Taking the Leap: How Kuju Coffee Started Their Business

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

Overcoming obstacles is second nature for Jeff Wiguna, an Eagle Scout, nature lover, and the co-founder of San Francisco-based Kuju Coffee. When one of his tent poles broke on his very first camping trip in 7th grade, he fixed it in the dark with duct tape.

Years later, when Jeff and his brother Justin Wiguna (a fellow Eagle Scout) were on a camping trip in Nevada's Red Rock Canyon, they were inspired to fix their poor-tasting instant coffee that sacrificed quality for convenience.

“We wanted to create something that was going to be ultra-portable, but still ridiculously tasty and flavorful," Wiguna said.

To marry the convenience of coffee-on-the-go with great taste, the brothers created Kuju Coffee's Pocket PourOver® — a ready-to-brew filter that anchors to your mug so you can have quality coffee that's both simple and packable.

Overcoming Fear

Wiguna and his brother had the right background to tackle the job. Their parents owned two coffee shops when they were growing up, giving them a firsthand view of how to run a small business. But they had another obstacle to overcome before bringing their product to life: The fear of starting their own company.

“The scariest part of starting a small business is, you really have to take that first step," Wiguna said. After that, it gets easier, he added. “The first of anything is difficult, but once you take that first step, you kind of just go with the flow."

What made that first big step easier to take was having a good partner, Wiguna said: “We were really passionate and determined to make this work."

Getting To Market

The next obstacle the brothers faced was getting their product to market – a common challenge for any new entrepreneur. They started with a website that enabled them to create an eCommerce platform for their PourOver coffee.

“Having a website building platform that enables you to represent your brand as your brand – that's everything," Wiguna said. “It was the first way anyone in the world was able to buy our products."

Neither of the brothers had experience in website coding, so they needed to find a platform that was easy to use. “It was really important for us to be able to create what we envisioned for our website and do it in a seamless manner," he said.

In addition to its eCommerce store, the Kuju Coffee website hosts a video that highlights how to use its unique product, the story of how the company was founded, information on the ethical sourcing of its beans, news about its policy of donating one percent of sales to the National Park Foundation, and a store locator for those who want to check out their product in in person.

Worth The Risk

After launching a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, as well as their website, the brothers eventually landed in all 75 Sportsman's Warehouse stores, as well as in REI. “Those are some really big milestones we're super excited about," Wiguna said.

“It's exhilarating," he added. “Every day we wake up, we work on Kuju and we know where we're going, and it gives us a sense of fulfillment and purpose."

Wiguna says the rewards of bringing his dream to life were worth the risk of pushing aside his initial self-doubt to start the company.

“You have one life to live and you have one chance, and you need to make the most of it," he said. “The number one piece of advice I'd give is you've just gotta take the leap."