I cannot wait for 2021! 2020 was a difficult year in many ways, but that isn’t why I’m excited about next year. One of the best parts of 2020 was the way it setup 2021 to be such an exciting year in Sagebrush’s history. Several times over the life of the business, I have written looking back / looking forward emails to start the new year. It is always fun for me to reread those emails at the end of the year and see where the planning worked out and the direction the business took in spite of our planning. So, this year, I want to look back at the great things that 2020 brought (we’ll ignore the difficulties for this email) and look at how I believe those great things positioned us to have the best year ever in 2021.
Before I start, I want to add an honorable mention to both of these lists. 2020 was the year that I stepped away from my normal career to work on Sagebrush full time. I had been running this business at nights and over the weekends for 7 years, allowing the business to grow without drawing our income from it. This year we took the leap to let it sustain the Kellso household and I am so glad I did. We would never have been able to navigate the effects of COVID any other way. In fact, I don’t think Sagebrush would’ve survived this year without me being here full time. God knew in His timing the right time for me to jump in with both feet and planned that moment perfectly. 2020 was an exciting year for us and now starting a year where this is my full focus is such a blessing.
Here are the top 5 things that I love about 2020:
5) We updated our website design and brought about new packaging designs that I think elevated our brand a lot. I love the way the note cards integrate with the photos on the website.
4) We made a lot of strides in adding channels for the ‘Coffee Education’ portion of our online presence, particularly with the retail roasted coffee website. The YouTube channel was a huge success in that it is a great tool for bringing coffee info online. We had a plan each month with the information we wanted to put on our site and were able to implement it. Obviously, we’re in the business to sell coffee, but I love that we’re creating so much content and hope to be a great go to place for coffee education on the internet.
3) Overall growth of the business. We didn’t add a product line or make any major moves. However, the fact that so many people started working from home due to COVID, only helped our business. We saw unprecedented growth in April and May when people picked up the home coffee roasting hobby. Most of you stayed on and trusted us to be your coffee suppliers for the remainder of the year. That set the table for the last two items.
2) I debated on making this number 1 or number 2. I really think these two are a tie. But the second-best part of 2020 was our ability to grow our relationships with the producers. In an industry that was shut down for a portion of the year, we never closed. We’re primarily online and were able to keep our business going. This in turn helped us keep 100% of our buying commitments in 2020 and that went a long way in our relationships with the producers and importers that we work with. Without getting ahead of myself, that laid that groundwork for some AMAZING coffees in 2021.
1) The new shop. We spent a ton of time and effort getting moved into the new shop and by November 1 we were in. It has been a HUGE blessing this holiday season and I can see how this space will make us a more efficient and profitable business. It will also enable the kind of growth that won’t have a negative impact on the quality of our offerings in the future. It was / is awesome.
So what are the top 3 things that I’m looking forward to in 2021?
1) We’ll flip the last one and say the new shop. We have a dedicated office space, so it will elevate our ability to produce educational content. We have space to be able to bottle cold brew if we are able to figure out a few logistical issues. We have space for an in-store coffee shop and so many more ideas that we can now implement. We have 110% more roasting capacity and the space to package it efficiently. It is just so exciting to be here!
2) Better coffees! I mentioned this above, but I think we’re positioned to offer the best coffees we’ve ever had. I have been trying some samples and I cannot even believe how good they are. If you had a chance to try the Limited-Edition Costa Rican last year (I’m drinking a cup as I write), then you know what I’m talking about. The new 2021 Guatemalans will be a great example of this as I have to say…WOW! This will be a good year in coffee.
3) Improved Logistics. We were hit hard by USPS’s delivery issues at the end of the year. It was the first year ever where we had people order for Christmas and not get their coffees. We thought we planned well. We shipped 9 days ahead on 2-3 day priority. But USPS just didn’t perform. FedEx meanwhile hit Christmas on every single package within their promised window for us. So we’re looking at our pricing, and shipping model and want to fix this. I’m not sure what it will bring, but I know we won’t let that happen again.
I want to close this letter by saying a something about 2020 and perspective. I think it is interesting how many people blame 2020 for the problems last year brought, as if the calendar has anything to do with it. The reality is, we use years to segment time and that segment of time was very difficult for many people. The reality also is that we don’t know what 2021 will bring and if we hold to the idea that the changing of the year will bring about any real change, we’re putting our faith in the wrong things. At Sagebrush Unroasted, we work hard, try not to complain about difficulties and trust God with the rest. I hope you all are able to do that as well and I am very excited about this next segment in time.