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Hugo Coffee Roasters evolves, finds new success

PARK CITY, Utah. — The anniversary of the March 15, 2020 COVID shutdown is approaching, and it’s not a happy one for most local small business owners. But some have managed – through force of will and much hard work – to not just survive, but thrive.

Woman-owned and mission-driven to save all pets, Hugo Coffee Roasters was forced to act fast after the shutdown announcement, which led them to expand into regional and national coffee distribution. This week, the business celebrated its first national sale to the Bristol Farms Grocer chain in California.

“Our pandemic pivot to direct to consumer (both online and grocery) saved us and today we ship our first pallet to So Cal!” said Claudia McMullin, owner and CEO of Hugo Coffee Roasters, on her Facebook page.

This pivot from local coffee shop to national coffee distributor didn’t happen overnight. Even before COVID hit, McMullin knew she needed a different approach to her business, thanks to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which provides small businesses nationwide with education, capital, and other services to help them succeed.

“When COVID hit, I just kicked it all into very high gear,” said McMullin. “So we revised the website. We got a Shopify expert on board, and we created a Shopify online store.” McMullin also overhauled Hugo’s marketing team and strategy to ramp up online sales. Going national was aided greatly by the broker who works with McMullin to help the company pitch to grocery chains across the country.

“Pre-pandemic, my goal had been to diversify my revenue streams…whether it was online or brick-and-mortar that would account for 50% of my revenue and food service [the other] 50%, versus 95%,” she said. “Goldman Sachs 1,000% made me realize I was at risk being so dependent on one revenue stream (food service) and, of course, COVID proved that to be true.”

“On March 15, 2020, I lost 95% of my business overnight,” said McMullin. “95% of Hugo Coffee Roasters revenue came from food-service customers who were hotels, restaurants, cafes, all the people who shut down.”

The business is more than the coffee shop storefront, she said. McMullin also contracted with various local grocers like Whole Foods and The Market. She even set up a small shop on Amazon.

Claudia McMullen, owner and CEO of Hugo Coffee Roasters, made some large strategic changes to save her business during the pandemic.
Claudia McMullin, owner and CEO of Hugo Coffee Roasters, made some large strategic changes to save her business during the pandemic.

In addition to Goldman Sachs’ support, McMullin was one of 15 small business owners (chosen from 16,000 applicants nationwide) to partake in Stacy’s Rise Project. She received mentorship from PepsiCo and Frito-Lay and a $10,000 grant to help enact the changes that saved her business.

“[We] spent a lot of time and money investing in what one needs to grow an online presence as well as brick-and-mortar presence,” said McMullin. And it worked. She achieved her goal of diversifying her business into 50/50 revenue streams by the end of 2020, but her work is far from done.

“I have a huge vision,” she said. “I want to be nationwide. I want to be the go-to coffee for animal lovers nationwide because I want to impact animal rescue all across the nation.”

Hugo Coffee Roasters in Kimball Junction donates 10% of every bag of coffee sold to animal shelters and rescue organizations. The business recently expanded philanthropic efforts and launched bimonthly week-long fundraisers through its online store, which donates $2.50 from each purchase to a local or small animal rescue foundation.

“That’s how I feel that I’ve made an impact in this world,” McMullin said. “[The business] is female-founded, focus on social missions, saving animals, and having innovative products. How many people drink coffee and have a dog, like a million, right? I actually know the answer; it’s over 63 million.”

Hugo Coffee is looking for small to medium-sized animal rescues to benefit from their fundraisers. Contact [email protected] to get in touch.

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