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Meet Derek Robinson of Derek Sips in Tempe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Robinson.

Derek, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m originally from Chicago but have lived in Phoenix for over 12 years. I’ve been married to my wife, Pamela, for 11 years. I somewhat stumbled into coffee roasting. At first, I was simply looking for a few ways to help cut some costs being a teacher, and my wife was expecting our first kids. Some home roasting friends kept telling me that roasting coffee would save money and taste delicious. My first attempt was Christmas Eve 2012 on an open flame gas burner on my outdoor grill. I had a cast iron skillet, one pound of Papa New Guinea beans, and a wooden spoon in hand. It was quite the learning curve, but they were right, and I fell in love with fresh roasted coffee beans! Over the years, I continued to upgrade my roasting equipment and learn more through other coffee roasters and lots of trial and error.

As time progressed, coworkers, friends, family, and students would regularly want to sample or buy beans. In 2017, we launched “Didactic Roaster”. Our family also grew to include four kids, all under the age of four, with one more on the way.

Fast forward to the summer of 2019; the kids are older, and time is more available. We re-branded, and Derek Sips was formed. Our family loves coffee, and we want others to enjoy sipping it as much as we do. We aim to provide people the opportunity to enjoy great flavorful and fresh roasted coffee at an affordable price within their own home.

Has it been a smooth road?
I doubt there is such a thing as a smooth road in starting a business, especially if you have a family and young kids in the picture.

1. When we first started the business, it was rough timing. We were going on five children, and I had a busy job. Unfortunately, I couldn’t commit to marketing and trying to get the business going.

2. Another obstacle is simply location and demand. Phoenix is becoming a coffee mecca, especially within the East Valley. Specialty coffee shops, small-batch roasters, and great coffee is all around. This creates lots of supply for individuals and lots of competition. This can be a really good thing, especially if as the supplier you offer what others either don’t or can’t. At the same time, finding those repeat loyal customers becomes a challenge because people enjoy the variety. As a small family business, we can’t carry as much inventory as some of the major roasters and coffee shops throughout the East Valley.

Please tell us about your business.
We are a family business bringing fresh roasted coffee to others. We want people to know this is a family. My kids help with labeling, my wife with packaging, and when I deliver, I will usually have one or two of the fab five (my kids) with me! We want to connect with people, with families, and with other communities. Life is about connections, and one of the best ways people do it happens to be over coffee…so why not make sure it’s a great cup!

One particular item we offer that sets us apart is our Bourbon Coffee Beans. We take a new approach and use actual bourbon before the roast process. I pair the flavor profile of a specific bean and will add in bourbon to complement it. I love the finished product in our glossy blue bags. Each year, we also offer 50 bottles of the bourbon beans that are corked and individually wax sealed.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Likes: This is a family city and great home base for traveling. The amount of parks, splash pads, outdoor activities, and family-friendly places is astonishing. It makes it easy to raise our family out here. This is also a great home base from which to travel. We are in driving distance to LA, San Diego, Mexico, Vegas, and New Mexico, and Sky Harbor is an easy airport to access.

Dislikes: Phoenix is a great place and very spread out! This makes it hard to access all areas and hard to feel like you really know areas outside of your section of the city. It is growing and developing so much, and I would love to see even more culture and diversity in the future!

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