Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joey Jones, CEO and Co-Founder of JoGo, located in Saint Paul, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
JoGo was founded to provide a simpler and more sustainable way to enjoy your favorite beverages. We launched our first product, a patent-pending coffee and tea brewing straw, on Kickstarter in the Spring of 2021. During our 30-day campaign, we sold nearly $400,000 in preorder sales – making us the third most-backed Kickstarter of all time in the coffee/tea category. The Brew Straw has since been featured in Backpacker Magazine, Food & Wine, Forbes, Roast Magazine, Kitchn, and many more major publications. It was also the number 1 new release in single-serve brewers on Amazon and was nominated for best new tea innovation by World Tea News.
Tell us about yourself
The inspiration for the JoGo originated during my 28,000-mile (solo) motorcycle expedition from Minnesota to the bottom tip of South America in 2016. While in Argentina, a family gave me a "bombilla" – a straw with holes on the bottom designed for drinking the loose-leaf Yerba Mate tea, made popular by the legendary Gauchos (Argentinian cowboys).
Upon returning home from my motorcycle trip, I started my next adventure by teaming up with my friend, Nick Yehle, to lead a group of young men on a canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. One morning by the campfire, we began talking and wondering – could we use the sustainable and convenient brewing method of the bombilla, and apply it to the wasteful world of coffee? We discovered, however, that while the traditional bombilla's filter worked with Yerba Mate, it wasn't fine enough to filter out the smaller particulates found in ground coffee and would even get clogged. Nonetheless, we were stoked at the prospect of innovation on the horizon.
After our canoe trip, we got to work on making our dream a reality. Through countless trials and rigorous testing of various prototypes (in which we experienced dangerously high levels of caffeine), we finally attained a design that filtered out the grounds, didn't get clogged, was easy to clean, and looked pretty dang cool to boot! We named our little 2 oz stainless steel baby "JoGo," and we set off to share this innovation with the world. I'm also very proud to say that each year we contribute 5% of our profits towards combatting climate change and supporting Indigenous Communities in their fight for their livelihoods.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I would say that my biggest accomplishment, or happiest moment, as a business owner was when we shipped out our very first order of JoGos to our customers. It felt as if I was performing a play we had written to an audience for the first time, and due to our preorder sales, this audience was well over 10,000 people from over 80 countries(!!) After shipping them out, we immediately started receiving hundreds of incredible reviews, with some people thanking us and sharing how this product has changed their lives. I would be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears of joy during that time.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Running your own business means that your work is also your passion and your hobby. This can be great at times, but since there's always more that can be done, it can quickly become an all-encompassing factor in your life that's hard to turn off. It's important to be able to figure out how to balance work with other important things in life; otherwise, you'll burn out. Finding this balance took me a while and is something I am still working on.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Build a strong team of advisors. One of the most important decisions we made early on was to build a board of advisors who had experience in different branches of our business and who we could go to for advice and wisdom. The entrepreneurial community is very supportive and can be an amazing (and free) resource!
- Take a little step each day, and don't get discouraged. There's no idea that everybody likes, so don't step off your path because someone told you that you have a bad one.
- Build a detailed business plan and update it weekly.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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