Today makes day 1 of 365 of 2019. So, I felt as it was time to reflect on 2018! 2018 was a huge year for Café Rica USA. Just a year ago we had just finished our Can-Do Kitchen Food Entrepreneur Bootcamp. It was finally time to take what we learned for 12 weeks and use it. We needed to get licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, we needed to get our bottle ready first.
Jackson and I really wanted to get a unique packaging. We had used 12oz beer bottles that weren’t exactly we wanted. In our search for the perfect bottle, we came across the 8oz French Square bottle. We just instantly liked the look of the bottle. We sort of said that it looked like the classic milk bottles. We went with it and now it was time to get our label in order. We met a local branding expert out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Missy, the owner of Handmade Kalamazoo, headed the branding class in the Can-Do Kitchen boot camp and was the artist that has put together our beautiful bottle labels. We saw what she did with our friends from Physic Kombucha and we wanted something that would pop and draw people’s eyes straight to our bottle. She was able to do that and brought our vision to reality. So with our packaging all set, it was game time to get street legal.
March has come and we contacted our MDARD agent to get inspected. Jackson and I got to the kitchen early and prepped and were ready to take this step in growing our company. Scott K got there at noon and 90 minutes later we were officially licensed to sell Café Rica Gold Brew Bottles. The farmers market was right around the corner and 2018 was off to a great start. I at this point was still living in Grand Rapids, Michigan working 2 jobs and Jackson still lived in Battle Creek, Michigan working his full-time job. Our plan was to go to farmer’s markets and build our brand that way. Of course, plans change on a dime.
One early March morning Jackson went into the Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce to congratulate a friend on a new job when the president of the chamber stopped Jackson to tell him about a possible opportunity that had not yet been publicly released and that we should keep an eye out for it. We later talked about it and decided if we could get this opportunity we should go for it. So, when it was time, we applied and we started to plan what if. April came, we got the call, and it was time to execute. We had to figure out how to put a coffee shop in at 20’x8’, retrofitted shipping container.
We were slated to move into BC Cargo late May and we geared up to make the move. May 15th I officially moved back to Battle Creek and was ready to pounce. The project had a slight push back but once those boxes touched ground we got straight to work. We spent the next two weeks working long days trying to get ready for opening. Our Dad, George Bredehoft even came out of retirement to help us. We finally got it finished in Mid-June and just went to work. I spent long hours in that box serving coffee and building relationships with people. That is the most important goal we have in this company. We really just want to do the best for you guys and want to listen to all of your input. The plan was originally to do one summer in the cargo units and then focus on our wholesale in October and get through the winter. However, we received a lot of support from the Battle Creek Community and it was proven to us that there was room for us and want for us in this market. So, we started looking for a more permanent place to stay.
It was mid-October that we were approached with an idea that the Small Business Development Fund of The City of Battle Creek had. This idea was to create a shared food retail incubator that we and Simply Sensational Berries would be the first tenants. We like the idea and thought it was a great next step in expanding so we went with it. The project was slated to be complete in late December to early January. Winter came fast and we had to halt operations in the first week of November.
Since then Jackson and I have been working on things that aren’t directly related to Café Rica but more towards building relationships and the community of Battle Creek. We have started a podcast that is geared towards shining a spotlight on local leaders and success stories. Drinks with Los Hermanos has been fun so far and we plan on keeping this project around for the near future. We also started the Build Battle Creek Campaign that is looking to change the narrative in our community to a positive one that pushes people to create the place they want to live in. I know I can speak for Jackson on this, you guys have been amazing in 2018! We do this for you guys. We love seeing the people that come in for a coffee enjoying their time. We love seeing returning customers online that love us bringing a little bit of Costa Rica to them. One of our Goals for 2019 is to build more relationship and really create a Café Rica family. So here is a cheer to all of you that supported us in 2018 and we hope that 2019 is another great year!