Jeff Wiguna, co-founder of Kuju Coffee, thought there was something a bit off-kilter about drinking mediocre coffee while enjoying time in nature.
“Being in the outdoors around beautiful things, then drinking coffee that doesn’t taste beautiful … there was a bit of misalignment,” he said. That juxtaposition was the seed that started it all.
Jeff, along with his brother, Justin Wiguna, banded together to create single-serve, Pocket PourOver® coffee packets. The design for their origami-like filter filled with 100% real ground coffee originated in Japan, but it had yet to come to the U.S. This pioneering approach allowed for portable pour over coffee that is both amazingly flavorful and convenient.
To launch Kuju Coffee, back in 2015 Jeff and Justin ran a Kickstarter campaign. The brothers used the campaign to test people’s appetite for their concept. They remember thinking, “if we can’t pull off a Kickstarter, I don’t know if we’ll have what it takes to do the company thing.” They ran a modest, yet successful campaign, encouraging them forward on their path.
Running Kuju Coffee in its early days was “pretty wild,” Jeff said. They made everything by hand and would often stay up until 1 am packing their product. While it was tiring for the duo, they went all in, and by late 2016, their efforts were paying off. They landed some large, well-known accounts, growing both sales and brand recognition.
Kuju Coffee offers light, medium and dark roasts, using specialty-grade and ethically sourced beans. The brand owns its entire supply chain, controlling every step along the way, starting with beans purchased from a farm in Thailand that employs more than 80 former sex traffic victims.
Further showing Kuju’s commitment to being a force for good, manufacturing takes place in a 100% wind powered facility, and 1% of sales are donated to the National Park Foundation.
These practices pose extra challenges and costs, but Jeff said they align with the brand’s values.
Jeff also hopes Kuju Coffee inspires people to get away, “and hopefully come back with a renewed sense of self and feel more empowered to live more rested and enjoyable lives.”
“That’s the spirit behind what we do. If the social effect is 5% of the world is going to their mountain top and listening to the things that actually matter, I genuinely think we can create a better world. I don’t think the world needs more product or competition; I think the world needs more rejuvenation. That’s what our company is all about.”
Jeff strives to walk the talk, too. “As the company has grown, I’ve learned to be a better husband and father, as opposed to the company taking over me.” Adhering to the values of cultivating rejuvenation, he believes, “we’re not going to be successful if I’m working in a lopsided way.”
Impressively, Kuju has found success and balance with a lean, three-man team.
“We’re like a pack of wolves; it doesn’t get too big, but we can traverse and hunt together and be as efficient as possible,” Jeff said.
The brand is confident the instant coffee market is only getting bigger. Jeff likens it to surfing a wave in the ocean.
“We’re out on the water on our surf boards, we can see the wake a little bit away, and we see that it’s coming. It takes a long time to paddle out and be ready for it. Other surfers are starting to come out, too. I’m excited to see what the wave will look and feel like.”