The founders of Greenberry's Coffee, Sean & Roxanne Simmons.

Greenberry’s Crowdfunds Nitro

Charlottesville is a college town renowned for its creative economy, and Greenberry’s Coffee has been around long enough to rank as one of our leading local brands. It was 28 years ago that Sean and Roxanne Simmons began serving their delicious coffee and sundries in Barracks Road Shopping Center, and they’ve since expanded to four additional locations in town. 

 

That’s the tip of the iceberg, however, because Greenberry’s sells with increasing volume at retail thru Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. They also sell direct-to-consumers through the mail, and internationally, especially in Japan, where there are 13 Greenberry’s retail locations. Now they’ve hung another moon by raising over $90,000 from 170 enthusiast-investors via a slick web-based stock offering.

 

In March Greenberry’s issued common stock for its new Nitro brand of hard coffee through StartEngine, a LA-based equity crowdfunder. Working from their email database, Greenberrys offered common shares at $11 each for evangelists who prize fine coffee.

 

The stock offering for Greennberry’s Coffee Roasters is to support their Nitro line as it competes against international giants like Guinness and PBR in the expanding market for Hard Coffee, a combination liquor-coffee drink sold in a tall, slim can.

 

Here is our interview with Sean Simmons on his company’s latest innovations, his bourbon-infused Nitro brand, and their crowdfunding campaign:

 

1.Your underwriter, StartEngine, is an interesting company with an extraordinarily simple and appealing interface — what were some of the brands/ideas they previously “brought to market” that inspired you to do such a “capitalization event”?

 

This is a good question. We learned about equity crowdfunding last year, and StartEngine was the leader in our opinion. We saw what Saucy Brew Works and Island Brands were able to do in the alcohol space, and we thought it would be a great match for us.

 

Originally, we were looking at raising money more traditionally, with larger investors owning a larger stake in the company. While we don’t think that’s bad, the equity crowdfunding model was more our style. It brings people together to make something happen and gives our everyday fans and customers the opportunity to win with us as this product line grows.

 

2. How much would you say this event was about raising capital for Greenberry’s versus raising awareness and energy among Greenberry’s evangelists? 

 

Well, this is one of the great things about raising through StartEngine – it allows us to accomplish both at the same time.

 

Our customers have always been very loyal, and even during last year when we nearly had to shut everything down, it was our customers that helped keep us afloat and kept our doors open and our crew working. The company wasn’t making money, but our employees were employed, and their families safe – and that was because of our customer base. We are incredibly grateful for them.

 

This raise gives us a way to share and give back to our customers, as well as help us raise the capital we need for the rapid expansion of this new alcoholic line.

 

3.How many shares did you sell to how many investors? What was the total raise here?

 

The offering max is $1,070,000. In our first 96 hours – our “friends and family” launch that was really only open to our Greenberry’s base – we raised $83,000 from over 150 investors. We have been super encouraged by this initial support, and believe we have the base and momentum we need to complete the raise in the coming months, as the offering opens up to more people.

 

 

5. How will Greenberry’s deploy this capital?

 

Our first goal before the raise was really to show proof of concept in our home markets of Virginia and Washington, D.C. In only six months, and during COVID, we were able to do that. You can find the Nitro products across the state as well as in the Capital in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Costco, The Fresh Market, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Food Lion, and other specialty retailers like Foods of All Nations and convenience stores like Tiger Fuel.

 

This raise is really about giving us the resources we need to expand outside of our home markets. This includes production, sales, marketing, and distribution. We are in the process of hiring a VP of Marketing as well as a Director of Distribution in order to drive sales as we move south into high tourism vacation states. Those include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. On the heels of those states will be Texas. We are also working on a new facility that will double our brewing and roasting capacities to meet increased demand.

 

Like any new product, it has to be excellent so people will buy it again. But before that, they have to know about it. The resources from this raise will give us the capacity to serve a growing customer base, as well as help us drive the awareness we need for people to make the first purchase – and we believe the product will keep them coming back.

 

6. What are your growth ambitions for Greenberry’s in general and Nitro Hard Coffee in particular?

 

Phase I of our Nitro growth was our home markets of Virginia and D.C. – we did that in 2020. Phase II is what we are currently in, and that is going to states directly south. Phase III will include using our regional partners to help us launch the line across the country, as well as taking advantage of our international presence to launch the product in key markets in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

 

A lot of people don’t know this about us, but we aren’t just a local company. We started in Charlottesville and are based here in Charlottesville, but we have franchises in three states, and we also have 25 international locations in three countries. Additionally, we ship across the country through our website shop.greenberrys.com.

 

As far as future growth here locally, we have a new facility that started construction earlier this year. It should be complete this summer. It will double our roasting capacity, as well as double our brewing capacity. Additionally, it will feature a taproom where people can come and enjoy the beverages on-site, as well as a viewing room to see how they are made. We’ve been in business for 28 years, and this is the most excited we have been for the future growth of the Greenberry’s family!