Companies that believe in something, and stay true to those beliefs over time, tend to attract like-minded customers. And as the company stays loyal to those beliefs, the customers stay loyal to the company. The result is growth – growth in trust, growth of the brand, and growth of the company – a growth fueled by authenticity.
In Portland, Maine, a city of 64,000 people, there’s a coffee roaster called “Coffee By Design.” Founded in 1994, it grew during a time when Starbucks was building its current 10 stores and Dunkin Donuts its 22 stores in the same small city. Many small businesses find it a challenge to survive when a large national player moves in next door. But Coffee By Design has been able to grow despite the challenge from these two industry goliaths. And authenticity has clearly been a factor in that growth.
Coffee By Design was founded by two people that decided they were going to build a business around their passions – coffee and community. As they grew, they retained that culture by being selective in hiring employees and choosing business partners.
“We believe that being selective is better, and therefore only choose to work with businesses who share our same standards and beliefs in environmental and economic sustainability.”
When companies grow and need to hire additional employees and vendors, their selection criteria are often limited to those elements which are easy to measure and compare: differences like costs, logistics and other operational elements. But those objective elements can easily obfuscate what’s beneath the surface: the values, beliefs and passions of the people and partners that will become the face of the company within their new markets and neighborhoods.
Employees bring their values to the workplace. And like it or not, their values become your brand by way of the customer experience. Therefore, selecting employees and partners whose personal passions and values align with those of the company’s founders, the experience will remain consistent with the founders’ vision, and the result is authenticity.
Coffee by Design was designed around values. But with each subsequent employee hired, and each business partner and supplier, they’ve included those same values in the selection process. This has enabled the culture to stay consistent, and not become diluted by growth.
As a result, the brand has managed to stay rich and authentic over time, just like the coffee it serves.
Nearly two decades later, the owners continue to be active in socially-focused causes through the local community, and those of their suppliers. The business has been an extension of core beliefs. And this authenticity has produced a thriving brand that has enabled a coffee shop to distinguish itself from larger competitors, and grow a loyal customer base of like-minded coffee consumers.