Bad coffee: the bane of your morning routine
Keep your morning ritual unscathed when in the backcountry with Alpine Start
To find out more behind how Alpine Start got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Alpine Start founder, Matt Segal
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Alpine Start founder Matt Segal. Alpine Start is a coffee brand offering an incredibly delicious instant coffee that will change the game of mornings in the backcountry. As a pro climber (and coffee enthusiast) Segal has spent his fair share of days drinking instant coffee. It wouldn’t be until he drank one too many rough cups of coffee to make him seek out a better option. Within the span of six months from the idea of conception, he partnered with Alex Hanifin and spent over a year of drinking just about every other instant coffee brand to better their scope on the instant coffee market and really fine-tune what they were looking for. After becoming experts in the instant coffee world and having their product perfected a year later, it wasn’t long before their took off landing themselves on the shelves of REI.
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More about Alpine Start
What is Alpine Start all about?
“We’re a premium instant coffee company. I had the idea a couple years ago spending a lot of time in the backcountry on climbing expeditions to make a better tasting instant coffee. There wasn’t really much on the market at the time and I was sick of using some of the these big brands and wanted something a little bit better…”
How did you start making coffee?
“When I first had this idea I had zero experience in the coffee world. I liked nice coffee… I wanted to try to do something a little different and I brought the idea to my business partner, Alex Hanifin and we basically just spent months trying hundreds of different kinds of instant companies to acquaint ourselves to the market and find one that tasted better…”
How long did this process take you to go from the idea to the final product?
“I think once I brought the idea to Alex it was about a year. I had the idea about six months before... about a year later we had a product in hand which is pretty fast from what I’m learning about being in the entrepreneurial space…”
Did you know you always wanted to start your own business?
“No, I did not know that I wanted to be a businessman… From the age of 13 to pretty much now my life had been dedicated to rock climbing. I was a youth competitor as a kid, traveled the world doing competitions, signed with The North Face on their global athlete team about 10 years ago… I knew that eventually I wouldn’t be a professional climber anymore, and I still am but, I knew that career path would have to end...Now I just kind of juggle both worlds…”
How do you run Alpine Start while being a competitive athlete?
“I don’t run it anymore… I feel like I created a really good team, Alex and I both. Alex is the acting CEO for the company and we’ve got a couple really good people that work for us… those guys really make it possible for me to be able to come in and out of the office and still pursue my career as a professional climber yet still have roles at Alpine Start…”
How did you balance your careers in the beginning?
“In the beginning it was a lot of just Alex and I and I put a lot of time in and I went back to doing the whole climbing thing more. Then, about 14 or 15 months ago I had a really bad accident and was around a lot, it was during a really good time. I broke about a dozen bones in my body in a paragliding accident so that really forced me to be home…”
How much do you typically travel in a year?
“That changes drastically. I think before Alpine Start I was gone a minimum of six months out of a year. With Alpine Start I try to be around a little more but, for example from now until November I only have 1 full week that I’m in Boulder…”
What responsibilities really fall on your shoulders for Alpine Start?
“Currently, I don’t have a specific title per se besides founder and I have all these little small responsibilities... But, really what it is I have a lot to do with what our next products will be and our brand awareness…”
What has the growth looked like since you came up with the idea for Alpine Start in 2015?
“It’s been drastic. Early on we were just in a couple retail climbing shops and then within the first year we went national with REI which was a huge step for us… After that we were able to get into a grocery chain called HEB in Texas. Now, we’re launching into Whole Foods in the Rocky Mountain region and we’re launching into a bunch more conventional grocery stores. Coming out with two new products was drastic… and people can definitely look forward to more products coming out in 2019…”
What’s been the hardest part about starting and building Alpine Start?
“For me personally, the hardest part has been the personal struggle of trying to balance my climbing career and Alpine Start… As a business the biggest hurdle is convincing people that all instant coffee doesn’t taste bad…”
What is your biggest fear and how do you manage it?
“The biggest fear in a lot of ways is growing up too fast, getting too big to handle ,and being forced to make decisions for the wrong reasons. I like to have a good balance with everybody in the company and not just sales driven. I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have a 9-5… I like to really stress taking fridays off and going on adventures or taking vacations is necessary…”
Have you ever brought Alpine Start coffee and surprised people with how good it tastes?
“All the time. I climb with a lot of the same people and a lot of them are good friends now who know the business... I was just in Switzerland a couple weeks ago who know me as a climber, they don’t know me as the Alpine Start founder, they just know me as a climber...It’s kind of cool to go and bring some people who don’t know about the product and hear them say ‘hey, this is pretty good!’...”
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a business?
“I think the biggest thing is if you’re thinking of starting something you just have to take the plunge. I also think finding the right kind of people to partner with is huge. Alpine Start is so much about the team and the people that we’ve surrounded ourselves with because, you can’t really do it all by yourself. Find people that are smarter than you, find people that don’t share the same ideas as you in some ways. You want people to compliment your attributes and push you in ways that you’re not so good at…”
What about climbing do you enjoy the most that got you hooked?
“It’s funny, I kind of anticipate for Alpine Start to be similar with my relationship with climbing in that it evolved so much over the years… in my first month of climbing it was the movement, I loved trying hard, it felt really cool. Now, currently, though I love the movements it’s been more about going on adventures and having rad experiences with your homies…”
Have there been any moments in climbing that steered you away from the sport?
“I think last year and this year after my paragliding accident, I’ve toned it down a little bit but, in the last couple months I’ve been ramping it up. I think that’s an ebb and flow type of scenario… I think I’ll always be a climber, I’ll always want to do it…”
What’s the best part about running Alpine Start?
“It’s pretty cool to create a product that I actually use. It’s not just a random business,a random thing. It was created as a necessity, a need, a want and, now I go on climbing trips and bring it and drink it…”
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