It’s fitting that Jeff LeDrew is the man behind Jumping Bean Coffee. For him, each day is a whirlwind, and those who talk to him struggle to keep up with his frenetic pace. The CEO of the booming independent coffee roaster is opening franchise locations, grabbing shelf space in national retailers, creating innovative roasting methods, and taking the industry by storm. But LeDrew never dreamed he’d be in the coffee business.
Percentage reduction in average CO2 production during the making of ECO2 Roast coffee
Pounds of coffee that Jumping Bean roasts each year
1 lb of coffee
Represents one pound of carbon emissions reduced when using heat-recovery roasting techniques
Equivalent number of CO2-producing cars that would be removed from the road if the entire coffee industry converted to heat-recovery roasting methods
Corporate cafés that Jumping Bean hopes to open in 2015
Franchise locations that the company hopes to open in 2015
Employees at the company
Core SKUs that the company maintains
Trained as an electrical engineer, LeDrew was working for a local cable company when his chapter of Rotary International needed a fund-raising idea. They decided to roast coffee, sell it, and donate the proceeds to charities. LeDrew took charge of the project and bought a $7,000 roaster, and like any good electrical engineer, he modified it to his own specifications.
The fund-raiser ended, but LeDrew knew he was onto something. He developed an eco-friendly heat-recovery roasting method called ECO2 Roast, received St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador’s first fair-trade coffee certification, hung his shingle as a coffee wholesaler, and landed his first account. From there, Jumping Bean developed a retail brand and grew to serve Sobeys, Costco, Belbin’s Grocery, Colemans, Powell’s, and Target. The company now supplies products to stores and restaurants, has a licensing deal for single-serve products, and has a network of corporate and franchise café locations in Canada’s eastern provinces.
By any standard, Jumping Bean’s growth has been impressive. When LeDrew started as a one-man operation in 2005, his company pulled in just $2,000; it closed 2014 with revenues of approximately $2 million. LeDrew says he achieved success by staying focused. “I was a dog on a bone,” he says. “I just never stop.” Today, he runs three corporate cafés and has two franchisees, with two more in training. Those stores are just the start, though—he hopes to someday run a network of 135 locations across the nation.
Jumping Bean has already been through two venture rounds, and LeDrew is planning a third to raise $2 million in private equity. The money will allow him to build a unique coffee-roasting plant that will help him increase his production volume beyond the 250,000 pounds of coffee that Jumping Bean roasts today, and it will allow him to build upon his unique low-carbon roasting methods that larger competitors have failed to duplicate. “We have the trademark on ECO2 Roast, and we’re the first to do this on a national level,” LeDrew says. “The big players can’t take the risk to shut down everything and convert their roasters to heat recovery, and we’ve done that from the start.” Because of all this, LeDrew has Jumping Bean firmly positioned as a midtier specialist.
Despite the rapid growth and unprecedented success of Jumping Bean, LeDrew remains true to the company’s roots. “The whole reason we started this company was to give back and help a good organization fund-raise, and I’ve always believed in service before self,” he says. “Helping others just makes sense to me.” Jumping Bean therefore works with World Vision and small organizations such as choirs and sports teams.
“Innovation is an exercise in patience because you can’’t rush it. Innovators want to push and push, but the brand needs to build itself. You have to resist the temptation to rush too much. You have to be willing to find balance.
As he continues to push the company forward, LeDrew will focus next on brand leverage. “We’ve done all the right things to make Jumping Bean a national brand through grocery and retail sales,” he says. “We’re now targeting continued, paced growth in the Atlantic provinces.” As Canadians embrace the brand, he’ll leverage brokered distribution and sales in Ontario and pursue franchise growth. Winning space in national retailers is difficult, especially for those who don’t want to pay listing fees, but Jumping Bean’s ECO2 Roast is helping make the difference.
LeDrew says a slew of new products such as seasonal flavours, from maple to candy cane, are also helping drive retail interest. One popular novelty item is Jumping Bean’s Screech coffee, a product with rum undertones that pays homage to a Newfoundland tradition dating back hundreds of years. And this year, Jumping Bean is relaunching a new and rebranded line of tea and introducing new products into café locations that already carry gourmet soups, sandwiches, and pastries. All of it will continue to push the company to new heights.