Entrepreneur Ellie Eckert is Writing Her Story, One Cup of Coffee at a Time
For many of us, coffee is the fuel we use to get through our day. For Ellie Eckert, however, coffee is the fuel that powers her entire career.
The founder and editor of City Brewed, a journal celebrating the richness of cafe life and the ritual surrounding the beverage, Ellie has merged her love of coffee with her love of writing to create a brand-new concept: coffee, editorial-style. Her new startup is Written Coffee: a thoughtful selection of coffee beans, carefully sourced, sustainably harvested, and intricately flavorful to produce the perfect cup of coffee for its subscribers. Chapter 1 has just been released, and Ellie could not be more proud. We sat down with her to discuss the fusion of her passions, as well as the future of her business.
Written Coffee works on an editorial-style release pattern. What inspired you to choose this unique strategy?
My background is in writing and editing, so when dreaming up the Written Coffee brand, I knew I wanted each release to be incredibly curated, similar to an issue of your favorite magazine. It allows me to spend a little extra time choosing each offering, making sure we’re always releasing the best of the best. Written is all about fostering storytelling, so while working on each new launch, we’re also working behind the scenes to develop the stories that will (hopefully) whisk you off on a journey while you’re sipping a cup of our coffee. Swoon…
What were the main challenges you faced in the early days of City Brewed? Do you still face them today?
In the early days of City Brewed, it was all about how I could spread the word about my new site, and keep the content consistent so readers would return. Should I post about coffee, or about style? The struggle was really honing in on that voice, and trying to merge the two. Instagram was brand new (imagine…) so a lot of my early readers came from events around the city, or sparking up a conversation on other blogs. The landscape has definitely changed, and continues to change, so I’m constantly working on ways to attract new followers, especially with a new brand and fresh social accounts.
Why is it important to you that your beans are sourced responsibly?
Coffee farmers face so many challenges, from low wages to questionable labor conditions, and simply put, I didn’t want to add to those problems. In fact, as small as we are, I dream of a time when we could help change the landscape in a big way. Before choosing our first offering, I knew I wanted a partner who ensured the well-being of their farmers, fair wages, and sustainable practices, and by the time we left the farm after five days in Guatemala, I knew we found that.
You wrote that Written Coffee is “Coffee made with you in mind.” Can you say a bit more about that?
Written Coffee comes after years of interviews and research on City Brewed. Most of my audience enjoyed coffee, but were novice drinkers. Through community surveys and feedback compiled over the past six years, I narrowed down the taste profile, the country of origin, and what values held importance with my readers. I wanted to make coffee they wanted to drink –no matter if they were casual coffee drinkers or lifelong baristas. I think Written really encapsulates all of that. It’s an easy-drinking coffee that doesn’t feel intimidating.
It’s easy to see that writing means a lot to you. How has it informed your business so far, and how might it continue to play a role moving forward?
Writing has always been a huge passion (I’d show you the book I “wrote” when I was six – but it was authored in crayon…), and I really wanted to inject that into Written’s brand, even in the smallest details. Each new bag is a “Chapter,” and we aim to tell important stories with each release, be it through video or words on our journal. It allows me to merge two of my favorite things: coffee and storytelling.
Written Coffee’s social media presence is still growing, but it’s clearly off to a great start. What does your digital marketing strategy look like?
Slow and steady. One of the mistakes I made early on with City Brewed was posting for the sake of posting. Now I’m really particular with what I put out there. I want quality over quantity. This is my baby after all, and I want to be proud of what gets pushed out into the (digital) universe.
That being said, Written also has local roots, and Tampa Bay – where I’m currently based – is huge on fostering community. While much of our marketing plan is digital in nature (post! engage! hashtags!), I love to meet local bloggers and businesses, and take the conversation offline at indie markets in the area.
Your Instagram is particularly gorgeous. Who manages that online presence?
You’re lookin’ at her! Written is a new venture – totally start up in nature – so I’m behind the scenes packing bags, posting photos, writing articles, and shipping those fresh-roasted beans to their new homes (with only a small amount of separation anxiety…).
Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
I’d say it’s a bit of both! My parents, aunt, and uncle are all business owners themselves, so it’s definitely something I’ve watched growing up. I feel incredibly lucky to have watched my mom build her business from the ground up – she’s the epitome of a badass boss. On the other hand, I think it’s definitely something that can be learned, and the blogging community has really given anyone with a computer the ability to be their own boss – how cool is that? If you’re really into something – and in it for the right reasons – those instincts really come to life. It’s like fight or flight. You suddenly find all those little qualities lurking inside of you to help bring your vision to life.
How has being a female entrepreneur affected your experience within the industry?
I’ll never forget my first sourcing trip in Guatemala. While talking with the dry mill owner, he mentioned he could count on one hand the amount of women who had been there throughout the years. I was shocked, and kind of sad at the same time. There have definitely been a few times when I’ve been taken less seriously because I’m a woman in coffee – especially a woman in coffee who happens to be a blogger – but more often than not people are excited and want to see you succeed. I try to surround myself with those people – the ones who want to support and watch you crush all your goals – and I try to be that person for others.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently? And what would you say if you could only relay one piece of advice to your former self?
If I could take the time machine back seven years ago, to when I was first starting City Brewed and my new journey in New York, I would tell myself, “hey, that crazy dream you have about starting a coffee company? That office you can picture so clearly? The feeling you’d have when you held the bags in your hands? It’s coming. Keep going. Keep hustling. Put your blinders on and don’t let fear get in your way.”
And finally, what can we expect from Chapter 2?
I’m so excited about Chapter Two. I’ve been dreaming about it for the past year, and we’re roughly a month out from the launch (pinch me, please). Chapter Two is sourced from a woman-owned farm in Brazil, and paid a premium per pound in order to support projects in their communities, like educational efforts and increased healthcare access. We’re also donating 10% of each bag sold to the Women in Coffee Organization, a nonprofit that aims to connect, empower, and advance women in the coffee industry.
As for coffee talk, I’m so excited about the flavors packed into Chapter Two. Coming from an award-winning lot, it features a smooth, nutty, chocolatey flavor, and is the perfect easy-drinking coffee.