Photos courtesy of Grinding Coffee Co.
Grinding Coffee Co. is a black and LGBTQIA2S+-owned specialty roasted and high-quality coffee. The company was started by Oso Holley and Liyah Snider during the COVID pandemic. Both were fired from their jobs and needed to do something to survive. Grinding Coffee was created to be a more inclusive and diverse space for streamers and to get good coffee into streamers’ hands. The vegan and gluten-free products are roasted on the same day of shipping.
PrideIndex had the pleasure of conversing with Oso Holley. Oso shared the inspiring story of how the Grinding Coffee Co was started with a $14 investment, the power of social media and more.
PrideIndex (PI) Introduce yourself. And tell me about your journey thus far.
Osso Holley (OH) My name is Osso Holley. I am currently the CEO and co-founder of Grinding Coffee Co, an entirely online, virtual coffee shop. So far, the journey has been a very adventurous one. I’ve seen the ups and downs, the ins and outs of the business, and even learn as you go day by day. So, far, so good.
PI: What is a virtual coffee company? What does that mean?
OH: It’s a coffee company with no brick-and-mortar store. We are only an online seller with absolutely no aspirations to have a brick-and-mortar store in the first place. With a brick-and-mortar store, there are a lot of fees, loops, and hoops that you have to jump through. It is a lot of work. So, I thought, let’s figure out how to do this online.
PI: Share your background story regarding how you got started and what was your inspiration or muse to go into a venture such as coffee?
OH: Before the pandemic, I used to work in the emergency room as a scribe. I was the doctor’s brain. I would do all the charting for the doctors because they sometimes could never remember what happened once they left the room. It was great until the pandemic hit. We went from seeing about 250 to 300 people to 1,015 people daily. The hospital found out they were losing about $18 million a day, so they let me, 150 nurses, and security guards go.
I was trying to come up with how to get money. I was in college then and decided to use my refund check for groceries and things I needed for school. And then I had $60 left. I put $40 in my tank of gas. I went to sleep one day and dreamed of selling coffee with a friend of mine and decided to put this idea into action. I spent $14 to get the website and the rest to get a sample of coffee.
My very first customer was my grandpa. I had every nurse and doctor in the ER try my coffee. They said, “This is some incredible stuff, or I’ve never had something like this before.” These people work in critical and stressful situations all day, so I have a winner; this is a good idea. I hopped on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to convince people to visit my website and purchase coffee.
PI: Other than on your website, what avenues have you used to attract customers? Amazon marketplace? LGBTQ+ business space?
OH: We have tried several different avenues. We discovered Amazon was not for us because they would flag our products. They didn’t believe we were selling coffee. If you search for black-owned coffee, our products are lost in the sea of other black-owned coffees. We also tried a “black business marketplace” site that was just like Amazon, we didn’t get a lot of sales, nor did that site produce much traffic to our site. So then we thought, what’s a better way to get coffee in front of people on a small budget? Then we realized that I, our co-founder, and some of our employees play a lot of games. So why don’t we turn to the video gamer community because it’s all online? Gamers spend time playing or watching others, so it was the avenue we should go. We primarily promote our product using affiliates and partners.
We connected with this guy on Twitch that was live streaming to about 100 people. We messaged him asking for his opinions and to talk about our coffee. He said he really did not drink any coffee whatsoever. I said OKAY, I respect it, and left it alone. We later posted a call out on Twitter to work with black content creators, the gay community, women, etc. Luckily, that guy we reached out to on Twitch retweeted us on Twitter. He had 12,000 followers. He tweeted, “these people have been posting all over social media. I’ve seen them everywhere. However, no one’s talking to them. Its two black gay people that aren’t being looked at. So why is nobody talking to them?”
I remember that post came out at about 10:00 PM. I got 50 responses and a direct message. I was trying to respond to as many of them as possible. The next day I woke up at 11:00 PM, and my phone was ringing off the hook. It was my co-founder, Leah. She said, “Hey, there’s something wrong with our Twitter account. I can’t log in at all. So, that’s weird. She said it would crash every time I tried to open the app. I tried the same thing. And it didn’t work. I thought we were hacked, so I hopped on my computer. I opened Twitter and saw that we had about 500 notifications. That’s why it crashed our phones because it simply won’t load. So, I clicked open the notification, and it said, hey, would you like to silence notifications? A tweet you posted is more popular than usual. I clicked on the post, and it was the one where we had asked for black people, women, gays, and others who wanted to work with us. I posted. Hey, I appreciate everybody’s response, it’s a little overwhelming, but I promise we’ll get to everybody as soon as possible. I thought, there’s no way this just happened. And within the first two days that we posted the website, we gained revenue of $7,000 from people posting to buy our coffee; it was insane. There was no way we could go but up from here.
PI: What are the flavors of coffee you offer?
OH: Originally, we only had 12 products. I remember the 12 because we had six in three different sample packs, and some of those sample packs overlapped. And then, we had an additional 12 that we put in the store from the sampler packs. Now we’re up to about 40+ products that we rotate through seasonally.
PI: How many employees do you have right now besides yourself and your partner?
OH: Currently, there are five of us. We’re based in the Atlanta MSA.
PI: Talk about your price range.
OH: A 12-ounce bag averages $20 on our website. Our coffee is the highest certified grade of coffee by the FDA, Grade A. It is freshly sourced and shipped free to our customers in a fully packaged vacuum-sealed bag. Our coffee is fresher than some of those other chain retainers whose coffee has been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long. We put more effort into ensuring that our coffee hits the quality mark every time.
PI: What are your plans for expansion?
OH: We’re going to make an announcement relatively soon regarding our business plan to turn our company into a seven-figure business. More information is coming.
PI: If someone were interested in purchasing your coffee, what should they do?
OH: Our website is www.GrindingCoffee.Co. We’ve divided our products into categories such as type, flavors, single origin, blended, flavored coffee, and so on. Our high-quality coffee is outstanding. Our best sellers are the Top Contenders Pack and the Out of This World Sampler Pack.