By Erica Bray and Jeanine Ibrahim
Suyog Mody and Anu Menon traded their corporate careers in digital marketing for ... coffee.
Inspired by other startups and countless TED Talks, the couple took the entrepreneurial leap to create something together as husband and wife. The result is Driftaway Coffee.
The Brooklyn-based coffee subscription service delivers fresh-roasted coffee personalized to your palette, straight to your doorstep. The couple is building the business from the ground up, handpicking coffee bean suppliers, roasting their own beans, packaging and mailing the products -- in addition to managing all of the day-to-day logistics that come with launching a new business.
Suyog spoke with Name.Kitchen about jumping into entrepreneurship and story behind their company's name -- and its corresponding domain name: www.Driftaway.coffee.
Why leave a 'comfortable' corporate life to build something from scratch?
We decided that we wanted to create something of our own. Our life was fulfilling but we weren’t sure if it was something that we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. We started thinking about how we could work together on some project that was a passion area as well as something we could own and create.
While living in London, we used a service called Packed Coffee. It was freshly roasted coffee straight to your home. It was super convenient and super great. We have always been into brewing our own coffee, so decided to try it ourselves. We were looking for a passion project, even if it wasn’t very financially fulfilling from the very beginning.
So how did it begin?
We started with some friends. We didn’t have a name back then. We were just repackaging other coffee and sending it out. So it was super low profile, just walking around Brooklyn and finding who the best local roasters were and sending it to our friends. We would mail the coffee out using the Post Office. Then we had an Etsy store in lieu of having a website of our own. That was the first space where we sold the first 50 subscriptions.
What did you learn from that grassroots start?
We definitely learned whatever product you send, if you don’t have a brand, if you don’t have a presence, if you’re just sort of aggregating and resending, then people automatically don’t trust it. So there’s a lot to do with the packaging, the brand story around it and the name, of course.
About that name, 'Driftaway.' Where did it come from?
It goes back to feeling you get when you drink a cup of coffee on a weekend morning at home and you have a little bit of time and everything isn’t going crazy. That feeling that coffee gives you when you are taking your time and drinking it and enjoying it on its own merit.
It’s also got a little bit to do with the fact that coffee travels a lot, like thousands of miles, before it gets to you. You start to be aware that it’s coming from very far away, from a very different economic, social and political environment. Some of that we directly put in the packaging, as well. There are tags associated with every pouch that gets sent, with information about where the coffee is coming from -- tags inspired by vintage airline tags.
That's a beautiful dual meaning. How'd you land on it?
[Anu and I] are both big whiteboard people. I had worked on various naming projects for clients at my previous job, everything from naming a brand and sub-brand to an app. So I had a theoretically framework in mind.We didn’t want to have a made-up name, and we didn’t want it to be difficult to pronounce because it would be a consumer brand.
So we had two axis on a whiteboard. Did we want to hit an emotional name or a rational name? That was one axis. Did we want to be super direct in the name or should it be implied? That was another axis. So we came up with all sorts of personal things for us, including the names of our dogs. At the end of it, there were 150 different choices. We checked a lot of different Pinterest boards, too. We ended up on the emotional and implied side for the name -- 'Driftaway.'
You know, your business name is also a song ...
Yes, the first few people who heard it went to the Dobie Grey Song “Drift Away.” I’ve been hearing it a lot lately, actually. It’s from the 70’s. 'Give me the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.' That was not something we were thinking about when we named it, so we were a little taken aback. We don’t want to be associated with that song, but it’s nice to have something to make fun of.
How did you take that name online?
When we were still searching for a name, every single one we would go to [domain registration website] Dynadot and see if the domain was available in 'dot-com' or 'dot-co' or something else. DriftawayCoffee. com -- that’s very long. It’s not impossible to use, but it’s still kind of a pain. We eventually registered Driftaway.co, but it doesn’t skillfully imply what we do. "Dot-coffee' [.coffee] came out last March, and I had preorder on it as soon as I knew it was coming out.
Why did you want a 'dot-coffee' domain name? Why Driftaway.coffee?
It's a URL that implies what we do. We are an online business exclusively selling online. There is no café and probably will not for be one for awhile. So we're trying to focus on e-commerce. Not having a physical location and physical space, our website is basically our location.
The difference and the uniqueness of 'dot-coffee' -- that's a cherry on top.
How has the domain name enhanced your business?
Being a 'dot-coffee' is a good conversation starter. Everyone looks at me twice. I still get a lot of eyebrows when I say Driftaway.coffee. They're like, 'Driftaway-Dot-Coffee-Dot-Com'? And I have to say, 'No, just 'dot-coffee.' But it’s a conversation about the name. Then the conversation focuses very quickly on deeper level about us as a company.
How has the website helped to boost business?
It’s grown really well! We're actively trying to grow it by getting our name out there, leveraging a lot of events and bloggers. We were recently featured by [Boston Globe reporter and coffee blogger] Matt Viser, which resulted in a lot of new subscriptions.
Looking into your crystal ball, what's the future for Driftaway Coffee?
In addition to coffee, there are other things that we eventually want to get into. We're wondering if we should start getting those domains and holding on to them or not. As Driftaway becomes a more household name, which ones make sense to use? Maybe a 'dot-world' [.world] or 'dot-space' [.space]?
To learn more and subscribe to Driftaway Coffee, visit the website www.Driftaway.coffee.