A Cult-ure of Coffee

Dutch Bros. Coffee hosts annual Coacha employee culture event in Portland to get ‘broistas’ all fired up and on message.

When Brant Boersma was 10 years old, his father Dane Boersma and uncle Travis Boersma opened the first Dutch Bros. Coffee stand in Grants Pass, Oregon. At 13, Brant began working in the coffee stands, learning the ins and outs of making the company’s signature drinks. Now, at 37, Brant helps run the company as the chief culture officer and speaks at yearly company events like Coacha in Portland.

“Now it’s surreal. But it wasn’t always this big, obviously,” Brant said. “Back then it seemed like a natural thing going to see my dad at work. It was better than sticking around the on the dairy farm.”

The Boersma family dairy spanned three generations until 1992, when stricter government regulations forced them to sell the cows and open a small coffee stand next to the local post office in their town.

Now, 26 years later, the family owns one of the most well-known coffee chains in the west with just over 310 stores in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, Nevada and Arizona. In 2017, the company made $77 million in sales.

Right now, the company is growing its storeship by 10 percent each year, said Melanie Spliethof, a media relations contact with Dutch Bros. Coffee. For the last several years, around 20 to 25 stores have popped up each year around the western side of the United States.

In an attempt to show just how much ground the chain now covers, the company hosts Coacha, a flashy event with lots of people, plenty of coffee and music reminiscent of the inside of a Dutch Bros. Coffee stand. The event brings in employees from all seven states to learn from their company leaders and reconnect with the Dutch Bros. culture.

Nearly 2,500 “broistas” filtered into the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland Monday morning, looking to learn a bit more about the company they work for.

For some, it was their first time. Some broistas- like Dutch Bros. Coffee stand operator Kevin Murphy – have been attending the annual event since just 100 employees met in Grants Pass for the first Coacha six years ago.

Since then, Murphy has opened six locations and oversees 150 employees. Almost 80 of them attended Coacha with him. He said it’s a testament to the Dutch Bros. culture.

“It’s all about the crew – your employees,” Murphy said. “It’s amazing to watch them grow even outside Dutch Bros.”

Murphy said he was just as energized 15 years ago when he began working with the company as he is now, even if he isn’t the one blasting music in the coffee stand daily. The company, he said, promotes an employee lifestyle that encourages business passions beyond the coffee stand.

“We’ve had people build their own companies. We’ve had architects and engineers that have worked with us on certain projects,” Murphy said. “And I get to spend these really awesome years with these younger people, and watch them develop.”

Murphy opened his most recent location in Portland

“All the connections our environment creates are so wonderful,” Murphy said. “You’ll meet your best friend, your roommate, your husband or wife here. It’s unreal.”

Murphy got in on the ground floor early.

“I feel like I live in a dream world because of it,” Murphy said.

The process to becoming an operator for Dutch Bros. is extremely competitive, the CEO said. A lengthy interview process and many steps up in the company, Travis said, are just a few of the pieces needed to operate a Dutch Bros. Coffee stand.

“It’s challenging. It has to be earned and it will be competitive,” Travis said to the crowd. “You guys pretty much dictate what that looks like for each other.”

Over the next few years, the company hopes to grow from opening 25 new locations a year to 50 or 75, Spliethof said. For now, company-wide quality assurance standards and products keep Dutch Bros. locations in the west.

Because of the close-knit company and geographical area, the saying “Everyone knows someone who knows Dutch” rings true to many of the company’s employees.

“People know us now,” Murphy said. “Rather than just staying on a local level, we can do so many larger things now.

The company has several give-back programs that raise money throughout the year to breast cancer awareness research, children’s charities, local funding and ALS awareness through the “Drink One for Dane” yearly campaign. The eldest cofounder of Dutch Bros. died of ALS complications in 2009.

Travis said the company raised $5.8 million for their give-back programs in 2017.

The takeaway for employees at Coacha was simple: “compelling futures,” even if an employee’s future doesn’t have Dutch Bros. in it forever, Brant said.

“The hope really is that they start thinking where they’re at and where they can go. We don’t have to keep them here at Dutch forever,” Brant said. “It’s a coffee job that’s fun and rad, but we want them to think about pursuing their own dreams. Hopefully, this is a good stepping stone for them to move on.”

Murphy said the best part of his job is watching his work family grow in and outside the coffee stand.

“It’s not just about the day-to-day operations,” Murphy said. “It’s more about the movement.”

BY Hailey Stewart

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