Creative entrepreneur Jermaine Frazer-Phillips became a “covidpreneur” when he launched Big Up Brew in April 2021 with a mission to provide a high-quality, inclusive brand inspired by the uplifting Jamaican phrase “big up yourself.” MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Jermaine to learn more about his startup.
NAN PRICE: Have you always been entrepreneurial?
JERMAINE FRAZER-PHILLIPS: I’ve always been creative. I used to sing and make music. Creativity has been foundational for me because I think it’s the best way to formulate expression. When I thought about how to utilize creativity as an adult, entrepreneurship became that segue.
NAN: What encouraged you to start this business?
JERMAINE: From a traditional point of view, it was challenging because we’re in a pandemic. But my passion for business ownership, coffee, our community, and making an impact made it easier. I just thought about how this business was going to provide for our community, specifically in Hartford, which is a place that’s super opportunistic.
NAN: Did you connect with any local small business resources as you were starting the business?
Places like reSET have also introduced me to many individuals and small groups. It’s very foundational for us to meet people within Hartford, sit down, and have coffees. Building your network is necessary. You can’t do it alone. You have to have your foundation and Hartford has a great foundation for that.
When you think about business, a lot of people think just sell your stuff. I’ve been in sales for many years and that’s something we can focus on, but I’ve been more micro-focused on building relationships. I want to meet the people who are buying our coffee. I want to meet businesses and formulate relationships.
NAN: You mentioned you’ve been in sales. How has your background helped you to be a business owner?
JERMAINE: There’s a process in sales. A lot of people associate salespeople with just talking and pitching, and a lot of salespeople do that. But I’ve found that the best sales people listen. The way I incorporate sales into my business isn’t necessarily pitching a product to people. It’s more trying to understand my audience and know what they like.
I’m asking questions like: How do you like your coffee? How do you brew it? Do you like medium roast or dark roast? I find that listening is a special thing. It makes people feel important and every person who speaks to Big Up Brew is very important.
NAN: What’s next? What do you see for the future of Big Up Brew?
JERMAINE: The goal is to diversify the food and beverage industry through a legitimate business structure. Minority-owned businesses make representation, but do so on a scale that’s very structured. There are two ways we can expand. We can either open a café, like a brick-and-mortar sit-down spot, or we can start out with a food truck, which is what’s next. We want to pull up to places in Hartford, offer coffee, and further connect with the city. We like food trucks because they’re very mobile and we can travel to you.
Then, the next big step is to find a space where we can do a more in-house roasting. From our overall community’s perspective, we’re looking for a spot to partner up with within the music industry to collaborate, whether it’s through events or music showcases. We want to form a deep connection with our community.