Drumroll Coffee Roasters Co-Owner Vincent Federici had an entrepreneurial drive and a love of freshly roasted coffee, which he leveraged into a unique business that provides small-batch, organic, specialty grade coffee beans from around the world. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price visited the shop and met with Vincent to talk about his entrepreneurial experience.
NAN PRICE: How did you develop the business concept for a shop that sells roasted coffee beans—but isn’t a coffee shop.
VINCENT FEDERICI: I’ve always had a passion for coffee. I was interested in learning about the roasting aspect and thinking about how my wife, Siobhan, and I could leverage it into our own business. We wanted the focus to be on offering a selection of high-quality coffee beans rather than assuming the risk of opening a coffee shop and competing with others.
I think that focus has enabled us to succeed because we’re so laser focused on what we do and what we offer—and what we offer is something that a lot of people utilize.
I had done a lot of research about business models and the risks and the investment needed. Even if we had wanted to open a coffee shop, it’s very expensive and we didn’t have the capital. So, we felt this was the most effective way to become entrepreneurs and to have a little more control and focus.
About two years ago, I rented a small spot in East Hartford to use as a workshop where I could develop roasts. The plan was to spend a few months getting everything down pat and then start to sell our coffee beans at festivals, fairs, and farmers markets. But when COVID-19 hit, we realized that model wasn’t feasible anymore.
NAN: How did you pivot?
VINCENT: I’m a Wethersfield native. I grew up here and I’ve loved seeing all the wonderful things happening on Main Street with new businesses. In March 2020, this spot on Main Street in Wethersfield became available. We jumped at the opportunity to rent this location, even though it was a couple of years before we had planned, and we opened at the end of July 2020.
Fortunately, we were able to be nimble through COVID-19, whether it was setting up outside, creating wholesale accounts for local cafés that are licensed and equipped for food service, or knowing that if we shut down as a state, we would be considered a food manufacturing establishment, which are deemed essential. And coffee being coffee, everyone wants it, whether they’re at home or at an office.
NAN: Tell us a little about taking that risk and jumping right in.
VINCENT: Siobhan and I were both in educational administration until September 2020. Our initial plan was to do this on the side, nights and weekends. With the rebirth and development of businesses in Wethersfield, our coffee store took off—and it exceeded our expectations.
Early on, in addition to us reaching out to other businesses to partner and do wholesale and collaboration, businesses were reaching out to us. That was really special and it also helped launch us and boost our profile.
NAN: How else have you been marketing and building clientele?
VINCENT: We did a lot of tastings and a lot of outreach, which Siobhan handles. Her background is in public relations and external affairs. So, she handles all of that and I handle the roasting.
In addition to building our customer base, partnering with other businesses has been a key aspect of our growth and development. We’ve been collaborating with entrepreneurs up and down Main Street, including some who are starting businesses. And we reach out to a lot of coffee shops that are opening to let them know we can be their supplier. We recently added another one that’s opening locally.
NAN: Coming from education, do either of you have any experience running a business?
VINCENT: No. We’ve been more involved in educational management. So, we’re used to managing departments with lots of people, running a lot of operations, and being in charge of budgets. We spent a lot of time determining our educational vision at the different places we worked. Those skills transferred really well and we’ve been able to apply them from an entrepreneurial standpoint to figure out what’s our vision here? What’s our business model?
NAN: Did you tap into any local resources to help?
VINCENT: Early on, I took some classes through the Small Business Administration (SBA). They cautioned about opening a restaurant, noting that so many go out of business. They wanted us to be aware of the risks before applying for any loans or grants. That further reaffirmed our concept and let us know we were starting our business the right way as far as having a specific focus and taking little risk. So, if it did work, great. If it didn’t work, well, we still gained skills and experience.
NAN: Have you always wanted to own a business?
VINCENT: Yes. As a life goal, we wanted to at least try to own something that was our own. We didn’t care how big it was. In fact, we always saw it being small. My wife is a freelance communications consultant, so she kind of dipped her toes in that water before me.
This is the happiest we’ve ever been because we’re able to provide something that makes people feel happy and, so far, it’s been successful. We just keep trying to find different ways to promote our product with our focus on growing our relationships without getting too distracted and diluted.
NAN: Any advice for others starting out?
VINCENT: People from all different industries have told me they wished they could do what we’re doing. I always tell people: If you really want to be an entrepreneur and open a business, you can do it. Find something you love. And, yes, it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifice. I just I want more people to take those entrepreneurial risks and feel rewarded like we do.