This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to work in Business Development for a not-so-well-known coffee company called Mother Parkers. Here’s a small taste of what I learned this summer!Business Development is….Complicated
Coming into the job, I assumed the role would be just like any other office job; come in at 8:30am, sit at my desk for 4 hours, have lunch, sit for another 4 hours, and finally go home. While some days were definitely desk-heavy, I was never sitting for more than an hour, as my main role involved working and collaborating with other departments to create new products that could be launched in the market. However, before any kind of product can be launched, significant background work needs to be done, as the market is always changing.
Whenever my bosses (yeah, I had 3 bosses) informed me of a potential “dig site” (potential area in the market where we could launch a product), my first task would be to analyze financial data available in that particular market. The most important thing I’d have to look out for during financial analyses was trends; is this market trending upward? Downward? What’s the month-to-month trend? Quarterly trend? Year-to year trend? All this came in handy when deciding whether or not this was a market worth investing in. Whenever we decided that we had a winning idea, our next steps would be to call meetings with different departments within the company, and inform them of our findings. One of the most crucial departments within the company (or any company for that matter) was Product Development, and we’d often arrange to meet with them first.
Product Development is…Even More Complicated
Like the title says, this department is probably the most complicated. See, in Business Development, you’re identifying new avenues that the company could possibly partake in, whereas in Product Development, you’re literally making the product to be sold. The wheel I’ve attached above is a prime example of why this department is so crucial to the business. The “Tasting Wheel” is used by the entire coffee industry to standardize the descriptors used to define the taste of different coffee products (I’ll go into more detail about this in part 2). This job is performed by individuals in the industry known as “Cuppers,” who quite literally take a sip of the coffee product being tested, and then describe to you the taste notes they are experiencing.
The most experienced “Cuppers” can even tell you where the coffee beans used to make the product were grown, as well as what type of bean is being used. Whenever Business Development identifies a new avenue of growth, they go to Product Development to see if the creation of the product is even possible. Product Development is also often involved in identifying the cost of packaging the product, potential suppliers for different packaging materials, and sometimes even the development of original packaging solutions (i.e. making their own packaging, instead of finding a supplier). Once Product Development and Business Development are on the same page (i.e. they agree), the product is almost always guaranteed to launch (except under extenuating circumstances).
While both of the above departments (and the few I left out due to this posts already long length) are exceptional in their work, they aren’t free from error either. Before we’d launch a product, we’d have to hold meetings with some of the company’s top employees, including the SEVEN Vice Presidents. In these meetings, every single detail would be open for discussion, with the end goal being to find any possible oversights in analysis (e.g. outdated market information during the financial analysis, a market within the industry becoming obsolete overnight, poor outlook for an existing market, etc.). And even if the VP’s ok’ed the product, it was still subject to approval from the President, and especially the owners of the company.
My time working at Mother Parkers has taught me a lot about the inner workings of the coffee industry. In part 2, I get a little bit more plant ecology friendly, and talk about the most important part of the industry; the coffee plant (Coffea).