The best part of waking up is … well, that depends on how you feel when you get out of bed.
Two locally based entrepreneurs are banking on the communicative power of smiley faces and other expressions to sell caffeine, hoping their brand of emoji-imprinted coffee pods catches on with a younger crowd of joe-sippers who are likely to share their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond.
“It’s like pairing a different mood with your morning,” JavaMoji co-founder Shaun Newsum said. “It’s like the Snapchat of coffee. … Coffee pods are not a cool thing; they’re a convenience product. We felt it was an opportunity to be different. With so many eyeballs on social media, it’s a way people can express themselves.”
Newsum and co-founder Sean Kilbane recently had a chance to express themselves and promote their product on “Hatched,” a nationally syndicated business reality show that featured the pair in an episode that was scheduled to air Saturday.
The company was hatched after Newsum and Kilbane met while working on separate projects at ROC Santa Monica, a collaborative office space designed for entrepreneurs. The two happened to be sitting next to each other and struck up a friendship as they navigated different paths in the Silicon Beach tech sector.
Newsum, who is from New York, founded music discovery platforms AudioShot and SoundStation and also runs a software consultancy. Kilbane, a Michigan State University alumnus, is a mobile technology consultant who founded a interactive digital start-up called Vidzey.
Both entrepreneurs left ROC but kept in touch, fiddling with the idea of starting a business that wasn’t heavily tech-focused.
“Tech start-ups are hard to get off the ground,” Newsum said. “It’s difficult to raise money. And we like to say that when everyone is zigging, we like to zag.”
Newsum and Kilbane started researching popular Amazon.com products to get a sense of consumer demand. They soon noticed the popularity of coffee pods, the single-use cups that are designed for Keurig machines and other similar coffee makers.
“We thought, ‘How could we make it different?’” said Newsum, a habitual coffee drinker who is now based at the WeWork office space on Arizona Avenue near the Third Street Promenade. “People love coffee. And people love emojis.”
Newsum and Kilbane set out to create their own coffee, a dark roast that features a blend of beans from Colombia and other countries. They’re currently working with a chief roaster who is based in San Diego.
The duo then picked out a dozen of the most popular emojis — one with heart eyes, another with a winky face, another crying tears of joy — and began printing the images on the tops of the coffee pods. Each box of 12 pods features as many different emojis.
JavaMoji is currently on sale through the company’s website and on Amazon as well as at One Cup Joe, a coffee pod boutique on the East Coast.
“What we wanted to tap into was the millennial audience and the idea that your users can be traders,” Newsum said. “Coffee pod brands are boring, and they don’t relate to the younger demo. … We think our product fits with the new generation of coffee drinkers, and we think we’re growing with them. It has that mass appeal.”