Blue State Coffee is on a mission to create vibrant cafés that reflect, improve, and inspire communities throughout New England. The company recently opened a café in Hartford, where it serves coffee and light fare.
Alexandra Bigler, Director of Outreach and Marketing at Blue State Coffee told Innovation Destination Hartford about the company’s beginnings, commitment to philanthropy, and community involvement.
IDH: Tell us about the business concept for Blue State Coffee.
BIGLER: The idea for Blue State Coffee began in 2004 when our founder, Drew Ruben, came up with the idea of a community-oriented coffee shop. The premise was that our values would drive our business. To that end, we donate a percentage of sales to local non-profit organizations, minimize our environmental impact, serve world-class coffee, and treat our employees as members of the Blue State Coffee family.
IDH: When did the first coffee shop open?
BIGLER: Our first café opened in Providence, RI in 2007. Since then, we have grown to eight cafes across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut…Hartford is our newest cafe!
IDH: Describe your company mission—why so much emphasis on community involvement?
BIGLER: Our company was founded on the idea that business can be a force for good in the community. This ethos is connected to every step of our organization: from our relationships with coffee farmers to the service and products we provide our customers, having a positive impact on our community is our underlying goal.
IDH: How do you chose which local non-profit organizations to support?
BIGLER: Our philanthropy program is directly connected to our mission, and it is important to us that the non-profits supported in our cafes work directly with our local communities. To that end, we choose our non-profit organizations based on customer suggestions. Each café has a jar where customers can write in their recommendations. The more times an organization is suggested, the more likely it is to be chosen!
IDH: Tell us about why you chose to locate a coffee shop in downtown Hartford.
BIGLER: We actually small-batch roast all of our coffee at our roastery in South Windsor, CT and had wanted to open a cafe in Hartford for quite some time—it was a matter of finding a space that was the right fit. When we learned about 777 Main Street, we knew we had found our place.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next three to five years?
BIGLER: We’ll continue partnering with fantastic non-profit organizations, serving wonderful products, and providing an excellent experience for all our customers!
IDH: Do you have any words of wisdom for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
BIGLER: Be excited to learn. Every day is a learning experience when you’re starting something new, and that is so invigorating and empowering. We’ve learned more about coffee and running cafés in the last 12 years than we ever could have imagined!