How We Created Onism: Part 1
This blog series has been such an incredible opportunity for us to connect with our community, and help you all get to know us a bit better. In our efforts to become a startup that’s founded on transparency, inclusivity and accessibility, we want to start sharing pieces that uncover the mysteries behind the coffee industry, and pull back the curtains of starting a small business in general. So much of the work I was able to do was because of creators and small business owners who took the time to write blog posts and publish videos. We hope we can be a source for those wanting to start their own businesses -- within the coffee industry, or outside of it.
Between the birth of an idea and the formation of an actual company, the research, planning, strategy and execution can accelerate at varying rates. For the purpose of convenience and readability, I've broken this post up into different topics that might be of interest to you. Ranging from where we buy our coffee to buying our bags and labels, we’ll include as many aspects of our business as we can.
Choosing Our Name:
During a long stay at home orders, which are actually still continued in Los Angeles and much of California, I was experiencing feelings that I just couldn’t describe to people. They were feelings of frustration, existentialism, boredom and most of all, the fact that I am stuck here. I am stuck here today, right now, for the foreseeable future -- and, there’s nothing I can do about it. Or, can I?
Onism is a word that has been “made up” in an effort to express these types of feelings. Our take on Onism’s definition is that we ARE here today, right now, and for the foreseeable future. And, if that’s the case, we’re going to make every moment meaningful and start doing things today and right now that can be built upon to create happiness.
Designing Our Logo:
Our logo design process was surprisingly quick and seamless compared to some other stories we’ve read about or heard. We wanted something that was modern and minimalist, and that could transcend across different products and even genres. I played around with a few different designs and was missing the mark every single time. For those who know me, my handwriting and my artistic abilities are two of the things I'm worst at. Once I accepted that I could not produce my own vision, I conveyed our logo vision to my friend and LA-based artist, Gooey. He executed it within one day -- crazy! Our logo has our name, in addition to a sub-logo that we like to use across our social platforms and products. It is a cup that first and foremost represents coffee, with a few minimalist features -- all with an “O” in the center that represents Onism.
Our best advice to anyone creating a logo is to play around, explore, and understand your concept will most likely change. Lastly, talk with people who do this for a living. There are many talented people out there within our networks!
Choosing a Green (raw) Coffee Supplier:
When we first started doing research on how to source green (raw) coffee, I was both shocked at how easy it was to find suppliers, and overwhelmed with how many suppliers there were. Depending on your coffee needs, ranging from home roasting to commercial quantities, there’s a space for everyone on the supply chain. My first experiences came from Sweet Maria’s, Happy Mug, and then eventually, Genuine Origin -- who is currently our supplier. Sweet Maria’s, Happy Mug and Genuine Origin are all great places to start and sample different types of beans. I encourage all home roasters to try some of their sample packs out; it was so much fun getting to build my palate through a variety of affordable beans.
When buying green coffee, you almost are always buying in large quantities, unless you're buying samples as I referenced above. For us, it’s 65 pounds per order. However, with Genuine Origin, they are super generous with their samples and allowed us to work for three months on deciding on our first three coffee products. Additionally, Genuine Origin is consistently hosting different educational workshops that show brewing and roasting techniques, as well as introducing some of their new products.
As with all coffee suppliers, availability and inventory is huge. Genuine Origin has locked down contracts with a wide variety of farms to provide consistent inventory. Most importantly, they are transparent and show their commitment to fair trade and sustainability -- two things that we don’t like saying "we are passionate about", but are two things we expect of any company we are giving money to.
Creating Our Products:
As I mentioned a bit above, the process to create our first three products were incredibly fun, challenging and most of all, educational. I quickly learned that coffee roasting and green coffee bean selection was straight science. I am formally trained as an anthropologist, residing in the home of social sciences (at least my university told me I am). So, in no way did I understand the deeper levels of chemical reactions within a coffee bean. I can confidently say that now, I’ve scratched the surface; but, I won’t give myself any more credit than that.
In the coffee industry, coffee sampling is called cupping. It’s a fancy, yet simple word for the process of coffee tasting and sampling. Over the course of three months, I cupped over 200 times to find our signature blend and finalize our two single origin coffees. Each time I cupped, I would line coffees side by side that varied in ratio and bean combinations. It was like I was a mad scientist, except I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. But, slowly but surely, I started to develop my palate more and more, and identifying the flavor profile I wanted to create for our various products.
With the flavor profiles in mind, I was able to create our first signature blend -- finally. For any new roasters reading, the hindsight approach I’d take is in a few different phases:
Develop your coffee tasting palate
Create a desired flavor profile for your blend
Pick and choose beans that represent the various flavor profiles
Adjust and tweak ratios as needed.
Our current blend ratio is 40/30/30.
This is where I’ll leave off for now. I want to include as much information as possible for anyone this could be helpful to, but don’t want to make this unreadable, so I will break this piece up into two parts. Part II will focus on building our website, supply chain (which we are still working on), creating a strategy that works well for us, and finally, launching! Part II will be up soon.
Sam Rahim, Founder