Veteran OCS operators know the industry has changed a lot since the days of pourover brewers and standard coffee kits. The bar has been raised considerably with the advent of specialty coffee and a more sophisticated coffee consumer.
But that doesn’t mean that a dedicated newbie can’t make it. For coffee lover Evalynn Merrill, today’s coffee service business is the type of business she wants to be in. The Las Vegas, Nev. native has parlayed her passion for coffee into a viable business, thanks to single-cup technology and high quality coffee.
Merrill, a woman who spent most of her working life in the casino industry, had limited business experience and limited funds when she launched Gourmet Coffee Vendors five years ago. But she believed the coffee service industry in fast growing Las Vegas wasn’t keeping up with the demands of the office coffee consumer. She seized an opportunity to deliver what many consumers like herself wanted but weren’t getting in the work place: specialty coffee.
Today, Gourmet Coffee Vendors is one of the most visible independent OCS companies in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities. Key in “Las Vegas coffee service” in an Internet search engine, and Gourmet Coffee Vendors will pop up on the list of companies.
IN SEARCH OF OPPORTUNITY
Merrill’s company markets specialty coffee and almost exclusively uses single-cup brewers. To foster a high quality image, the company uses professional looking marketing materials, including a Website, a colorful brochure and a delivery van that doubles as a moving billboard. All of these media deliver the company’s enthusiastic message: espresso, cappuccino, café latte, café Americano, mochaccino, hot chocolate and flavored coffees.
In person, Merrill comes across as very reserved. She doesn’t impress a stranger as an ambitious business person. But start talking coffee, and her excitement spills forth. “Coffee is the most traded commodity next to oil,” she says with passion. “Coffee isn’t going away.”
Working as a roulette dealer in a Las Vegas casino, Merrill was exposed to successful people constantly for years. She realized that people from many different walks of life became successful by owning their own business. She contemplated how she could be one of them. She considered opportunities that would allow her to launch a business but still keep her regular job.
FIRST ATTEMPT LASTED TWO YEARS
Her first attempt was an automobile windshield repair service. Given the big fleets of rental cars in Las Vegas, there was a demand for this business, but servicing the demand was difficult.
After two years, she quit the windshield repair business and began looking for something else. She came across a single-cup coffee brewer at a business opportunity show.
Merrill was sold instantly. She was well aware of how difficult it was to find a good cup of coffee in Las Vegas work sites. Specialty coffee shops had popped up everywhere, but outside of these coffee shops, good coffee was nowhere to be found. “Everybody loves coffee and I love coffee,” she said.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY: SPECIALTY OCS
The idea of a specialty OCS service made perfect sense to her. “People leave the office to go to Starbucks, so I could bring coffee like Starbucks to the office,” she said. “I just saw that right off the bat. I like the concept of OCS, giving great coffee in a work environment.”