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A hand-built, worker-owned specialty espresso cart serving righteous coffee drinks to the San Francisco Bay Area.
140 backers pledged $10,320 to help bring this project to life.

About

Alchemy Collective: A Worker-Owned Cafe project video thumbnail
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$10,320

140

Hey, thanks again for checking out our Kickstarter page!

Alchemy Collective started with a couple of ambitious baristas envisioning the perfect cafe. It seemed like no matter where we went, something was off -- poor or inconsistent quality, low worker morale, snobbishness, or just an uninspired and uncreative feel. We knew that with the right planning, drive, and people, we could create something unlike any other coffee house around. 

After seeing the renown and success of local cooperatives such as Arizmendi Bakery, Zachary’s Pizza, AK Press, and BioFuel Oasis, and some research into what it means to be a cooperative, we decided that this model was the one for us. So, we began working on a business plan and started looking for a group of dedicated people to create a strong and diverse workforce capable of putting it all together. Since coming up with the idea about a year ago, we’ve been planning, building, recruiting, and researching everything from entrepreneurship in general to the scientific intricacies of preparing the best coffee possible.  

In April, we started serving single-cup drip coffee at a local farmer’s market and have gotten overwhelmingly positive response to both our coffee and our mission. With your help, we can progress to the next stage of our plan - a hand-built espresso cart open 5 days a week in the parking lot of BioFuel Oasis (map) in Berkeley, CA. We are excited and proud to have gotten ourselves this far, but it’s just the beginning.

Special thanks to:

  • Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas (Early Supporter, Camerawoman)
  • Patricia Moran (Early Supporter)
  • John Semerjian (Early Supporter)
  • Elysha Rom-Povolo (The Alchemy song: “Help Them Make Coffee For You”)
  • Ben Davila and Vanessa Black & Andy Martriez (Runners-up in the Alchemy song contest)
  • BioFuel Oasis (Launchpad for this here revolution)

The Alchemists are:

  • Rob Wertheimer (Adult Beverage Officer/Webmaster)
  • Caleb Wolfson-Seeley (Bakemeister/Finance Officer)
  • Payam Imani (Design Officer/Multimedia)
  • Eric Thoreson (Lead Barista Trainer)
  • Christopher Myers (Fabricator/Food Officer)
  • James Parrish (Music Officer/Impromptu Vocalist)

What exactly is a cooperative and how does yours work?

Cooperatives come in all shapes and sizes and can be structured according to how the founders want things to run.  For us, each member owns exactly one share, has equal voting rights, and gets a share of profits according to hours worked.

Why not just run it like a regular business?  Are you guys, like, socialists or something?  Or worse - anarchists??!!!

Our business doesn’t push any particular political agenda; we just think that a focused group of competent people can create a stronger, healthier, and more ethical business.

Here are some of the advantages we gain by working cooperatively:

  • Broad pool of skills, experience and connections
  • More control of quality and consistency of service (we don’t just hire baristas who’ll quit once the school year starts, we’re recruiting entrepreneurial business partners who are passionate about coffee)
  • Full incentive for every worker to go above and beyond at all times (profit sharing!)
  • Sharing of cumbersome tasks and stress
  • Democratic decision-making (“Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried...” -Winston Churchill).

What do you mean by “specialty cafe”?  What makes it so special?

Specialty, or “Third Wave” coffee, is tricky to define, but we think the most accurate description is this: a specialty cafe’s primary objective is to serve coffee at the highest standards possible. In no particular order, here’s what specialty coffee means to us:

  • Freshly roasted, freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee (we get our beans from Verve Coffee Roasters, a great small-batch, direct-trade roaster out of Santa Cruz, CA)
  • Quality organic milk
  • Expert-level barista training
  • Use of equipment that can produce consistent results (La Marzocco, Mazzer, Ditting)
  • Emphasis on home-made, not mass produced (we make our own vanilla syrup from raw vanilla, bake our own pastries, and mix our own chocolate sauce)
  • Generally, a commitment to taste, test, research, and push our coffee closer and closer to perfection

Your Kickstarter goal is to get equipment for the espresso cart right? What’s this cafe stuff about?

The cafe is our ultimate goal. However, we developed the cart business as an intermediate stepping stone in that direction. Opening a cafe is expensive (this is why we’re starting with the cart!), so anything above what we need for the cart will go towards the balance we’ll need to show lenders to get the startup money for the cafe.

Will the cafe be...awesome?

Yes. Yes it will be. Our vision for the cafe is more than a specialty coffee shop - we want to open a space that serves a delicious and local food menu, offers craft beer and wine, and is a high-quality venue for live music and local art.

Wow! You guys sure are ambitious.  Anything else you want to accomplish?

One more thing: We really want to be a shining example of how the cooperative model can be an amazing vehicle for small businesses. These are rough times financially, and with how tight-fisted banks already are, it seems like you have to already be wealthy to start a business. This model makes it less daunting to get started, since we can draw on a larger pool of talents and resources and also have the ability to minimize labor costs while our business is building its customer base.  The best part is that we’ll continue to remain in control of the product of our hard work, even as the business grows.

So, by helping us, not only will you be helping to create an amazing place for people to come together and enjoy coffee and entertainment, you’ll also be helping to promote the cooperative movement and encourage others to create rewarding and sustainable jobs, and lives, for themselves.

The Gifts:

:: full-size image here ::

[exhibit a]: Alchemy shirts are American Apparel, sweatshop-free, and hand-printed by us!  They're also available in maroon, and all 3 prints (arm, side and front) are on the same shirt.

[exhibit b]: Close-up of Alchemy logo print on the shirt's left sleeve. Note: model is not included.

[exhibit c]: The Ethi-local-sustaina-cup (portable mug mentioned in the $50 slot). It's ceramic with a silicon dishwasher safe top and the Alchemy logo in gold.  No more landfill-swelling disposable cups for you, my friend!

[exhibit d]: The Solo Alchemist mentioned in the $500 gift slot. Yes, it can be yours.  For reference, this drab thing is what pourover stands usually look like:  

http://www.espressoparts.com/KARMA_DB .  

I know what you're thinking; "Man, the Solo Alchemist would look SO COOL on my kitchen table! I should donate to get one right now and make all my friends super jealous!" Well, you're right, it is awesome, and you should get one. Good call.

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Official membership in The League of Extraordinary Alchemists, and a Thank You shout-out on our website. Plus a hearty high-five when we see you!

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Above, plus a rad Alchemy Collective sticker

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    14 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Above, plus 1 free coffee drink at our espresso cart

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    19 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A hand-made Alchemist Notebook. The cover made from up-cycled swanky Verve coffee bags, containing various useful info; guides to brewing coffee excellence at home, common misconceptions about coffee, and space in the back for remembering your favorite coffees and how you prepared them. And of course a hand signed Thank You!

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    League membership, sticker, 2 free coffee drinks

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    11 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    League membership and sticker, plus a custom Alchemy Collective travel mug (first fill is on us) OR a sweet Alchemy Collective t-shirt

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    25 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    For the out-of-towners: League membership, sticker, mug AND shirt

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    8 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    League membership, sticker, mug or shirt, plus 2 tickets to an exclusive Thank You Party for our supporters

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    7 backers
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Sticker, mug or shirt, 2 tix to Thank You Party, plus "Alchemist for an Hour," where we train you in the art of coffee making (Skype sessions available for out-of-towners)

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    3 backers
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  10. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Sticker, mug or shirt, 2 tix to Thank You Party, plus "The Namesake," where we name a coffee drink, sandwich or important piece of equipment after you, thereby immortalizing you at our cart - and eventually - our cafe

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    Reward no longer available 4 backers
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Get a bag of coffee beans every 2 weeks for 10 weeks (5 bags total)! We'll hand-pick our favorite roasts from Verve Coffee (unless you have a preference) and include tasting notes from an Alchemist as well as instructions for optimal preparation

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Sticker, mug or shirt, 2 tix to Thank You Party, plus Home Alchemy Lab (Hario pour-over filter with stock stand, bag of coffee, box of paper filters)

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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Sticker, mug or shirt, 2 tix to Thank You Party, plus Home Alchemy Lab with the Solo Alchemist, our custom pour-over stand (check out the photo!).

    Sorry, International Backers, but we need you to include an extra $20 for shipping. This thing is fragile!

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  14. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Sticker, mug or shirt, 2 tix to Thank You Party, plus we will bring our coffee cart to your private function (up to 30 people). Great for birthdays, company parties, or finals week! The cart will run on a quiet(ish) diesel generator, so...keep that in mind. We can still put together something special with coffee service but no espresso machine for indoor things...we're creative, we'll work something out.

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Funding period

- (50 days)