'All the packaging would look the same': Couplet Coffee's Gefen Skolnick on trying to reinvent a category

Couplet Coffee, which sells both coffee beans and coffee-related products online, is only a few months old and is trying to enter the market with a bang. Currently, it's available online as well as at select partners like Lotto.com's Players Cafe. Founder and CEO Gefen Skolnick joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and spoke about the launch. "Couplet was my side project in college," Skolnick said. "I've just been obsessed with coffee for over ten years now." For the last year, however, Skolnick has been testing out to see if the brand could become a viable business. Much of this was done via limited-edition drops, as well as one-off retail partnerships at pop-ups like a recent Bumble-sponsored NYC cafe. In the beginning, Couplet's landing page was a barebones cashdrop site that sold a small amount (for example, 30) limited-edition coffee bean bags or products like french presses. These drops sold out quickly -- much of that driven, according to Skolnick, by social media buzz -- which gave more credence to the brand. Now, Couplet is trying to take things to a new level. While it still has small-scale partnerships with artists and drops limited edition products, the brand is trying to grow its permanent presence as well. It is currently in 17 retail stores nationwide. In addition to its online offerings, which went live earlier this year, Couplet is opening over 20 coffee cart locations at Players Cafe. Skolnick said more expansion announcements are on the horizon. Growing this type of company was new terrain for Skolnick. Despite only being in her mid-20s, over the last few years, Skolnick had worked in a variety of capacities -- from software engineering to DTC marketing to investing. But, she hadn't really honed in specifically on coffee before. So Skolnick grew her network to get a better understanding of the space. "I spent all of last year... figuring out how operations work, figuring out how DTC brands do what they do, figuring out how coffee companies do what they do and creating an advisor and investor ecosystem that could help me figure it out," Skolnick said. All this helped Skolnick raise a seed round of funding in 2021. This education isn't over now the Couplet has officially launched -- but the plan is to continue growing the company. While Skolnick is seeking out more coffeeshop and retailer partnerships, she's also hoping to grow the product line and keep Couplet true to its roots. Even with the growing amount of external partnerships, Skolnick said, "we're primarily a DTC brand."

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