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Hartford-Based Coffee Startup: Story and Soil

Coffee means so much to some people – it’s their motivation to start each day, but also a passion many share. Michael Acosta from Story and Soil Coffee in Hartford truly loves it. Starting his own shop was about pursuing his interest, not just selling a drink.

Michael has an interesting story, as rich and flavorful as the brews he creates.

The Genesis: Michael Acosta’s Coffee Journey

You could say Michael Acosta from Story and Soil Coffee lives and breathes the stuff. While studying neuroscience at Trinity College, he really got into coffee.

Michael started by helping run their campus coffee shop, getting a feel for the business. His love of coffee led him all around the country, checking out shops everywhere to learn as much as he could about where it comes from and the people behind it.

“I got so into it that coffee basically took over my life,” Michael admits. “I wanted to understand everything, from getting the beans to roasting them. And I wanted to know what was happening with coffee in Connecticut and nationwide, before any official training. Coffee just completely drew me in.”

It’s clear meeting Michael that this went beyond just drinking coffee – it was truly his passion to explore and share his knowledge.

Forming a Business Idea

Michael always wanted to leave his mark on coffee somehow. Working with J. René Coffee Roasters in West Hartford and being part of the Specialty Coffee Association just made him hungrier to do something bigger.

He had a vision for a more friendly, service-focused type of specialty coffee – something he felt was missing, especially around here in Connecticut. A trip to Colombia really opened his eyes.

Coming back from that, Michael was determined to make waves in the local scene. This led to teaming up with Jesus Gomez and Ted Dobeck on N2 Coffee.

“When N2 launched, we were the first ones here in Connecticut to do mobile nitro cold brew coffee,” Michael says. The whole idea was to bring people together over coffee – mixing art, community events, technology, and more into the experience.

reSET Impact Accelerator Experience

reSET Impact Accelerator Experience

Meeting Christopher Mazziotto at reSET really helped push Michael forward. “I went to Chris way before even starting with the idea for N2 Coffee, and he gave me great advice,” Michael recalls fondly.

Chris could see cold brew and nitro brew growing big with places like Starbucks and Dunkin’. He suggested Michael apply for reSET’s business accelerator program. Boy, was that ever helpful for Michael!

“That program let me fully map out N2 on paper with multiple multi-page plans, taking all my market research to create projections,” Michael shares. “It really allowed me to flesh everything out.”

Michael also loved being able to present and communicate his model publicly. “Giving talks on my plans is something I really enjoy.”

Pivoting Towards Story and Soil

While going through the accelerator, Michael started realizing he wanted to change direction some. As good as the mobile coffee idea was, he felt really passionate about a shop having an even bigger influence on the community.

“I had this conversation with Chris where I was like, you know, I don’t think taking N2 around is gonna connect people or help the area as much as this shop I’m dreaming up,” Michael shares.

After that, his mind was made up. Story and Soil became his new goal. “That’s when I made the full switch over to focusing all my energy on opening up an actual bricks and mortar coffee shop.”

Funding the Startup

Getting money to start something new is always the big challenge. Michael luckily teamed up with reSET again, this time to help secure an SBA loan from Farmington Bank.

“There’s so much growth happening with coffee in Connecticut recently. Tons of new shops in just the past six years. But still, only a few are doing it exactly like we aim to do,” Michael shares.

He knew showing the bank this business model hadn’t proven itself yet made things tougher. But Farmington Bank saw Michael’s dedication and took a chance anyway.

Finding a Home in Hartford

Story and Soil opened for business on July 27th, 2017 at its spot on Capital Avenue in Hartford. And Michael knew that location was just right.

“If a coffee shop was going to succeed around Frog Hollow, this was the place to be,” he said confidently. His partner Sarah McCoy had introduced the space after meeting at a farmers market.

The building owners saw the value Story and Soil could bring. And Michael trusted his gut that Hartford was ready based on his industry know-how.

“I went with my intuition that my passion plus experiences would make this work out,” Michael reflected thoughtfully.

An Innovative Coffee Shop Experience

An Innovative Coffee Shop Experience

One of Michael’s main goals with Story and Soil was to make it the type of place people in the neighborhood love and rely on. “We aim to offer something different either through the experience here or the kind of space anyone feels welcome in,” he emphasized.

What really sets Story and Soil apart is how it shows care for the community it’s part of through everything it does. More than just selling a drink, the shop brings people together, gets locals involved in activities, and makes a positive difference through multimedia and events.

Some things that make Story and Soil unique:

  • It’s very tuned into the neighborhood – always organizing activities that let folks connect.
  • The space highlights artwork by area artists, giving local talent a place to shine.
  • There’s a major focus on eco-friendly practices from bean sourcing to waste handling.
  • People can find anything from staple brews to more innovative concoctions on the diverse menu.

Final Words

Michael Acosta going from a neuroscience student to a total coffee addict to a successful businessman shows what you can do if you truly go after your dreams. In a world where money often seems more important than community, this place stands out as a shining example of why connecting with people and doing things with sincerity matters most.