Case Studies

Angie Barber – Cabin Coffee

Brewing the perfect business for over two decades

In 2002, Angie Barber and her husband were at a crossroads. They were being asked to relocate from Clear Lake, Iowa, for their corporate jobs. They weren’t ready to upheave their lives, not with their 5-year-old daughter about to start school and their son about to go off to college.

“We wanted him to have an anchor, a home, and we loved the small but vibrant community of Clear Lake,” Barber says. “We wanted roots for our family.”

Angie Barber | Co-Founder | Cabin Coffee

Angie Barber | Co-Founder | Cabin Coffee

The couple decided to take a chance, banking on their skills and expertise in sales, retail and construction. In 2002, two years after they first had the idea, they opened the first Cabin Coffee location. The company now has 22 locations across seven states and over $12 million in annual revenue.

For Barber and her husband, Brad Barber, starting Cabin Coffee hasn’t only allowed them to stay in the place they loved and wanted their children to grow up in—it’s also enabled them to help others start their own businesses.

One of her favorite parts of the job is expanding the company by selling more franchises. This helps her create more awareness not just of the company but also of the culture of which she’s exceedingly proud.

“Apart from our focus on freshness, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and have a ‘just be happy and have fun’ approach at all our locations,” Barber tells Terra Firma with a smile. “As our website says, this is much easier because we value names over numbers.”

The evolution of the coffee business

Barber and her husband own two locations, while 20 are franchises owned and operated by others. Barber’s husband helps add new stores by negotiating leases and property purchases; he does this for the stores they own and the franchises.

Cabin Coffee employs around 400 people, and Barber is currently focused on providing better training materials for all locations. She’s aiming to create videos that have animations or real people speaking with employees rather than just providing a physical packet or handbook. She wants digital materials and human connections, especially for the younger generation.

“The majority of our baristas are young and live in a digital world, so we want to cater to them,” she says.

Barber hired Nelson Media Company, a company that handles media in all formats from video and photography to editing, to develop and produce these videos in 2023 as she began shifting Cabin Coffee. This has included videos geared toward customers, which have been posted to the company’s social media accounts.

Angie Barber | Co-Founder | Cabin Coffee

Angie and Brad learning more about where their beans originate

For example, the company has started a weekly series called “#FactFriday,” which launched in May 2023 with a short teaser trailer of just a few seconds. In it, Angie discusses how brewing changes the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee; the full video will release at the end of May. While a shorter version will eventually be available on social media, the full video will only be accessible on the website.

Future topics will include acidity, body and caffeination levels as well as the brewing and roasting processes.

As fascinating as this potentially is to customers, the videos are also tailored based on the request of store owners to support their marketing and advertising needs. For instance, Cabin Coffee roasts its coffee beans fresh at each site, so every customer is receiving a high-quality cup of coffee—but they may not know why they love that cup so much. The goal of the posts and videos across social media is to help share that information with customers.

“We don’t just want our customers to love our products but to fully understand why they enjoy our awesome freshly roasted coffee each time they visit us,” Barber says.

Driving through fun and convenience

Since the opening day of that first store in Clear Lake, Iowa, Barber has worked every position.

“I still miss being behind the bar sometimes, leading our site teams and serving customers directly, but I still get a taste of that when I open new stores,” she says.

She’s the bridge between the construction and training teams, ensuring that equipment is installed, products have arrived and that all team members receive two weeks of training. She loves being present for a week or two to give the new teams a true feel for the welcoming, lively and fun Cabin Coffee culture that she and her husband have cultivated for decades.

Angie Barber | Co-Founder | Cabin Coffee

Barber making a cold nitro

This culture extends to the company’s two drive-through-only locations—one will open in the fall of 2023 and the other sometime in 2024. Barber and her husband have had to change the company model a bit for this because it was focused on face-to-face interaction and connections. They’ve had fun with the change, and expect customers to love the convenience. They’ve also ensured the quality will remain the same as staff will continue to roast beans fresh every day on site.

“Every customer deserves the best, freshest cup of coffee—and we’re here to provide it,” she says.

Watching the positive impact new stores can have on surrounding communities is one of her favorite things, especially as new stores mean income for families as well as vendors while also creating tax dollars for municipalities.

“My husband and I started Cabin Coffee so our children could have roots, which they did,” Barber says. “Over the years, a single cup of coffee has become so much more than that as we help others start their businesses and plant their family roots.”

View this feature in the Terra Firma Vol. II 2023 Edition here.

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