For millennials, there is Starbucks. For Gen Z, there is BrewBike. The company aims to provide college students with entrepreneurial experiences and their campuses with delicious, fresh cold brew. BrewBike offers students the opportunity to launch and run their own locations: providing them a bike, administrative support, and other resources to successfully run their operation. A common lament of the higher education system is that it sacrifices real-world practice for academic theory. Empowering their students, BrewBike provides oversight as students navigate the operations, marketing, and sales of their business—all while getting paid.
The US coffee market hit $88 billion in 2018, with 84% of that from “away from home” sales. Of those who consume, the habit sticks: 64% of coffee customers consume daily. As for what they drink, cold coffee reigns king: 1 in 5 Americans drink cold brew, largely made up by consumers under 40. In fact, 56% of Gen Zers report buying cold or iced coffee within the last month. As college matriculation rates hit their all time highs, Gen Z college consumers are poised to be a major coffee purchasing force with no current market leader.
Enter BrewBike. Founded in 2015 by Lucas Philips, then a Northwestern University student, BrewBike aims to provide both coffee and an entrepreneurial mission its customers can get behind. Owning a coffee shop on a campus requires a lot of capital and is highly regulated. BrewBike evades these hurdles by putting the power directly in the students’ hands. For each campus they hire a CEO and COO who are responsible for hiring a team, managing operations like scheduling, and marketing their BrewBike campus brand. BrewBike gives them a bike, marketing collateral, and training. This structure allows BrewBike to maintain a lean national team with direct access to college campuses for a low cost, without any of the utilities of owning a coffee shop. This more personalized customer journey allows for customers to connect to BrewBike not only for great coffee, but also as a way to support their friends and their school.
Randy Paris, CEO, joined the company the second year of his MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, presenting it during the school’s annual New Venture Challenge in 2018 and leading the team to the finals. Growing the business across multiple campuses across three states, Paris is determined to change the way Gen Z consumes coffee.
“Working engrained customer habits around coffee into a new experience.” – Randy Paris, CEO
With college campuses closing across the country due to COVID-19, BrewBike had to completely redesign their success to a direct-to-consumer model—in about two weeks. The result was cold brew kits, produced by a third-party vendor. These kits contain small, mesh bags (not unlike what you would use for tea) that customers put into water to create cold brew. This design allows for maximum freshness while replicating the single use, ready-to-drink experience of their BrewBikes.
“People want a fresh, delicious experience in the morning and BrewBike makes it incredibly easy. ” – Randy Paris
Over the summer, BrewBike, led by their CMO Sierra Bloodgood and creative director David Silverman, initiated a brand relaunch. This includes a new website, packaging, and marketing strategy. Each school will have their own brand identities and BrewBike national will launch its marketing on social media, particularly TikTok and Snapchat. This relaunch goes live on November 9th.
This dual approach allows them to maintain their college traction while also expanding their customer base. And it has been successful: September of 2020 was the highest sales month in the company’s history. BrewBike is now raising a Seed 2 round to propel its DTC growth and get into grocery stores.
Moving forward, BrewBike will not resume in-person operations until campuses fully open. Instead, they will continue to build on their online traction through social media marketing and leveraging their student teams to find innovative ways to bring BrewBike to Gen Zers nationwide.