Entrepreneurs / Small Business  February 25, 2011

espresso people never sleep

FORT COLLINS – For a caffeine addict, espresso people inc. might just be just what the junkie ordered.

Owner Beverly McKenzie can serve coffee anywhere: doctors’ break room, high school hallway, your backyard, even sometimes next to the soccer field where 5-year-olds sprint in silky shirts while parents huddle on the sidelines dreaming of hot drinks. Of morning mud. Of Juan Valdez. Of Jaaaava.

McKenzie was just such a parent 12 years ago when she got the idea for espresso people inc. Her 5-year-old twins and their teammates kept warm running up and down the field at the Fort Collins Soccer Complex while all of their biggest fans shivered, complaining they forgot their coffee at home. McKenzie, a single mother and former restaurant owner, knew a business opportunity when she saw it.

“We would be out there when it was 20 degrees and snowing,” she said. “I was freezing, and nothing was offered for seven miles in any direction.”

From single mom with three children doing medical transcription to successful espresso entrepreneur, McKenzie has worked hard and come a long way. Each of the last three years her business grossed $250,000, and today, McKenzie is looking at nationwide expansion, not as a franchise, but as a business opportunity for others.

McKenzie is a woman who doesn’t like frou-frou coffee, but loves coffee wisdom like the Stephanie Prior quote, “Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee,” and who had quit many jobs before finally settling on one that gets her up at the crack of dawn. She started the business in 1998 with a converted utility trailer that she paid a commission to set up at the soccer fields on Saturdays.

This coffee tastes like mud! Well, it was ground this morning. – Old Vaudeville joke

“A lot of people thought it was an old horse trailer because of the tall walls and the bars,” she said. “It’s actually a utility trailer painted green. I had a welder make the top look like a covered wagon and I added a green and white stripped awning. Using savings, it cost me about $20,000 to get set up. The trailer had to have running water for the health department. On average I served 500 people on Saturdays for six years.”

A morning without coffee is like sleep. – Author unknown

McKenzie’s medical transcription work provided her next clientele. For 10 years she’d dropped off medical transcription to Internal Medicine of Fort Collins. She’d noticed that pharmaceutical reps would come in with food and coffee to give to the doctors as they talked to them about their products.

“I asked the clinic if I could set up a coffee bar for free,” she said. “The clinic liked me, and then they asked the pharmaceutical reps to bring me in to cater breakfast with a heavy emphasis on coffee. I set up in the break room where the reps talk to the doctors and nurses while I serve. In the first week I was booked every day. I used savings to start up the business. It took me only six months to realize this would be a ‘go.’ I quit the medical transcription.”

Now she knows how all the doctors in Fort Collins take their coffee.

“I may not know all of their names, but I look at their faces and I think, Mexican mocha with one shot,” McKenzie said.

She now caters mostly breakfast meetings for a variety of clients.

Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven. – Jesse Lane Adams

The catering part of the business cost $7,000 to set up. Since she sold the trailer, McKenzie has learned how to add variety without weight, to pack better  and to hire the right people.

“I hire young, strong college girls who all work out,” she said.

They need to be fit to set up the portable, collapsible table that expands up to bar height on site; draping it with a black cloth, not so much. Espresso machines, small bottles with 24 flavors (six sugar-free), and Ghirardelli hot chocolate complete the display.

“We use fresh-roasted beans by the Black Cup Coffee Roaster in Loveland,” McKenzie said. “I have a cooler for dairy products. If the reps ask me to bring waffles, I bring waffles.”

Decaffeinated coffee is kind of like kissing your sister. – Author unknown

Word-of-mouth advertising helps people find her business. She does weddings where people don’t serve alcohol, bridal showers and graduation parties.

“We’ve been in almost every school in Fort Collins for events like teacher appreciation days,” McKenzie added. “Last summer, I donated a cart to the Walk for Breast Cancer at Fort Collins High School where we set up at the track, running an extension cord into a building.”

She said she’s even willing to go door-to-door, just like the newspaper carrier or the milkman. One day, McKenzie said, “I just might replace them.”

FORT COLLINS – For a caffeine addict, espresso people inc. might just be just what the junkie ordered.

Owner Beverly McKenzie can serve coffee anywhere: doctors’ break room, high school hallway, your backyard, even sometimes next to the soccer field where 5-year-olds sprint in silky shirts while parents huddle on the sidelines dreaming of hot drinks. Of morning mud. Of Juan Valdez. Of Jaaaava.

McKenzie was just such a parent 12 years ago when she got the idea for espresso people inc. Her 5-year-old twins and their teammates kept warm running up and down the field at the…

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