Hartford-Based Coffee Startup: Story and Soil

Coffee is more than just a beverage; it’s a culture, a lifestyle, and for some, a passion that drives their entrepreneurial spirit. One such individual is Michael Acosta, the founder of Story and Soil Coffee.

This Hartford-based coffee startup has a tale that’s as rich and aromatic as the brews it serves. Let’s explore the story behind Story and Soil and discover the journey of a young entrepreneur who turned his love for coffee into a thriving business.

The Genesis: Michael Acosta’s Coffee Journey

You could say Story and Soil Coffee Founder Michael Acosta lives and breathes coffee. The young entrepreneur was pursuing neuroscience at Trinity College when he became involved in the coffee scene.

His coffee-related work experience began when he was a graduate assistant running The Underground Coffeehouse, a student-run shop on campus. Michael’s passion for coffee took him on a journey across the United States, visiting various coffee shops and immersing himself in the coffee culture.

“I found myself in a position where I became obsessed about coffee,” he admits. “I wanted to know everything about the supply chain and the culture and the more technical aspects of it. I made it my job to know as much as possible about the local coffee scene, as well as the national coffee scene—this is even before getting any formal training.”

Forming a Business Idea

“It’s always been a dream to have some sort of impact on the coffee industry,” says Michael. His association with J. René Coffee Roasters in West Hartford and The Specialty Coffee Association of America further fueled his ambition.

Michael envisioned a more approachable and service-oriented approach to specialty coffee, something he felt was lacking in the industry, especially in Connecticut. A trip to Colombia proved to be transformative for Michael.

Upon his return, he was determined to make a mark in the local coffee scene. This led to the inception of N2 Coffee, a joint venture with Jesus Gomez and Ted Dobeck.

“When we launched N2 Coffee, it was the first mobile nitro cold brew in Connecticut,” he notes. The idea behind N2 was to bring coffee to people in an engaging manner, intertwining media, art, events, and community engagement.

reSET Impact Accelerator Experience

reSET's 2018 Impact Accelerator Webinar

Michael’s association with Christopher Mazziotto, the former Program Director at reSET, played a pivotal role in shaping his startup journey. “I approached Chris with my idea for N2 a year before I even executed,” recalls Michael.

Recognizing the rising trend of cold brew and nitro brew in popular chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, Chris advised Michael to participate in the reSET Impact Accelerator. The accelerator program was a game-changer for Michael.

“I was able to put together a 40-page, a 25-page, and a 15-page business plan. It helped to put everything on paper, take all my observations, and create projections.

I also enjoy public speaking, giving presentations, and communicating my business model,” he adds.

Pivoting Towards Story and Soil

During his time at the accelerator, Michael realized the need for a pivot. While N2 Coffee had its merits, Michael felt a coffee shop could have a more profound social impact.

“I remember telling Chris: I don’t see N2 having the same social impact as the coffee shop I’m working on can have. So, I started switching my focus completely onto opening a coffee shop,” he says.

This shift in focus culminated in the birth of Story and Soil.

Funding the Startup

For any startup, securing funding is a crucial step. Michael collaborated with reSET to obtain a Small Business Administration loan from Farmington Bank. “There’s a lot of coffee industry growth within Connecticut.

Within the last six years, more than 20 stores have opened. Of those stores, a handful are hyper-specialty, like we are. So, there is still no proof of concept,” Michael explains.

Despite the challenges, Farmington Bank took a leap of faith, enabling Story and Soil to purchase equipment, obtain licenses, and build out their space.

Finding a Home in Hartford

Story and Soil opened its doors on Capital Avenue in Hartford on July 27, 2017. The location was no accident.

“It just made sense. If a coffee shop is going to go anywhere within Frog Hollow, it’s going to go here,” Michael opines. Sarah McCoy, one of the three partners, including Michael McCoy, approached Michael at a local farmer’s market and introduced the idea of the space on Capital Avenue.

The building owners recognized the value a coffee shop would bring to the neighborhood. Michael’s decision to set up a shop in Hartford was driven by intuition and experience.

“I went with my gut feeling. I think I had enough passion combined with the experience I have within the coffee industry, so that gut feeling was an interesting intuition,” he reflects.

Michael was confident in the potential of Hartford’s burgeoning food scene and believed Story and Soil could contribute positively to its momentum.

An Innovative Coffee Shop Experience

jars full of coffee

One of Michael’s primary goals with Story and Soil was to make it a neighborhood staple. “We want to offer something unique—whether that’s with experience or by curating a space that’s welcoming,” he emphasizes.

What sets Story and Soil apart is its commitment to reflecting the community it serves. Beyond serving a cup of coffee, the shop aims to connect people, foster community engagement, and make an impact through media and events.

Bullet points highlighting the unique features of Story and Soil:

  • Community-Centric: The shop organizes regular events to bring the community together.
  • Artistic Flair: The interiors showcase local art, providing a platform for local artists.
  • Sustainable Practices: Emphasis on eco-friendly practices, from sourcing beans to waste management.
  • Diverse Menu: A range of beverages catering to diverse tastes, from classic brews to innovative concoctions.

Final Words

The tale of Story and Soil is more than just about coffee; it’s about passion, community, and the indomitable spirit of entrepreneurship. Michael Acosta’s journey from a neuroscience student to a coffee connoisseur and entrepreneur is a testament to the power of following one’s passion and the magic that can happen when you blend that passion with purpose.

In a world where businesses often chase profits over purpose, Story and Soil stands as a beacon, reminding us of the importance of community, connection, and authenticity. It’s not just about serving a cup of coffee; it’s about creating experiences, fostering relationships, and building a community around shared values and aspirations.

As we sip our brews from Story and Soil, we’re not just tasting coffee; we’re partaking in a story of dreams, determination, and dedication. Here’s to many more chapters in the inspiring journey of Story and Soil, and to the countless cups of coffee that will continue to bring people together, one sip at a time.