Profiles of Innovation
Austin's Cuvée Coffee takes coffee culture to the bean
Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a new continuing series that highlights Austin innovators and entrerpreneurs.
Mike McKim loves coffee. He loves drinking it, yes, but his passion goes deeper than that. McKim loves everything about coffee: the way it smells, the way it’s grown, the way it’s roasted. But making coffee a business? That wasn’t really in his plans.
“We started by roasting coffee as a hobby. We never really had the idea that it would turn into a business, but through a series of events we kind of got forced into turning it into a business.”
Today, McKim oversees a mature 13-year-old coffee business. Cuvée Coffee Roasting Company sells more than coffee; it sells a culture.
“Fortunately for me I have a really encouraging and supportive wife so she let me kind of chase that passion. She gave me enough rope to hang myself so to speak." — Mike McKim, CEO
“It’s been a very long struggle, so we needed patience and tenacity,” says co-founder, CFO and wife, Rashelle McKim. “But we got there. And now we’re finding that people are starting to demand better coffee, and that’s exciting because that was our initial goal — to further the coffee culture, to make people want a better product and actually enjoy it.”
That mission of appreciation guides everything Cuvée does. McKim heads more than a roasting company; he sees his business as an opportunity to educate both the consumer and the coffee houses he supplies.
Cuvée offers educational classes for baristas, experiments with alternative brewing methods and supplies and repairs high-end coffee equipment. And of course, Cuvée roasts.
Mike travels to Central and South America a few times each year to meet with his growers and select the best beans they have to offer. He pays more than fair trade prices because he demands a lot. On one recent trip he took along a veteran videographer. The resulting hours of footage are now being assessed for a potential reality TV series McKim calls “Wild Coffee.”
Mike and Rashelle McKim don’t meet any common definition of “business owners.” They're casual, fun, interesting and do not exude the over-driven nature of so many business owners you meet. Together, they suggest that attitude is part of what makes an entrepreneur.
“Coffee is cool, it was a passion," says Mike. “Fortunately for me, I have a really encouraging and supportive wife, so she let me kind of chase that passion. She gave me enough rope to hang myself, so to speak. I have always been a dreamer and a risk-taker, and I’ll just jump without looking.”
“Whatever you choose, you’ve got to have a passion for it,” adds Rashelle. “An entrepreneur to me is a visionary, a risk taker. Somebody who has an idea and goes for it. And that takes a pretty special person I think — just like him.”
“[Our mission is] building really great partnerships, and for us they can be lifelong,” says Mike. “They’re with the consumers that drink our coffee, they’re with the coffee shops that sell our coffee, they’re with the farmers that grow our coffee and they’re with our employees — the guys that roast our coffee and ship our coffee. We have a great culture that I don’t want to ever lose, and I think that’s one of the important keys to our long term success.”