Black Rifle Coffee Company - Coffee Cup in military settings

Black Rifle Coffee: A Veteran's Vision Turned Coffee Empire

In a world awash with coffee brands, Black Rifle Coffee Company (BRCC) stands out, not just for its robust flavors, but for a story that's as compelling as its brew. Beyond the beans lies the story of a visionary veteran who willed his passion for coffee into a business behemoth, combining grit, courage, and service into every cup.

The Calling of a Green Beret

BRCC has military service woven into its founding DNA. After serving tours as a Green Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan, founder Evan Hafer returned home in 2014 eager to embrace a new mission. The structure of military life had instilled work ethic and mental toughness. But transitioning to civilian life left Evan longing for a deeper purpose and self-determination outside the system.

From Service to Startup

While deployed, Evan found solace in quality coffee – a small luxury that fueled the demanding days. The idea dawned on him: Why not share my passion for great coffee with other veterans while creating an income stream and community hub to empower them? With that spark and only $20,000 in personal savings, Black Rifle Coffee Company was born.

Commitment to Hiring Vets

But this was no mere business venture to turn profits. Evan structured BRCC as a public benefit corporation from the start, legally codifying its social aims. BRCC works with non-profit partners like Hire Heroes and Volunteer Forces to fill over 50% of staff positions with U.S. veterans, offering them livelihoods and camaraderie. That mission of service now infuses the very coffee they methodically roast and ship nationwide.

Crafting an Authentic, Resonant Brand

Through grassroots outreach and smart digital marketing, BRCC quickly won a loyal base enamored by its brand narrative. Their messaging strategies hold lessons for fostering deep consumer connection.

Leveraging Lifestyle Marketing

By sponsoring right-aligned athlete ambassadors and infusing its cheeky humor into branded apparel, BRCC lifestyle products telegraph core values beyond what rigid TV spots can achieve. Outdoor enthusiasts, CrossFit mavericks, and good-humored patriots feel personally seen.

Building a Media Presence

Getting niche microcelebrities like conservative comedian Mat Best to organically showcase their brews was a genius seed-planting move. As user-generated media expands, the credible advocacy of respected community voices drives engagement more than corporate publicity ever could.

Customer-Centric Outreach

Evan also hosts the BRCC podcast to have genuine dialogues explaining their efforts to support American workers and give back. Nothing builds durability like consistent transparency. These personal connections fertilize the terrain for repeat purchases. In addition, BRCC's recent operational strides reflect a keen focus on customer engagement and business efficiency. Notably, their Direct to Consumer (DTC) subscribers grew by 14% in 2021, while their Ready to Drink (RTD) and wholesale channels expanded significantly, indicating a successful penetration into diverse market segments. 

Trajectory of Strategic Expansion

Leveraging its fiercely loyal customer base as a launch pad, BRCC has expanded with great ferocity since its inception about a decade ago:

Snowballing Revenue Growth

Despite the initial cash flow struggles typical of startups, Evan Hafer’s persistence and strategic decisions rapidly propelled BRCC's growth. From its modest beginnings, the company witnessed a remarkable surge in sales, reporting a net revenue of ~$300 million in 2022, a significant leap from its earlier years. This growth underscores BRCC's successful expansion and resonates with the company's dynamic approach to marketing and customer engagement

Diversifying the Physical Retail Presence

BRCC has astutely expanded beyond its robust e-commerce and subscription model. Evan Hafer led the charge in opening stylish coffee shop storefronts, enriching the brand experience with immersive retail environments. Moreover, the company strategically extended its reach through mass retail partnerships with prominent outdoor chains like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, and over 5,000 U.S. Walmart stores. In 2017, BRCC broadened its horizons by expanding into Canada and subsequently opened a new coffee roasting facility in Manchester, Tennessee, in 2018. This expansion was part of a $6 million investment, demonstrating BRCC's commitment to growth and innovation. The same year, they launched 'Coffee or Die Magazine,' an online publication highlighting military, veteran, law enforcement, and coffee topics, further diversifying their brand's presence

Setting Sights on the Public Markets

In a significant move, BRCC transitioned from a private to a publicly traded company in February 2021 through a business combination with SilverBox Engaged Merger Corp I. This strategic step not only marked a new era in BRCC's journey but also fortified its financial footing by adding substantial capital to its balance sheet. The public listing, a testament to the company's solid market standing and growth potential, allows BRCC to further invest in its mission and expand its reach.​

Key Takeaways: Dreams to Reality

BRCC endures as a testament that an unflinching vision backed by grit can spark game-changing ventures. Key lessons any aspiring founder can extract from their meteoric arc include:

  • Leverage your difference - As a veteran, Evan leaned heavily into resonating with fellow former servicemen, perfecting product-market fit.
  • Commit to a purpose - Benefitting vets' livelihoods cemented brand loyalty, as consumers feel part of their give-back agenda.
  • Digitize deliberately - Organic user-generated social content amplified authenticity for high conversions.
  • Expand strategically - Meteoric revenue growth provided fuel for new launches and retail partners.

A coffee company at its core, but so much more in its brave spirit, BRCC has only just begun serving up purpose and building community with every perfect sip. Evan Hafer’s vision will undoubtedly continue emboldening other entrepreneurs to believe the boldest dreams can be brewed into reality. This coffee empire is surely still rising. Have you tasted BRCC’s acclaimed brews? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this trailblazing company!

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