Pull up a Chair: a Conversation with Bonlife Coffee

Today, I’m having a conversation with Jeremy Moore, the founder of Bonlife Coffee, who recently launched a Kickstarter to fund a coffee-fueled cross country road trip. Jeremy, feel free to pull up a chair.

bonlife coffee

Before we get started, can you briefly tell us a little bit about yourself and the people involved in Bonlife Coffee?

I’m a regular guy who married way outta my league and just keeps getting luckier. Bonlife is run by myself, my wife who runs retail operations, and my brothers, one who does most of the roasting and one who lives at origin and works with farmers. We’re all about pushing quality limits and providing farmers and consumers with greater relationship with one another.

One of the things in your Kickstarter video that really connected with me was the statement “Every day you’re drinking a story.” What is the story of Bonlife Coffee, and what story are you hoping Bonlife will tell?

Jonny (middle brother) moved to northern Thailand three years ago, there he found some great coffees grown by some very poor people. We were founded out of the idea that a great cup of coffee could also make a difference by offering farmers access to fair and sustainable incomes and challenge consumers to make a difference with their everyday purchases. Our goal is that coffee drinkers would get to a place where they think about the farmer every time they research which coffee to buy and drink. We believe that regular people can change the world, and we want to model and help others be a part of that.

So you guys are based in Cleveland, Tennessee—relatively close to Chattanooga. And there, you have an established shop and roastery. Since you lot are already telling a story within the four walls of the shop, what made you decide to take that story out on the road? What was the inspiration for a road trip?

Our retail concept has been a lot of fun and proven that people do care! They care about the story of the coffee they drink and the best way for us to introduce that concept to a broader audience is by taking the message to them…and that’s easier with wheels!

You have set stops in New York, Washington, DC, Nashville, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, and you’ll also be making side stops and detours to markets and festivals. How are you deciding where to go? Will there be any other steps in other major metropolitan cities (say Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, L.A., et al) or is your itinerary more or less set?

Atlanta is about 97 miles from us, so we’ll definitely make it to the ATL, and we’re diehard Tigers fans, so Detroit is a must, and if we’re gonna be in Detroit we might as well hit Chicago! Our basic map was drawn based on common sense coast to coast navigation, and our main summer itinerary is somewhat set, but we are absolutely willing to go wherever it makes sense and we’re wanted, good music helps too…

You mention that you’ll also be visiting “events of [our] (the customer’s) choosing” – what will that look like? How will people be able to request your presence at any given event?

People can request us to come to specific events and locales when making a kickstarter pledge but we’re also monitoring Facebook and twitter for suggested stops, there will be some last minute and unscheduled stops, maybe even Boise.

A lot of my experience and background is in project management, so I’m always interested in logistics. While you’re out, gallivanting about the country and singing “King of the Road”, how will you replenish your stock of coffee when you inevitably sell out?

Great song and question! That’s one reason for some pre-determined stops, so we can ensure that fresh roasted coffees and accompaniments are always available. We’ll have shipments of fresh awesome every few days via good ole FedEx.

How long will you be on the road? Will you be able to guarantee your coffee’s freshness over that span of time, and how?

The whole road trip is planned to be about 30 days, but we’d love for demand to stretch that out a few weeks! We’ll be having fresh roasted coffees of varying origin shipped from our Tennessee Roastery at least once a week to ensure we always have a great supply of farmer centric goodness available.

What sort of drinks will people be able to order at the van window?

We’ll offer a stripped down version of our shop menu that still gives something for everyone. Great coffees, cappuccinos, and lattes, a signature drink (or two), and a couple of our exceptional brew methods like Chemex, 18 hour Cold Brew, Sowden, and of course whole bean coffee by the bag and some cool limited edition swag items.

So what’s the story with the Volkswagen van? (Which looks awesome, by the way.) Did you really find a rusty, broken down hippie wagon in the middle of the woods as your Kickstarter video suggests? Who fixed it up for you?

We did, actually we found several… It’s being fixed up by some great friends as we speak!

What are you most looking forward to during the big road trip?

Wow, tough to single out one thing. We’re definitely looking forward to meeting some great people and sharing the story that every cup of coffee you drink is already doing something, might as well make it do something awesome! And dancing, we’re looking forward to lots of coffee fueled dancing.

People who are interested in this project can make monetary donations via Kickstarter, and your goal is $15,000. What will these funds go towards?

We’ve got some great rewards for all levels of support from $5 to $3500, every little bit helps and even telling your friends is greatly appreciated! The funds will go to finishing buildout of the van and the actual labor and gas cost of a several thousand mile, month long trip.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

You’re awesome!

Ha! Thanks, bub. Jeremy, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat with me. Best of luck, and drive safe!

Thank you for your help and sharing this! Looking forward to meeting you in Chicagoland.

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