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On episode 1 of the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast, we chat with Zach Macaffer and Collin Ricker, the co-founders of NuRange Coffee. NuRange strives to create cold brew coffee, with a focus on “quality over snobbery.”

Transcript

Kevin Douglas (00:06):
This week on the entrepreneurship at DU Podcast,

Zach Macaffer (00:10):
Colin and I met here on campus. We were both members of the same fraternity, and we found out very quickly that we had a shared love of the same beverage.

Kevin Douglas (00:18):
Two best friends with a shared love of espresso martinis turn their passion into a career.

Collin Ricker (00:25):
But when you look at coffee, there’s a lot of similarities to wine, right? There’s dozens of cupping profiles, taste notes, smells. We just want good coffee.

Kevin Douglas (00:35):
Today we chat with the co-founders of New Range Coffee. I’m Kevin Douglas, and this the Entrepreneurship DU Podcast. All right, we’re here in the podcast studio at the University of Denver, and today we have the co-founders of New Range Coffee. So we’ll each of you guys just introduce yourselves. Say your name, your role at New Range, and what you studied at du.

Collin Ricker (01:05):
Yeah, so I’m Colin Ricker. I graduated in 2013. I was a business major with economics and business ethics, legal studies, minors. So I do most of the, we’re both co-founders, so it’s kind of split and we wear a lot of hats, but I mostly do the executive and financial and legal side of things.

Zach Macaffer (01:24):
And my name is Zach McCaffry. I was also at Daniel’s. I graduated in 2016 with a major in finance. I do not handle any of the financial stuff over at New Range. I’m more of the pretty face of the company, so I handle sales, storytelling anything creative that we really do.

Kevin Douglas (01:40):
Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys met and how you connected, and eventually how that turned into a business partnership?

Zach Macaffer (01:48):
Yeah, absolutely. So Colin and I met here on campus. We were both members of the same fraternity, and we found out very quickly that we had a shared love of the same beverage. So it was our junior year here at du, and I remember that we had gone out to dinner with a friend’s older brother, and we watched him drink an excessive amount of espresso martinis, and we had thought that was the coolest thing we’d ever seen. And from there it kind of grew out amongst our friends, where we would go out to different bars and restaurants and we would sample the espresso martinis. And eventually we established a rubric where we would go and we’d rate it out of 10. And then in order to keep track of all these espresso martinis at the different bars and restaurants, we created an Instagram. And the Instagram slowly went viral over the years to the point where before Covid, we were getting 50 to 60 submissions a night from London, Sydney, Paris, Tokyo.

(02:31): And we really realized that there was a massive global appeal to this drink. And Colin and I were on a trip together it was a boys’ trip, and we were in Tokyo at a very nice hotel, at a very expensive bar, and we had probably the most expensive espresso martini we’d ever had to drink. And it was one of the worst we’d ever had. So Colin and I looked at each other and we were both kind of like, you know what? Now’s the time. We’re not getting any younger. Let’s quit our corporate jobs and sell pre-match keg espresso martinis to bars. So that was the first iteration of New Range Coffee is we actually both left our jobs in finance to pawn our wars at bars. And throughout that process, it became abundantly clear that business plan wasn’t going to work. So we did a major pivot and we took an objective look at the cold brew industry and saw that while it was super oversaturated, there wasn’t a whole lot of innovation happening, and we saw golden opportunity and just ran with from there.

Kevin Douglas (03:25):
What were those corporate jobs, and what was that transition like? Had you ever been entrepreneurs before? Had you ever started even being a kid doing a lemonade stand, anything like that?

Collin Ricker (03:36):
Honestly, no. I was always pretty risk averse. I came in to do actually as an aerospace engineer, that lasted a week, and then I transitioned to finance because I asked my guidance counselor, I was like, I’m good with numbers, but I hate what I’m doing. So bailed out on that. Before this, I’d done investment banking real estate investing, private equity, real estate was my last gig. Zach was a finance guy too. So neither of us had any experience with food and beverage. No experience being an entrepreneur. I feel like you just give it a shot and then it takes, or it doesn’t, and then it kind of just proliferates and becomes who you are. And at this point, it’s our baby, so there’s no real, we’re not leaving it. We’re not quitting. Yeah, never really intentional. I don’t know about you, but

Zach Macaffer (04:21):
Yeah, it was definitely not a linear path. I was working in transportation and logistics as a market setter. So essentially what I did is I analyzed what was happening in the freight market, and then I turned around and I would tell my brokers, that’s how much you can pay a certain trucker to get a load of Coca-Cola move from point A to point B. For me, it was pretty unfulfilling and it was just one of those things where I was looking for any reason to really go out and do my own thing. It was, I’d never taken the leap, but something I’d always wanted to do. And it was actually Colin that really inspired that, because we joked about starting this company and it was something where I was like, cool, that’s a fever dream. Maybe we can do it as a side hustle. And when we got back to America, Colin called me and he is like, Hey, I just paid a lawyer a retainer. We’re filing all the paperwork. It’s time to quit your job.

Kevin Douglas (05:04):
Well,

Zach Macaffer (05:04):
Yeah,

Collin Ricker (05:05):
It’s the only way to really make someone commit, right?

Kevin Douglas (05:07):
Yeah, no, going back after that. Exactly. I was looking at your website. I saw I love the term quality over snobbery, especially in the world of cold brew coffee. I feel like there’s all these very long elaborate YouTube videos about the best French press strategies and things, and I can’t even wrap my head around it. So tell me a little more about what inspired this branding of the sort of being real and authentic and losing the snobbery in this industry.

Collin Ricker (05:35):
So that kind of came from Zack. When we were looking at this, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were just being objective, knowing nothing about the industry and doing what we thought. But when you look at coffee, there’s a lot of similarities to wine. There’s dozens of cupping profiles, taste notes, smells, different growing regions and different, the list goes on and on and on. At the end of the day, yes, that works. There are people that make money off that, and at the end of the day, they probably know more than we do. But when you look at it from the standpoint of, we just want good coffee, we’re looking at what people are doing. They’re making cold brews with astringent, acidic, floral notes. They’re kind of sour sometimes. And we were like, why is this popular? Why is this what’s good? So we were start from scratch. We’re going to focus on strictly chocolate, caramel, smooth, sweet notes. So regardless of how we got there, that’s why we did it. And then Zack was like, we’re just trying to say quality over snobbery.

Zach Macaffer (06:38):
Yeah. It’s one of those things that was born of being probably the stupidest people in the room. Yeah. You walk in and we’re dealing with all these coffee producers, and they’re trying to really drill down what is it on the coffee rating scale? There’s a hundred and yeah, the

Collin Ricker (06:51):
SCA is a hundred plus,

Zach Macaffer (06:52):
A hundred plus notes. No, whoa. And we were like, we just don’t want it to taste burnt. And it was just, people would just laugh at us. And so it was one of those things where so many people are just that intimidating process of walking into a really niche coffee store and the barista is shooting daggers at you and you know, just want to take that out. You want coffee to be more accessible. It’s such a daily part of everyone’s lives. So it should be accessible and it should be enjoyable, and there’s no reason that you should feel intimidated when you’re trying to find something new.

Kevin Douglas (07:21):
Awesome. I love that. I was also looking at on your about page, it talks about the commitment to good and how your beans are roasted with solar energy. I want to hear more about how did that come about, and why was that so important to you guys?

Collin Ricker (07:35):
Yeah, so I think it started with, again, Zach and I were never really in the food and beverage or farming or manufacturing agricultural space. Once we got involved, we realized how detrimental coffee is to the environment just by nature. It is very bad for the environment but you know, look at it and go, okay, coffee’s going nowhere. People are going to keep drinking it until you find a substitution. So when we set out to do this, we were like, okay, how can we try to offset this as much as possible? So from sourcing fair trade organic to partnering with a certified B Corp freight company that goes, they find a way to basically offset their carbon emissions. We partner with sea trees, so they replant kelp forest and restore mangrove tree populations. Even the roasting, we use solar, you roaster does have solar panels on the rooftop. So it is solar roasted beans, which is obviously more offsetting. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah. Aluminum cans,

Zach Macaffer (08:27):
Infinitely recyclable.

Collin Ricker (08:28):
Yeah. So everything we did, yes, the cost adds up. Is it drastic? No. Would a big company do it? Not a chance. But we have that ability to, and if we start and grow that way we are hopeful that if we get massive, we do have the potential to stay with our current supply chain that we’ve set up.

Zach Macaffer (08:47):
It’s just about doing what while you can do it. And I think it’s something every company, I think moving into the CPG space, it’s kind of regarded as the bare minimum. Now, if you’re going to make a niche craft product, you have to be cognizant of your environmental impact.

Kevin Douglas (09:04):
Yeah,

Collin Ricker (09:04):
Absolutely. Yeah. No one’s starting today doing like, yeah, I just destroy forests and I put in plastic bottles that won’t raise money for good reasons. I’d

Kevin Douglas (09:12):
Love to hear a little more about just each of you personally, where you’re from, if you’re Colorado locals, or if you came to du, what reasons that you chose DU and how you feel the university and the classes you took might have influenced the way you approach entrepreneurship today.

Collin Ricker (09:30):
Yeah, so most Denver residents, we are transplants. We’re part of the problem. But I’m from Manhattan Beach, California just outside Los Angeles. The real reason I came here was I grew up coming to Denver and Boulder. I had some family out here. We go to Estes Park, we go skiing up in the mountains. So I really only looked at California schools, and then DU and c CU was just far too big for me. And I know I needed a lot more intimate smaller class size teaching regiment. I don’t thrive with a hundred plus kids. So that’s kind of how I got out here. And then one thing I actually get a lot from people is choose to you. That makes no sense. All these kids from New York and la, how do you know about this school? It was the only place for me, looking back to you was perfect.

(10:14): It fit my lifestyle. So many good friends came out of this how I got my first job, my second job, my third job was connections at du. But yeah, again, like I said, came here as an engineer, switched within a week. Thankfully they weren’t making you apply to get into the business school at that point. So I just transitioned easily. And then really happy I stuck with finance and economics and obviously we’re not in that space anymore, but I use that information daily. I live in Excel some weeks, so definitely a good foundation for what we’re doing

Zach Macaffer (10:44):
For me. So I’m from upstate New York and I grew up as a ski racer. I was involved in the US Development ski team program for 14 plus years. So skiing was so much a part of my life that actually when it came time to start looking at colleges and I had broke my back, so I wasn’t going to be skiing in college. I wanted to go to school in the deep south. I don’t know why. I just had it in my head that I never wanted to be anywhere that it snowed ever again. So I was applying to big state schools all down the deep, deep south. We’re talking deep south where I would’ve stood out. I’m Yankee boy, I would’ve been toast. But my mom was just like, Hey, we’ve been in Denver so much because of when I was out here skiing, competing.

(11:25): It was one of those things that was always in the back of our minds and touring, touring CC coming to Denver. And she pretty much had to force me to get on a plane to come out and CD you. And like Colin said, it was the second I was on campus, I knew that this was the school for me. I did want to go to a university with a strong business program. And Daniels was, I mean, it’s rank keeping higher now, but when I was looking, I mean, it was apparent from the get-go. That was the school that I wanted to study at. Then the second I got into it, I didn’t even open up another admission letter. It was set in stone. And then in regards to how my ventures here at DU kind of played into entrepreneurship Colin I changed my major, but I did it six times.

Collin Ricker (12:09):
Yeah. What were your previous five? I actually know

Zach Macaffer (12:11):
This. Yeah, so I did marketing, I did real estate and construction management. I did spend a quarter over at the HR TM school because of the wines of the world class, I think. Yeah, it sounded cool. It was a great class and finance business ethics and legal studies. I was all over the board. And I think what it really is, is there’s that ability within especially within Daniel’s, I can’t speak to the rest of you, but I assume it’s the same where you have that ability to dip your toes in a little bit of everything. And so much of the Daniel’s curriculum is comprehensive. It’s very much akin to a liberal arts education within the business school because you have to have all these different courses regardless of outside of your major work. So it just really allowed me to see what the all-encompassing different parts of running a business would be. Obviously I don’t use finance in my everyday life. Colin does, like I said, he said he lives in accela. We call it his favorite video game. But yeah, no. So I think it’s really the breadth of experience that was offered to me in such an intimate setting here at DU that really allowed me to see everything there is out there.

Kevin Douglas (13:12):
Yeah, I definitely think that’s a benefit of the quarter system is just getting more chances to take new classes rather than starting off right away and then getting a whole year behind because you took too long to switch to the right fit for you

Collin Ricker (13:26):
And Thanksgiving to New Year’s off

Kevin Douglas (13:28):
Also. That’s the second best part. Maybe that’s the best part. Do you have any advice to students who are in a similar position to you where they didn’t think they were going to be an entrepreneur, they didn’t plan on starting a business, but they found this thing they’re passionate about and suddenly they have this opportunity to turn it into their career?

Collin Ricker (13:52):
Yeah, I mean, I guess back when we were here you’d pretty much just like Zach, you kind of look like insane on paper. It’s like this kid’s done everything. Now there’s actually an entrepreneur school, so that’s awesome. If you’re feeling like Zach, I mean, that’s probably where he would’ve ended up. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, some people know what they want to do. My dad, he knew he was going to be an engineer from day one. He was at one company till retired. That’s just who he was. And I think some people, and nowadays there’s so many things in front of you that it’s hard to know what you really want to do unless you’re kind of following something or you’re just really talented at something, you’re like, this is where I’m applying my efforts. But I don’t know probably just try a bunch of things. You know, might not love it in college, but at least if you still don’t find what you love in college and you know, can do something with that might look funky on paper. But once you meet someone and talk to ’em in an interview and kind of explain why it looks insane on paper, that might even get you the interview. It’s like, what is wrong with this guy all over the place? But

Zach Macaffer (14:52):
My biggest piece of advice is, and this is so cliche, but there’s a twist to it. So it’s the obvious, don’t be afraid of failure. And the reason I say that is don’t be afraid of failure in conversation and in networking Colin and I have gotten to the point where we’re at because we were willing to sound like idiots talking to people much, much smarter than us. So if you’re interested in something or you know, don’t know how to do something, I remember in college I was paralyzed by fear. Cause I didn’t want to walk into a conversation and make it seem like I didn’t know anything. I would bs my way through a conversation and walk away from it and realize I hadn’t gotten anything out of it. So if you’re very blunt and upfront and transparent about the fact that like, Hey, I am trying to learn from you people are accessible and people really do like to help out, especially within the entrepreneurship community. So it’s just swallow that fear and be willing to admit your own shortcomings and then be open to learning from people that have gone through this before you.

Collin Ricker (15:46):
And I will say on that, in that same vein, when you’re at school and you have the ability to go intern places or people will just give you a shot because you’re a student and you’re eager to learn, do it. I mean, I thought for sure I’d watch Wall Street stuff and I was like, oh, this is awesome. I love high finance. I did one summer investment banking interning, and I knew investment banking was not for me. So, you know, can think something’s awesome. You can watch all these, the movies make it look great. And Hollywood’s like, oh, high finances is incredible. You live it for three months and you’re like, this is not for me. So you really don’t know until you talk to people in that space or see what day-to-day life is in that space, because nothing is what it seems. It’s always a little different than what you think it’s going to be.

Kevin Douglas (16:28):
Yeah, you never know until you do it. Right, exactly. And then anything we can keep an eye out for with new range, anything big on the horizon?

Collin Ricker (16:37):
A ton. So right now we have just finished our rebrand. So our entire company is getting facelift due to some, pretty much two and a half years of market feedback from retailers, distributors, consumers. We’re roping it all into one now, so it’s going to be a cohesive brand. Finally, the three ready to drink canned products have been rebranded. They will be the same as far as taste. They are all now organic. We also have a self heating latte coming out. So yeah, it’s our same coconut cream, vanilla latte, but you twist it and within three to five minutes it heats to 135 degrees and stays there for 30 to 60 minutes. That’s incredible. So yeah, never heard of that. The product. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (17:16):
Is that the first? Is that an existing product other folks are

Collin Ricker (17:19):
Doing? So people have done similar temps where the issue was they didn’t have control over the delta. So meaning if your can started at 120 degrees, it would keep going up 120 degrees, it would turn into a pipe bomb. Oh, it’s over boiling. Oh. So the tech partner we’ve partnered with he has found a way to basically stabilize the reaction where it will hit 135 degrees and stay there. And then if it goes above, it’ll shut down the reaction. So yeah, no more crazy explosions. And then we also have a cold brew concentrate coming out. So it’s 30 servings of coffee for $30 and a eight fluid ounce glass bottle. So the whole goal there is e-commerce push or students on campus, you have a mini fridge, you don’t have room for appliances you know, don’t have room for wine size boxes of cold brew concentrate. So this really goes after that market. And then our last drink, finally three years later, we have the espresso martini coming out now. Hey.

Kevin Douglas (18:17):
All right.

Collin Ricker (18:17):
So yeah, that’ll be Q1 of next year but it’s not going to be canned. We initially wanted, it’s going to be in a normal 750 milliliter liquor bottle. The whole goal there is, it shouldn’t be on the go drink in our eyes. It should be bartender pours you four ounces. Shakes it, right. Puts three beans on top. Cause you got to have the three beans of course. So yeah, we kind of, our full product line coming out after the rebrand and everything’s going organic, so we’re going to look like a real national brand.

Zach Macaffer (18:44):
Wow. Yeah,

Kevin Douglas (18:45):
It’s all come full circle. It’s pretty cool. Yeah.

Collin Ricker (18:48):
That’s why you paid the experts in branding. We did the branding kind of ourselves a little bit on the front end, and yeah, we’re not branding people. Yeah.

Zach Macaffer (18:56):
Know your weaknesses.

Collin Ricker (18:58):
Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (18:59):
And finally, what is each of your favorite drinks that you guys make?

Zach Macaffer (19:03):
So mine is the cold brew latte. Not to be that guy, but I think it’s the best on the market. I think it’s the best one ever made. Wow. Yeah. No, but I drink, I drink a lot of our cold brew latte. I’m scaling back. I was up to about six, seven coffees a day. I’m down to about one. So I’m currently in recovery, <laugh> working on it. But yeah, so yeah, the

Kevin Douglas (19:22):
Latte, I imagine it’s hard when you’re surrounded by it all the time.

Zach Macaffer (19:25):
Yeah. You just, yeah, it’s

Kevin Douglas (19:26):
Too much. It’s right there. Yeah. Yeah.

Collin Ricker (19:27):
I was going to say, I thought my favorite, it was latte. But again, when you have an unlimited supply of coffee and you drink two to three a day, I started to stop cause it was just so much caffeine. Yeah. So now my favorite’s, probably the Cold Brew with benefits are old cold Brew Coffee Plus with the No jitter, no crash formulation. I think, again, it’s not my favorite as far as taste profile, but I can actually delete these things and not get crazy, overly caffeinated and jittery and shaky and sweaty. So

Kevin Douglas (19:54):
Yeah, it’s a big perk.

Collin Ricker (19:55):
Yeah, I guess three years later kind of had a problem. Now we have a drink that solves it. So

Kevin Douglas (20:00):
Nice. Well, thank you guys so much for coming in. We really appreciate it and we wish you the best of luck with New Range and everything yet to come. Absolutely.

Zach Macaffer (20:07):
Thank you for having.

Kevin Douglas (20:08):
Thank you.

Collin Ricker (20:08):
Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (20:13):
The entrepreneurship at DU podcast was recorded in Marjorie Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. You can find us on Instagram at DU Entrepreneur, on Twitter, at underscore entrepreneur, and on Facebook at entrepreneurship at du entrepreneurship. At DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast. By the way. Check out Voices of Experience available wherever you get your podcasts.