Leading 8 to 12 year olds on canoeing trips in the Northern Minnesota wilderness, JoGo co-founders Joey Jones and Nick Yehle needed all the energy they could get. “We couldn’t get enough coffee,” Joey laughed.
Familiar with each and every way to brew a cup of joe, they found them to be bulky, expensive and time consuming, not to mention extremely wasteful.
Billions of coffee pods are tossed annually, millions of trees are cut down to satisfy the demand for paper coffee filters, and an estimated 500 million straws are used each day. What if we could brew and drink coffee in the same cup with a reusable straw wherever we choose?
“What if we could use the bombilla for brewing coffee?” they wondered.
Years previous, Joey had embarked on a 28,000-mile solo motorcycle trip from his home in Minnesota to Southern Argentina, where he took a liking to the local beverage yerba mate. A traditional bombilla straw with a filter on one end is used to consume the region’s beloved drink.
In the backcountry, when the idea came to them, they gave it a shot. “That first sip was really good,” Joey recalled of using his bombilla on a cup of cowboy coffee. “But then the grounds would pass through or clog it up.”
Inspired to find a straw-like device that would deliver the taste of French press with the simplicity of instant coffee, they wondered if something like this already existed. “But nothing was out there!” Joey said. “It was a simple, convenient and eco-friendly idea. What if we made one?”
Still immersed in their studies, Joey in Minnesota and Nick in Ohio, the pair began to build prototypes.
“I’d ride my motorcycle to the local hardware store every other day just picking up various materials,” Joey said. “They started to know me by name!”
He’d buy reusable straws, mesh, even duct tape (not advised with hot water, Joey admits!) to fabricate his own version of a straw for filtering coffee and tea.
Bootstrapping everything with a limited budget, Joey and Nick taught themselves every aspect about product and business development. “It was a great learning process, and it really felt like this was our baby.”
Product development involved “dangerous levels of caffeine” eventually forcing them to switch to decaf. After about ten prototypes to make JoGo functional, aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly, they sought out a manufacturer.
Then, to get things brewing, Joey and Nick launched a Kickstarter campaign with a modest 30-day goal of $10,000. To their complete surprise, JoGo hit that goal in less than one hour.
“We had no idea what was going to happen,” Joey recalled. “It was pretty crazy. I even got a little teary.”
By the end of the month-long campaign, JoGo earned a whopping $400,000 in presale orders, backed by more than 9,000 supporters in more than 80 countries. It became one of the most-backed coffee brands on Kickstarter of all time.
“I went quite a long time without sleeping,” Joey laughed of the emotional rollercoaster that followed. “We had just graduated from college. We wanted to do everything right and wanted to have a positive influence on the world.”
When the pallets of straws finally arrived at the fulfillment center and thousands of JoGos were shipped off to their Kickstarter supporters, Joey remembers thinking, “Holy s*** this is real!”
Weighing just one ounce, the highly portable JoGo stainless-steel straw filters coffee or tea through a detachable mesh screen. It doesn’t get clogged and is easy to clean.
Just pour your favorite ground coffee or tea as well as hot water into your cup, stir and enjoy. “No machines, no waste, no hassle.”
Since JoGo was inspired by the bombilla, which was created by the Guaraní tribe, they believe it is their duty and privilege to give back to this region. The brand is honored to contribute 5% of their profits to Survival International, a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Indigenous communities like the Guarani tribe to help them defend their lives, protect their lands, and determine their own futures.
“We do this because we believe that the destruction of First Nation land and critical habitat is a global problem that requires collective action,” Joey said.
“It’s cool to reflect back on that motorcycle trip and how it unknowingly brought me to my career in this way,” Joey added. “Taking things day-by-day was something I learned on that trip. I could never wrap my head around how far I was going.”
Much to their delight, the positive reviews of their patent-pending JoGo straw continue to pour in. “They are really powerful reviews, and that is the most important part of this whole journey,” Joey said.
Joey and Nick love knowing the JoGo straw is literally and figuratively fueling adventures. “To think we’re helping people have these moments outdoors,” Joey said, “it means a lot to know in big or small ways, we’re part of these special moments in people’s lives.”
“I hear more and more everyday about amazing new places and it’s endlessly inspiring. I was already pretty restless before,” Joey laughed, “now it’s even worse.”