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Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea

Columbus, Ohio

Greg Ubert of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea

Meet Greg Ubert, founder of Columbus based Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, a coffee and tea importer, roaster and online seller that also consults other coffee sellers.
What is Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea?
We source and roast specialty coffee or high-grade coffee and also source high-grade tea. We supply independent coffee houses, college universities, specialty grocers, and restaurants throughout about 28 states.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was introduced to really good coffee in the 80s. At that point, really good coffee wasn’t really around. I quite frankly wasn’t a coffee drinker, because all I had before wasn’t very good. When I tasted this in the 80s, I was working for a computer company in Chicago. I decided to move back to Columbus, because I knew others would be able to tell the difference between good coffee and not-so-great coffee. That’s what got me back to start Crimson Cup.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
I think it was more a realization: You know what, here I am supplying these places with great coffee, and yet that isn’t enough. In other words, in order to catapult their sales and to help them with the marketing aspects, to help them on how to make the product, all sorts of things came into play back then, and that was one of my first “a-ha” moments in business. That’s what got us into teaching and training our customers.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee was someone who I had known from middle school. I am not a technical person. I’m not a handy person, let’s put it that way. I needed someone who could be handier with coffee equipment and that type of thing. That’s what I found in a friend from middle school.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
From my perspective, part of what I do is come up with new products. So I spend time with the new products, developing new products. I also talk with future customers about Crimson Cup, who we are, what we believe in, what are mission is, and how to be successful in the coffee business.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
I think labor force. It’s something where there is a certain Midwestern value that is very important.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Back when I started, there wasn’t as much as there is now. I took advantage of Business First here, because they help you find advisory board members.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I was on a trip to Honduras to establish direct relationships with the farmer and help that community. So coffee isn’t just about drinking coffee. It can also be about helping others in different countries. By simple choices, we can help a small plot of coffee growers. That was an amazing experience to participate in.
What inspires you?
Passions are coaching, seeing others getting along with the coaching, and seeing other people grow and doing what it is they like to do and love to do. That was part of the reason I moved back and started my own business. I wanted folks to have the ability to do what it is they love.
What founders do you admire and why?
Clay Mathile. I admire him because of the culture he created at Iams, and realizing how important building a culture was -- and is -- to seeing people grow and also having a growing and thriving business. The other part about him is the way he gives back to the community. He is available to everybody, he’s kind, and he is one with Midwestern values.
What’s next for you?
I would say next for us is continuing to get our message out -- continuing to grow in terms of helping more entrepreneurs with opening up, because obviously when they open up they have job creation, which I think is very important in the United States today. I think it’s also important that we and our customers view themselves as improving the community. The more we can do that, the better for everybody across the board. Those are the things that we would like to see, and we would like to see that message spread more and more.
Interview by Joe Baur

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