Dutch Bros. Coffee co-founder and President Travis Boersma’s entrepreneurial journey is a continuing saga.
It’s also the starting point for the next generation’s array of endeavors, Boersma told a Chamber of Medford/Jackson County Forum audience Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club.
“What we do and why we do it, the purpose is to provide a compelling future for people within the organization, but maybe most importantly to be a resource for people outside the organization and their lives and where they are going,” Boersma said.
When Travis and his late brother, Dane, hit on the idea of selling espresso in 1991, it was a little known commodity. Picking up ideas and insights from passionate and friendly people, they laid the groundwork for what has grown into a chain of franchised and licensed coffee drive-thrus that racked up $289 million in sales in seven Western states during 2015.
He said Dutch Bros.’ vision is simply to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
“How can we help our young people grow up into this life and go make a difference and be that ray of sunshine in our communities, Boersma said. “To me that would be the greatest give-back we could ever do. My hope is that some day Dutch Bros. will be known as a company that helps young people design their life, live their dream, and find what it is they’re passionate about, and go kick ass and make a difference doing it.”
He said developing a unique culture comes from heart, mind, spirit.
He talked about a moment this past March when four Dutch Bros’ “Broistas” in a Vancouver, Washington, coffee kiosk reached out to pray with a customer whose husband had just died. The tender moment was captured by a customer in the car behind, who posted a video on Facebook that has been shared 65 million times.
“It was something that was an act of love that appeals to the masses,” he said. “Reading through the thousands of comments was mind blowing. The act of kindness, the act of love can really be a huge differentiater. It’s more than what you can articulate in a document. As leaders, we look around at each other, and we want a linear path, we want black-and-white recipes for these things that are differentiaters. For us, I realized somewhere in the neighborhood of 2008 we weren’t just in the coffee business, we’re actually in the relationship business, and the product is love. That’s something extraordinary and special; who has that?”
Boersma and his brother were striving to keep the family dairy outside Grants Pass going in 1990 when they reached a point where they decided it was time to try something else.
“To become compliant with all the (DEQ) rules and challenges we were facing ... we needed $150,000 to invest in a manure separating system. It made total sense to shut down the farm and sell the cows,” he said.
Closing the farm, which seemed so devastating at the time, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, he said. His brother was 38 at the time, with three kids and house payments.
“That was a big reset for him,” Boersma said. “For me, hell, I was 21. I’m ready to go nuts and set the world on fire and do all sorts of wild stuff and prove to people you can do something amazing.”