A couple weeks ago we announced our plans to create COMMON. Holy hell it's been a ride since then. We describe COMMON as one part community: one part business prototyper; and one part collaborative brand. And it's turning out to be one part giant lump in the throat.
We're a tiny operation and it's a tall order to build our dream. Dream = A network of creative people rapidly prototyping hundreds, if not thousands of progressive businesses designed to solve social problems, all connected to a brand that’s community designed, community owned and community directed.
It's roller coaster ride with ups and downs of emotion and energy. But one of the things that keeps us going are all the people that are reaching out to offer help and encouragement. This week Stephen Morrissey from Intelligentsia Coffee skyped me up to talk about coffee and collaboration. Stephen has somehow become my guardian angel in my own journey into what some people describe as the third wave of coffee in the US. The first wave was post first world war. The second wave is our introduction to espresso through Starbucks and the like. And the third wave is what we're discovering about pour-over coffees and single source beans from people like Stephen and companies like Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Stumptown, Square Mile, and more.
Stephen was the World Barista Champion in 2008, so I couldn't ask for a better teacher. Although he surely has had better students as some of you might even pick up from my description of the third wave. I'm a newbie indeed.
To get the word out about the simple truths of great coffee, a group of companies that by most traditional definitions would be considered competitors have decided to band together and work for a greater cause. Damn, I've said it before but collaboration is the new competition, and this is a great example if there ever was one. So Stephen was wondering if this sort of collaborative experiment fit what we were doing with the COMMON brand.
Figures it would take a coffee guy to wake us up to the full potential of our collaborative brand concept. It wasn't the kind of engagement we'd ever considered before. But as we played it out it seemed to fit under the idea of a branded event that could over time become something much more. We've been so focused (blinded) on entrepreneurs that we may have missed a big idea that Stephen saw. Thank goodness for people that shake you out of your preconceived notions. So could COMMON brand a movement? Why not? Could COMMON brand a benefit concert? Absolutely!
In a few short days Stephen, Brian Jones (a Project M designer with a coffee blog, Dear Coffee, I Love You), Sean Bonner, Jeff Oeth and others put together a plan to brand this sweet collaboration of some of the country's top roasters and baristas. These baristas include several national champions and a world champion and they're paying their way to be part of waking the TED attendees up to coffee. The most complex and nuanced beverage on earth. Sorry wine. Hopefully you will be at TED to partake of their craft, but if not you can watch the conversation between barista and TED attendee unfold here at www.coffeecommon.com.
By Alex Bogusky