The best thing about the coffee industry is the people in it, so we’re pulling back the curtain to spotlight the amazing team we have here at Bellwether.
Who: Liz Pachaud
Role: Product Marketing Manager
Location: Seattle, WA
As Bellwether’s Product Marketing Manager, Liz is the brains behind much of our communications, website, and media.
Her 10+ years of experience in roasting, wholesale sales, green coffee buying, and coffee business ownership makes her the perfect go-between for the Bellwether mission and the greater coffee industry.
Hey Liz, Will You Answer A Few Questions?
How did you get started working in the coffee industry?
Like many people, I accidentally made a career out of being a barista. After working the bar at a few local shops, I apprenticed as a roaster which led me to green buying, QC, importing, and sales before opening my own roasting company and coffee shop.
Why did you decide to open up your own shop and roasting business?
I realized in my last roasting job that I felt ownership over our product but it wasn’t really mine. I put all my creative energy into sourcing and roasting those coffees, I felt really connected to them as an extension of myself and my values, so I began to feel like I wanted ownership over my own work.
I also had a really specific vision for the company I wanted to start and I knew I had a window where I was still energetic and not yet jaded enough to talk myself out of it. Plus I thought it sounded fun.
So you roasted your own coffee? What was the learning process like?
I roasted and sold wholesale for 2 years before opening my cafe. I was never able to afford my own roaster, or the real estate to install it, so I rented time on other roasters.
The biggest challenge was that I was the roaster and the business operator, so eventually, my own labor became the bottleneck for my business to grow. I wasn’t big enough to hire someone to replace me as the roaster, but I couldn’t roast and sell enough coffee to make the money to hire someone because I could only run the roaster so many hours a week while I was doing the other 600 things being a business owner requires. I was my own limitation.
Tell us what your shop was like? What did you love about it?
I know everyone feels this way about their own place, but our shop was really special. Our entire menu was plant-based and farmer-focused. We made our own cashew milk which we used as the default milk for drinks.
When someone ordered anything with milk, we would tell them the house milk was cashew, or we had almond, hemp, and finally, dairy. Just positioning the options differently to guests had a huge shift in how much dairy our customers used. Less than 10% of guests ever requested it. Probably less than 5% really.
I was also really proud of our food program which I ran much more like a restaurant than a cafe. My background is in food and wine, so from the beginning, we had a full food menu that ran solely off local produce and house-made ingredients. I couldn’t find a pastry supplier that I liked so I started doing that too (also plant-based).
I would get in at 4 or 5 am, make the pastries, open the shop, work the bar, cook the lunch rush, close the cafe, roast the coffee and go make deliveries. Every day. Eventually, we took over the space next door and opened a wine bar and retail wine shop.
What were your most successful and / or surprising strategies for growing your business?
Nurturing real relationships with customers and businesses. Being authentic and honest with our customers and being relatable in everything we did. From our social media, to the way we took and fulfilled orders, and the way we communicated about our brand in public.
We stuck to our values religiously and never obscured ourselves behind a persona for the sake of business or perception. These all helped nurture really rich, long-lasting partnerships with like-minded businesses and organizations, and it opened us up to opportunities I don’t think we would have had based solely on having a good product to sell, or nice packaging.
If you had to start from scratch again, what advice would you give your former self? What would you do differently?
I know how this sounds but if Bellwether had been around when I had my business, it would have completely changed my life. I knew that creatively and financially, roasting my own was the only way to make my business profitable (and I wanted control over my green coffee supply), but I just could never afford a roaster or the space to put one. I could also never get anyone else to fill in for me because I was the only one of us who knew how to roast.
Bellwether would have allowed me to roast in my cafe, roast only to my needs instead of huge batches on these large drum roasters, roast on my own schedule, and have other staff members roast when I couldn’t be there. If I opened a shop again, I’d be roasting on a Bellwether, serving coffee on an Eversys, and feeling very smug about how much sleep I’m getting.
What happened to that business, and why make the switch to working at Bellwether?
It’s still going! My former business partner runs it today under a different name.
Ultimately, while I loved owning my own shop, I really felt like I had more work to do to help reform the coffee industry as a whole. It’s hard to do that as one person running one business full time. I knew I would head into impact work, specifically to work with coffee producers.
How does your experience owning a coffee business inform your work at Bellwether?
I have a very personal understanding of the challenges our customers face. The exhaustion and passion of a small business owner trying to make their specific vision not just a reality but one that’s successful enough to support them and their families.
I know the risk and insecurity of a small margin brick-and-mortar business. The constant low-lying bureaucracy you have to navigate that no one ever trained you in but you’re legally required to get right. How everything is 3x more expensive when you’re small because you can’t buy in bulk or don’t have rotating cash on hand. How we all jokingly put “Janitor” in our titles but it’s really the truth.
I know their exact struggles and I know exactly why they keep doing it every day without quitting. I want to make our product work better for them. I want their vision to succeed and I want to help them do it.
What excites you most about working for Bellwether?
Having a lasting global impact on the sustainability of the coffee industry. Also, everyone who works here is the best person I’ve ever met.
Want to see how roasting coffee in-house with a Bellwether Roaster can help you build a stronger brand and keep more money per pound sold? Reach out today.