Founded in 2014 by former U.S. Army Green Beret Evan Hafer, Black Rifle Coffee Company (BRCC) offers much more than your average cup of joe. It’s a lifestyle brand. In fact, the company proudly proclaims to serve coffee and culture to people who love America.
It all started as a simple operation: Hafer with a one-pound roaster in his garage. Today, BRCC is an empire, reporting more than $233 million in revenue last year, and they’re expanding rapidly with an estimated 42% year-over-year growth.
Still, Hafer says the mission is the same as it was on day one. The company is committed to supporting veterans, first responders, and the American way of life. Hafer was recently quoted in a press release, saying, “I wanted to use coffee as a means of bringing people together around the common idea of honoring those who serve this great nation.”
READ: A veteran with a purpose
BRCC’s loyal customer base amounts to about 1.9 million and counting, with more than 270,000 active coffee club subscribers. What’s more, they have millions of social media followers, as well as a popular news and lifestyle magazine, Coffee Or Die.
On the horizon
Expansion is inevitable as the brand continues to bolster direct-to-consumer subscriptions and increase supply of ready-to-drink products at major national retailers. They’ve also opened branded coffee shops in several states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Utah.
In a recent move that will provide BRCC with up to $225 million to accelerate growth, the company went public by combining with SilverBox-Engaged Merger Corp I.
The company insists that BRCC’s original founders, management and existing equity holders will maintain substantial interests. In a press release announcing the news, Hafer reinforced the idea that serving these communities drives everything they do.
“This combination will provide the capital BRCC needs to grow, serve great coffee and move us closer to our goal of hiring 10,000 veterans as we open more stores nationwide,” he was quoted saying.
To double down on their commitment to the same values, BRCC and SilverBox-Engaged announced their intention to donate more than 530,000 shares (valued at approximately $5.3 million at $10 per share) to the BRCC Fund, a foundation that supports its mission of bettering the lives of veterans.
Some would ask, what made Black Rifle Coffee Company such a success? While people certainly love caffeine, there’s no shortage of coffee companies out there.
At Bunker Labs, an organization dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs in the military community, the goal is to learn the art of creative problem solving. CEO Blake Hogan says they make no claim to be the best professors of entrepreneurship, or even the best practitioners.
“We say, ‘We’re in this fight with you,’ and it allows people to show up as they are, where they are, without putting on airs about where their company is,” Hogan said.
While BRCC didn’t necessarily solve a problem, Hogan notes that they created a unique connection with the customer. One that the customer didn’t know they wanted or needed. “They have a loyal fan base that loves them, and they understood that, and they understood how to speak to that customer.”
In addition, BRCC most likely has an expansive Rolodex of people who helped along the way, which is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to remember. “There’s a fallacy that we can do it all on our own,” Hogan notes. “If you don’t understand finance, great, let’s find people who do.”
This is one of the core missions of Bunker Labs: connecting people to form small unit leadership.
Shedding the fear of failure
Unfortunately, there are staggering disparities between different groups of veterans. According to the Institute for Veterans & Military Families at Syracuse University, roughly 49% of World War II veterans started a business, which is in stark contrast to the 5.6% of post-9/11 veterans who can say the same today.
But organizations like Bunker Labs are committed to helping these communities see their own dreams realized. Whether you’re looking to grow an existing business, or still trying to get a foot in the door, they offer several programs that can help you meet your goals faster.
When asked what advice he’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the military community, Hogan emphasized the importance of embracing the unknown. “Failure in the military had a very different cost. Failure in the world of entrepreneurship is just a calculated part of the process.”