CBRN grant recipient Rogue Coffee uses grant to keep Saint John community safe, healthy and caffeinated

In June, as part of its Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), gave 62 small Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast $10,000 grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. Since then, grant recipients have been able to use the grant money to make changes that will help their business stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the story of Rogue Coffee from Saint John, New Brunswick.

“When we learned that we were recipients of the grant it was unbelievable,” said Michael Duncan. “We literally had to pinch each other to make sure it was real. At a time when all of our worlds are upside down and inside out we are so grateful to have allies in the fight.”

Rogue Coffee Company is an independent, locally-owned coffee shop. Owners Vanessa and Michael Duncan served their first customer out of a renovated furniture store workshop in August 2017.

“Rogue Coffee was built on three principles: community, quality and customer service,” shared Duncan. “We believe that a coffee shop is much more than a place to buy a cup of coffee. Rather it is a place that can inspire conversation and creativity.”

Due to COVID-19, Rogue Coffee pivoted from a café to an online business offering local delivery of coffee beans and equipment. Rogue did this through creating an online store and it launched marketing campaigns including radio ads, social media, and flyer mail outs. Rogue Coffee also saw the need to support charitable organizations and has committed portions of its online sales to the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“When the pandemic hit we made a decision that Rogue Coffee would not give up or succumb to the perils we face,” told Duncan. “We are acting quickly and decisively to keep our business alive, well, and growing.”

With the help of the CBRN grant, Rogue Coffee has been able to build its first Rogue Nest, which is a unique, all-weather seating installation in which customers can sit and enjoy their coffee. They are currently working on two more nests to be placed in other areas of the community. These will be Rogue-branded but for public use.

“These changes have allowed us to open for business safely while increasing our outside seating capacity,” explained Duncan. “The response from our community has been really great, with lots of positive encouragement and support. We are excited to launch the other two nests to help increase our city’s curb appeal and uniqueness.”

Rogue Coffee’s motivation to adapt to this new normal came from the desire to see Saint John thrive and grow.

“We believe that a local coffee shop is a place where ideas are shared and friends, new and old, come together,” said Duncan. “Motivation also comes from the challenges we face. Challenges have forced us to re-examine and adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Whether it is a global pandemic or brutal winter, we have and will continue to adapt. As a family business, we are also motivated by necessity. Food and shelter tend to motivate you even at your lowest of lows. We’re all in, in every sense of the term.”

Rogue is involved in the specialty coffee movement, which allows the introduction of Direct Trade Coffee. Rogue believes in the global community and aims to be part of a sustainable coffee industry, which ensures transparent and ethical practices from crop to cup. 

“This has been, currently is, and will be the most terrifying and innovative time to be an entrepreneur,” explained Duncan. “Our current goal is to stay safe, stay healthy, stay caffeinated, and give it our all.” Sounds like Rogue Coffee is on track to succeed at its goal!

To learn more about the CBRN Small Business Relief Fund and see the full list of grant recipients, visit the Small Business Relief Fund page.