Sure that quote might sum up only Blip Roasters’ business start (and no one else’s), but it’s about more than carrying coffee on a two-wheeled vehicle. This quote encapsulates Ian Davis’s drive to get his business off the ground, the sacrifices he made and the way he overlapped his passion for motorcycles and coffee into one business endeavor.
Blip Roasters, whose name comes from a motorcycle term used to describe when a rider downshifts to drop their speed to match their RPMs, lives by the philosophy: “Riding moves us through life, and coffee is our opportunity to re-align during the curves thrown by the daily grind.”
Coffee and motorcycles. Motorcycles and coffee. That’s the theme.
Located in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Blip Roasters opened in 2014 only after Davis learned the craft from other brewers (of both coffee and beer) in Charleston, South Carolina. He also has about 8 years of experience in the KC caffeine scene — now pooling all that experience into his own venture.
Read how his city, his shop and his competitors push him and inspire him day-in and day-out — and how staying on trend isn’t always a good thing.
Was it hard to mix your two biggest passions? Coffee and bikes.
Almost everyone drinks coffee so when analyzing the Kansas City coffee market, there really is an unlimited amount of potential clients. With that in mind, I brought coffee and motorcycles together and have made it my job to get high quality coffee in the hands of people who aren't normally marketed to in Kansas City's craft coffee scene.
It wasn’t hard to mix these two mediums. I wear my passions on my sleeve and do my best to honestly represent my family, my city, my craft and myself.
How would you describe your start in the business?
I have been in the Kansas City coffee scene for about 8 years. I got my start at a small mom and pop cafe called Oak Street Coffee Shop at 63rd and Oak in Brookside. I managed the cafe of Aixois in Crestwood and was one of the first wholesale accounts for Oddly Correct and Thou Mayest, now two well-known roasters in KCMO.
If you could boil it down, what event taught you the most while starting?
I took a brief hiatus from Kansas City and worked in coffee and craft beer in Charleston, South Carolina. My time there really started me on the path that I am on now. I was able to meet and learn from some great coffee minds from Counter Culture Coffee and was introduced to an amazing group of craft brewers, including Evil Twin Brewing.
Did you make any sacrifices to start your own business?
When I moved home from Charleston and started the groundwork for Blip, I funded the business by selling my prized Toyota truck. My only mode of transportation was my 1976 CB550F Honda motorcycle. It's amazing the amount of coffee you can carry on a motorcycle if you try hard enough…
Is Blip Roasters a full-time gig?
Blip Roasters is my full-time gig. I am presented with new challenges everyday, make different mistakes and most of the time, I learn from them. Whether it's strictly business or on the coffee side, it seems like there is always something new to learn, and I am unashamedly a student of my craft. I think it's when people think they have learned everything about a subject that they open themselves up for failure.
Describe your typical day.
I run all the day-to-day operations of the shop. I do the designs, marketing, roasting, packaging, etc. We are in the middle of a cafe build out, so that has been on my plate as well. I have found myself roasting at 5 a.m., digging holes and pouring concrete in the late morning, making wholesale deliveries, setting up events and cleaning the shop before I head home. It has been non-stop for the past few months.
KC isn’t short on craft coffee shops, how is what you’re doing different?
I feel grateful to be surrounded by such great coffee roasters. Kansas City has an amazing selection to choose from. Some of my greatest inspiration comes from Jon Cates and the crew at Broadway Roasting Co. Jon is the original gangster of craft coffee in Kansas City, and without his company’s efforts, businesses like Blip would not exist.
Their passion for coffee, their families and their neighborhood is something I can only strive to emulate. They live and breathe Kansas City and their attentiveness to their coffee is outstanding. They have stuck to their guns and it has really paid off.
Other roasters and shops have since opened in Westport, but Broadway [Roasting Co.] has stood its ground time and time again, slaying giants like Starbucks, who opened less than 50 feet from their front door.
Even though there are a lot of great shops right now in Kansas City, I know that it is a fluctuating market. I have seen places open and close and I expect that trend to continue. There is only a handful of shops that are still around from when I began my journey.
Does the location influence you?
Our location in the West Bottoms of KCMO is important for a few reasons. The first is that we want to project our hard work and creativity, and what better place than the original industrial district of Kansas City? Located below downtown, the West Bottoms and the Stockyards district provided the infrastructure, jobs and materials that built Kansas City.
You set up “pop-up pour overs” here and there on weekends, but that’s really it for serving brewed coffee. Is this how you generate new business?
We have been doing "pop-up pour overs" throughout the West Bottoms for about the past 8 months. While we are still working on the cafe, these pop-ups allow us to reach out into our community, build a little business and demonstrate the work ethic of Blip Roasters.
Do you follow current trends in business, or just try to do your own thing?
There are a lot of trends in business and in coffee. For the most part we do our own thing, however there are some trends that are hard to get around. One example is cold brew coffee. It's huge in Kansas City and the Midwest. However, if you travel to the south, I have found that many places despise it.
So much effort is made by roasters to create the right roast profiles that are then brewed at super specific temperatures, grind size and length of time, that to simply grind that same coffee and soak it in cold water overnight really seems like a disservice to the beans. In our cafe we won't be offering cold brew, but instead a Japanese iced coffee where the coffee is still extracted using the proper temperature water and brewed directly over ice, still revealing the correct profile of the coffee.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start his/her own business?
The best advice I could give is to pay respect to the people who have paved the way for what you want to accomplish. Whether that's your family, friends, city or even an existing business that will soon be your competitor, being humble is a virtue that is everlasting.
Where can we expect to see Blip Roasters in 5 years? 10?
In 5 years, I would love to see multiple Blip locations in the West Bottoms. In 10 years — world domination.
To learn more about Blip Roasters visit bliproasters.com
Images and Interview courtesy of Blip Roasters
This interview has been condensed and edited