Hey folks! Mark here, founder and primary weirdo behind Latigo Coffee. I've been eager to write this post for some time, and I'm stoked to finally share it with you. Below you'll find a "cheat sheet" of everything I learned over the past year while launching this business. I hope you find the transparency amusing, at the very least! At best - maybe this will help some of you get over the self-inflicted "mental roadblocks" that have prevented you from launching your own thingy (trust me - I was a member of that sad little summer camp for a very, very long time). Enjoy!

On Branding

It really all starts with what type of "vibe" you're going for. From early on, I knew that Latigo needed to be fun/playful and outdoorsy. I really wanted to avoid the recent "craft branding trap" that I feel many other roasting co's have succumbed to in the past decade (aka, the never-ending quest to "outcool" each other).

Start by making a list of a variety of stuff/brands that you're into. For me, it morphed into a Google Doc (snippet included below) that included surfboard shapers, bicycle blogs, music, and local breweries:

I was extremely fortunate last year to get introduced to a world-class designer by the name of Greg Christian who helped translate my "list" into an initial brand (the one you see represented with the palms + Latigo font on the coffee bags). Seek out people who share the same values and Vibe Values as you, and hold onto them for dear life. This all came far in advance to having a business plan (or website) mapped out - in fact, most "Business Planning 101" advice would urge you to focus on this stuff last. Perhaps that's the case with 90% of business ideas ... but guess what? That's about the same percentage of ideas you'll have that turn out to be crap and not worth pursuing anyway. 

A few short months later, I was in need of some original artwork for the website + packaging. It helps to follow your favorite artists (and in my case - bicycle shops, surf shops, and other people doing fun things in design). One day I noticed a super sexy aloe bottle on the Golden Saddle 'gram. I immediately purchased two - and had the bright idea to reach out to the artist (RJ Rabe) to discuss Latigo designs.

Once again - when you find people who align with your Vibe Values (and they happen to be super talented artists), give them all of your money. It took no more than 15 minutes of chatting over the phone before realizing that a partnership with RJ was match made in heaven for Latigo. His artwork is all over everything (see website, inserts, incredibly beautiful packaging tape, etc). Without a host of fun, original artwork to adorn your little creations - what's the real worth in doing it? Make stuff that's fun to look at.

On Web Stuff

If you're looking to sell stuff online (and don't wanna hire a team of developers), Shopify is your best bet. Unlike Squarespace (which is a lovely place for your wedding website), Shopify was built from the ground up with the sole purpose of powering e-commerce. We utilize the Pacific theme from Pixel Union (a paid theme - but there are literally dozens of "free" ones that might do the job for you just fine). 

I'm not a seasoned web developer by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot tell you how many hours I wasted on YouTube "How To" videos last summer when I started building this thing out. When I realized it was going nowhere quick, I reached out to the owner of a popular YouTube "Shopify Tutorials" channel (Pratham Jani of Tripster Developers). For a totally reasonable sum sent via PayPal, Pratham was able to roll out 100% of the little tweaks I needed on the site. This guy is a Shopify wizard - and you should reach out to him.

Shopify Apps We Use:

  1. ReCharge - a Shopify app that handles our recurring billing / customer checkout portal / discounts / and much more. From what I've heard, it's a better platform than the closest competitor (ChargeBee).
  2. Referral Candy - another Shopify app which (as you may have guessed) handles our referrals. I'll be honest - this was probably the steepest learning curve of building out the site. It's critically important, but definitely takes a good chunk of time to setup properly (from the notifications, to the landing pages, to the customer portal). 
  3. AfterShip - all USPS shipping labels are purchased directly in Shopify on a per-order basis (the orders themselves are triggered by ReCharge every 2 or 4 weeks, depending on what you sign up for). Incredibly, Shopify does not offer a portal for tracking shipments in bulk. So you'll need a powerful tool like AfterShip to make sure all that goodness gets properly delivered!

Where to find beautiful icons: On the non-Shopify side of things, I had a tremendously fun time learning about icons + fonts. It's pretty mind-blowing, the amount of resources that exist entirely for free online - and you don't even have to look that hard. Pictured above is a little PNG party from the one and only Noun Project. You'll notice some of them included here on the Latigo product pages. Freeebbble is an alternative resource for much of the same stuff (don't expect the same incredible user experience as NP though). 

How to identify any font on any website: use Fount. This is a super easy-to-use plugin for any browser which, once enabled, allows you to identify mostly any badass-looking font your eye catches. This was so incredibly useful for getting started - and I still use it regularly just to keep tabs on beautiful typography. On the Latigo site, we're using Museo Sans + Brandon Grotesque (you'll need a valid TypeKit account for that second one). 

... thank you MATT JONES for introducing me to both of those wonders, and for teaching me the fundamentals of PSD & AI.

Why MailChimp is important: Our regular newsletter (called "The Skinny") is sent along with every new roast (aka, every 2 weeks). It's a format that allows you to call attention to things that otherwise might not "work" as social media posts. This is a place to chat with your unique audience of subscribers - those who are already "on board" with what you're putting out there. MailChimp is a ridiculously powerful tool that allows you to build simple, elegant campaigns (that are easy to replicate).

... and yes, we think of the intro to Serial (the podcast) every time we fire it up.

Why Shipping is Everything

Now, you can play around for months getting setup with all the tools I just listed above. It's really quite fun, and watching all the pieces come together might be the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

BUT, at the end of that process you're going to arrive at a critical point: hitting the "launch" button, and shipping your product. Here's a confession: when I arrived on the one-yard line back in early December, I went total chickenshit. I spent five months of my life building out this thing that I firmly believed in, but things got really scary (aka, self doubt and all that fun stuff) right before you launch.

"Yes, I know you're a master of the web, that you've visited every website written in English, that you've been going to SXSW for ten years, that you were one of the first bloggers, you used Foursquare before it was cool and you can code in HTML in your sleep. Yes, I know that you sit in the back of the room tweeting clever ripostes when speakers are up front failing on a panel and that you had a LOLcat published before they stopped being funny. But what have you shipped? What have you done with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world? Go, do that." - Seth Godin from his blog.

Surround yourself with a mix of creatives + entrepreneurs if you want to be successful. The high's are fleeting, and the low's will be completely crushing. Lucky for me, right around that pre-launch moment when I was completely crapping my pants, a good friend (and one of the most creative people I've ever met) sent me Seth Godin's fantastic book - "Linchpin." He did so on a complete hunch - figuring that I had approached a very critical moment in my process, and he was absolutely right. It was just the motivational kick in the nuts that I needed to bring Latigo to light. THANK YOU, CHRIS KELLY!

On Production

Chances are pretty good that if you're looking to sell stuff, you'll need to work with a variety of vendors to make it happen. There are several in our roster (including Lumi, MOO, Uline and PackPlus to name a few).

However, there are none more important than our partnership with Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders in Orange, CA. We purchase a majority of our coffees from these guys - and they are the face behind our roasting operation. The process looks roughly like this: we test dozens of coffees on a Hottop sample roaster, find 1-2 that really shine (through a process known as "cupping"), and then work with Bodhi Leaf on the large "batch" roast that you enjoy at home. If this shocks and appalls some of you (that we're aligned with a top-tier roasting partner to share these solid coffee vibes with you) - then please accept my apology, and feel free to use this referral link for Blue Bottle's home subscription.

The All-Powerful Subscription Numbers: As of typing this at 8:34pm on Sunday, March 19th - Latigo Coffee has 141 subscribers (120 of whom are currently active). We've seen a steady increase in the total number of subscribers with each "roast interval" (a two week period), with the largest "jump" in subscribership coming in this most recent cycle (with 24 new subscribers, largely due to a recent promotion we launched with Venice Beach e-commerce startup - StackSocial). We shipped our first coffee on January 9th, 2017.


So that's where we're at, folks! To all those currently subscribed - I cannot say thank you enough times. It's truly an honor to play a part in your daily routine - in that moment that I know is sacred for so many of you. Thank you!

We'll continue to focus first and foremost on quality - and will keep things interesting in the coming months with new partnership announcements, online content, and solid coffees! To those of you still "on the fence" about jumping in - what are you waiting for?

 Jump in now: