There wasn’t a lot that Evan Hafer could control on his half-dozen deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Green Beret and CIA contractor. But the one thing he could do something about was the terrible coffee.
“I started roasting my own coffee and taking it with me overseas,” he says. “I set up a coffee shop for me and my buddies downrange.”
When he rejoined civilian life in 2014, Hafer says he wanted to transition into working with something for which he already had a passion. That was the start of Black Rifle Coffee. “My rifle was sitting right next to my roaster, so it’s ‘Black Rifle.’ ”
Hafer founded the company in Salt Lake City, UT, in 2014 with about $1,800, and spent the first year learning to code and build websites at night. A year later, he says brisk coffee sales enticed him to make Black Rifle Coffee his day job, basing the company’s business model on a three-day turnaround: an order is received on day one, the coffee is roasted on day two and then shipped to the customer on day three.
“By the time the order hits the door, it’s the best coffee to drink,” Hafer says. “Other companies, they’ll roast the coffee and it’ll sit. Who knows how long it’s been on the shelf.”
Like other products for which freshness is key, Black Rifle Coffee depends on technology to ensure the company can make its promised turnaround time. Also, the company sells merchandise—branded hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and the like—which must be inventoried. “This year, our big build is new tech integration,” Hafer says.
This time, Hafer is not attempting to make the necessary software and UX upgrades on his own. He’s hired Bitmotive, a Florida software company that also works with similarly military-themed e-commerce companies. Hafer says he plans to expand beyond the half-dozen roasting facilities the company currently has to sell franchises and, eventually, to open retail establishments.
“We have to be close to our customers to fulfill orders,” he says.
To help provide expertise and capital for that, Hafer says Black Rifle Coffee received an investment from Sterling Partners, a private equity firm in … Next Page »