Office coffee service is full of opportunity for those willing to see it. Joe Elias, founder and “Chief Nice Guy” at Richmond, VA-based Happy Camper Coffee Company, recognized that opportunity early on. In 2009 after the company he was working for went out of business, Elias, a self-starter, got into business helping others start their own companies. In 2010, he drifted into the vending world when a former colleague of his purchased a vending company and asked for Elias’s help with a few things to make the business run smoothly.
While he was introduced to vending, Elias discovered office coffee service. He realized that a lot of the headache that came with vending didn’t exist in OCS. This realization sparked an idea in Elias -- an idea that combines OCS and philanthropy...but with a twist.
Elias, along with his wife, Kelly, created a new OCS operation as an evolution to the pair’s existing company, Happy Camper Productions, which raises funds for more than 50 nonprofit organizations through community events. “The concept was simple,” said Elias. “We provide great coffee service to clients with Happy Camper Coffee Company and we invite and encourage those locations to attend the fundraisers that Happy Camper Productions puts on. The heart of our business is community-focused and our customers are drawn to that.”
The events are a staple in the company, says Elias. Not only does Happy Camper Productions work with restaurants and bands to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits, they host an annual “Happy Camper Fest”, a whole-day event featuring local food carts, craft breweries, and vendors of all kinds (and yes, Happy Camper Coffee is brewing the whole time!).. 100% of the proceeds from these fundraisers are donated local nonprofits. And the OCS locations they serve love that local, community-focused philanthropy.
Elias doesn’t consider himself just the “average Joe”. Rather, he runs Happy Camper Coffee Company as though it’s less of a company, and more of an extension of himself. “When it comes to coffee, we don’t sell on price,” Elias said. “We like to tell the location what the company is all about and we look for a true partnership with them. We don’t want to be the guys who just come in and drop the coffee off. Rather, we want to be a lifelong partner.” Elias manages the company with his two business partners (and in-laws) Karen and Cliff Dye.
Elias makes it a point to only offer products he thinks are worthy of selling. He won’t serve a bad cup of coffee. He only offers Fair Trade Certified coffees, partnering with East Coast roaster, Barrie House. “Most our customers just want a good-tasting cup of coffee, which is why we partner with Barrie House. They deliver,” he said. He is a certified Bunn dealer and also uses Touch brewers for those locations looking for single-cup.
Sustainability is an important part of Happy Camper Coffee’s offerings as well. The company has a full line of recyclable single cup options and provides and swaps out recycling bins every week. “We wouldn’t be in single-cup if we didn’t have the choice of offering a sustainable product,” said Elias.
Though these offerings make Happy Camper Coffee different from the next guy, it’s the company’s philanthropic hand in joining community fundraisers and coffee together that truly makes it one of the most unique OCS operations in the U.S.