the annual Trip to Origin with expenses paid.
How did you adapt your business model during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions — what did you change about your business to get to your customers?
Before the pandemic and Covid-19, we were working about 80% for coffee shops and hospitality businesses. In March 2020 in Spain, as in the rest of the world, the coffee shops closed, and we had to rethink our business model and we had to make another plan. This was the beginning of our videos – training videos as well as funny videos, and the beginning of our subscription program, “Coffee Masters”, where people receive coffee every month. And even now our business model represents 60-70% homes versus coffee shops at only 20% of our business.
With Covid-19 and people avoiding public spaces and buying coffee out of their homes, is it important for businesses to grow a stronger social media presence to get more sales from coffee subscriptions?
With the pandemic we all had to rethink the way we do business and there was a big change in how people consumed coffee. A lot of people started ordering coffee at home. Humor is a very important part to maintain people’s brains and people’s mental health. The restrictions were very limiting. No consumption was allowed inside the coffee shop. So, when we think what type of content people would want from us on social media, we think they would want to see a funny video or an inspirational video to lift their mood… then we would make it for the people. Maybe the channel was launched at just the right time. Maybe it would not have worked so well as a different time.
Your Instagram show “The Daily Roaster” comes with the following disclaimer: Warning, all the images you will find are one hundred percent real, we do not use a script. We are that greedy. Nor are we responsible for the atrocities that certain characters may say
How do you use social media to make people excited about specialty coffee?
There are no scripts for our videos, and we really act stupid behind and in front of the cameras. We do not hide our personalities. We show who we are at that moment and the people from home love to see us enjoying, fighting, and playing. There is no script, and everything just happens because that is the way we are.
You have built a social media following of 22,000 people, that is a lot of people. Is there any advice you can give on how to build a social media platform?
First, it is important that you work with a professional that loves your marketing, your brand, and your coffee. Second, is to be yourself. It is very important to be yourself and not a snob trying to be too fancy. It is important for your audience. And thirdly, to have a unique brand purpose. So, basically the most important is if you see everybody goes towards one direction, just go the opposite way!
You post a lot of crazy social media content; would you see that as something that complements your sales, or do you see it being a challenge for people to take you seriously?
That is a good question. Some people in our community does not mind how we film the videos, they like our coffee. They know we are ‘clowns’ and ‘happy’ people, and they do not mind… ‘it is okay that you are funny, because I am more interested in your coffee’. On the opposite side of the videos, we are trying to teach people how to make coffee and this is done by Ezequiel. He is very professional, very polite as he teaches people about coffee. Different personalities of the brand.
What does it take to put a show together like “The Daily Roaster” with sponsors and a captive audience of 22,000 followers?
We spent all our money financing the videos because we have a special person doing that for us. That is one of the main reasons why banks do not like us, because we spend our money on social media. It is necessary to go above and beyond to keep people engaged. And people love that. People love watching our daily videos. They text us and send us DMs on Instagram and on social media, telling us how funny they think we are. At the end of the day we are not pretending, it is just the way we are.
It sounds as if we are just crazy people trying to make coffee, but we are serious as well. There is a balance, and that is the key part.
You have a coffee subscription program called “Coffee Masters”. How does it work?
So, we started four months ago. Basically, we try to add value to our customers by offering them three different types of coffee every month. We also train them to better understand what cupping is. The name is “Coffee Masters” because they are supposed to learn how to prepare coffee and about the different types of coffee. To enhance the added value, we combine the subscription with more merchandise to promote the brand.
You also have a coffee beer, “Birras with Coffee”. Tell us about this concept?
Basically, we love beer, and we just could not help it. It just happened. We joined with some friends that also make beers and we created different ones, and we are working on different kinds of beers with coffee. There are only two types of beverages: coffee and beer. That is all you need.
… and then you have a siesta in the afternoon?
Off course we do!
A pandemic disrupted coffee consumption patterns around the world, because of social restrictions in public spaces. The San Jorge team seized the opportunity to re-think and to re-package their brand. A unique business model and innovative engagement on social media, paid off. Earlier this year they received an overwhelming number of orders following a special offer. It took hours and hours of work to get the orders out, to a point of near collapse. It was then when they knew they had to step-up their business to maximize growth from being a small local roaster. They decided to upgrade and invest in the Genio 30 to deal with increased demand in the roastery.