Crema Joe Website: https://www.cremajoe.com.au/
Crema Joe Instagram: @cremajoe
Tony Corrales (Host) Instagram: @tony__corrales
Nōskin Instagram: @noskin.co
On this episode of Producing with Purpose, presented by Noskin, I have an in-depth chat with Kayla Mossuto of Crema Joe, a company delivering sustainable coffee pods to coffee lovers everywhere.
Kayla worked in the advertising industry for ten years before co-founding Crema Joe with her husband. The company focuses on providing eco-friendly coffee pods, as well as cleaning accessories for pod machines, and even their own line of coffee! The core goal of the business from day one was sustainability – everything Crema Joe does is based around this crucial concept.
The Crema Joe Backstory
“I work harder than I’ve ever worked before, but I’ve got a really good reason to get up in the mornings now; it feels good to be doing something of impact.”
I was curious as to whether Kayla had been working towards this goal for a number of years, or whether it was simply a lightbulb moment that she started work on the day after she thought of it.
Kayla has always been sustainably minded, but after seeing for herself how quickly coffee pod waste mounted up, she started looking around for an eco-friendly alternative. However, back in 2014, options were pretty limited. Kayla’s husband initially suggested the idea of a reusable pod. From there, the pair started researching and testing, and soon enough, Crema Joe was born.
Kayla and her husband balance each other out as a team. He thinks bigger-picture, while Kayla is more risk-averse and detail-focused. I think the idea of balance in the core business team is important. This is what we’ve tried to achieve with Noskin – our founders represent a mix of pragmatism and vision, leading to amazing innovation with no compromise on logistics.
From Idea to Product
“The sustainability journey does tend to be one of growth, for everyone.”
Kayla acknowledges that any business venture is a journey. Crema Joe’s first step was to source out manufacturing and to trial and test various product lines. When it comes to reusable coffee pods, you want something that’s durable and sustainable while also making really good coffee.
Once they had that part sorted, Crema Joe had to produce lines for all the popular coffee machines available on the market. Their core line contains about half a dozen different variants. Kayla reckons this is the right number to help the most amount of people while keeping the company economically viable.
Part of the problem in converting people to full sustainability is the fact that most see recycling as the be-all-end-all of conservation. But over recent years, Kayla feels we’ve moved far beyond that – though there’s a lot of education still to do.
I was wondering how worried Kayla was about the bigger coffee machine companies like Nespresso turning around and creating their own sustainable pods. Kayla acknowledges that the risk is there but the revenue is not, as sustainable pods don’t necessitate repeat purchases.
The ultimate goal with the Crema Joe product line is to move customers towards sustainability and keep them there. Of course, there are all types of customers, some who are willing to work harder than others; the variants and options available to people represent this.
The First Six Months
“It really took off within a couple of years quite organically. Sustainability became more of a mainstream talking point. But I like to think we were sustainable before it was cool!”
Kayla had been building up the company’s social media accounts prior to the release of the product, resulting in a solid presence online. At the beginning she was running competitions every week, giving away free products.
Shortly into their journey, Crema Joe took part in the ING Dreamstarter Program, which was really a springboard for the business. They also launched a crowdfunding program, and these two things in tandem really helped them kickstart their product.
For the first couple of years, the company operated out of the couple’s home to keep overheads low. Kayla identifies this as being a crucial part of Crema Joe’s early days, which are traditionally shaky for the majority of businesses.
I was also interested in whether Kayla did any studying on the business side to supplement her experience. Apart from the odd Google deep-dive, though, most has come from trial-and-error – trying things, seeing what works and dabbling with different ideas. Kayla reckons that’s what the majority of business owners do. There were a couple of places where she would’ve liked a more formal grounding in things that don’t come naturally to her, such as management; but she’s had to learn on the job.
Managing Time: On the Business and Between the Business
“Daily speed and monthly patience.”
Understandably, Kalya feels it’s really tough to balance her family and her business. It’s a juggling act. What she’s learnt to do is be super time-efficient, prioritising the high-value tasks and delaying the low-value ones. Some of the balls she’s juggling are glass and some are plastic – so she makes sure that if she has to drop a ball, it’s one of the (eco-friendly) plastic ones!
This sounds similar to a philosophy I try to instil in my team: daily speed and monthly patience. Every day we work hard with momentum, but on a monthly level we take a step back and appreciate that certain things take time.
Kayla feels she’s probably still in that ‘patient’ zone. There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, especially with COVID. This is why Crema Joe has expanded their product lines over the years so they didn’t have all their eggs in one basket. Kayla admits she’ll probably never feel totally secure in that, whereas her husband is far more relaxed about the endeavour.
Strategies for Customer Acquisition
“I do a lot of really random things; sometimes I’ll go out on a limb and contact a journalist. It’s about getting in front of the right people. I do cold emails, cold calls; once I’m in touch with a journalist I’ll keep their details and be grateful to them.”
A lot of Crema Joe’s customer acquisition has been pretty organic. Kayla puts a lot of focus on PR, which has been a huge help. She also believes that a lot of Crema Joe’s success is down to word-of-mouth. They utilise all different types of promotion, spreading the word around wherever there’s a relevant opportunity available.
Kayla reaches out to journalists and influencers. She takes care not to nag them, but she’s persistent. Getting in front of the right people is crucial. Sometimes an influencer will work out, sometimes they won’t. Same with journalists. In the end, it’s not worth worrying about – just try reaching out and see what happens.
“We’re trying to create an army of micro-recyclers around the globe. There’s this endless supply of plastic waste. We can use this as a resource.”
In tandem with Crema Joe, Kayla also runs a business called Precious Plastic. It came about when she was looking around for a sustainable manufacturing solution for a product for Crema Joe. One thing led to another, and the Precious Plastic method came into play.
Essentially, they’re a range of open-source machines whose blueprints are available to anyone. Kayla runs Precious Plastic Melbourne, retaining the original name to tie it back to the original cause. It’s not a license, as it’s open-sourced – anyone can do it.
There were a lot of hurdles to getting set up, but they’ve come a really long way to this point, expanding their range of machines and continuing to build on the initial idea. This is not mass-production of products; it’s very bespoke, which means it’s also time-consuming.
Crema Joe’s Perfect Press product was the first one created by these homemade machines, before they progressed to producing other items and aiding other businesses. It’s very collaborative in nature and very much a passion project, in comparison to Crema Joe.
I want to say a huge thank you to Kayla for taking the time to have a chat and for sharing her journey so far. It’s really inspiring to see a genuine entrepreneur who’s 100% committed to sustainability.