Collin McIntyre and Josh Tomlin became acquaintances when they were students at Itawamba Community College. Once they moved on to Mississippi State University, they became friends.
Today, the business partners consider themselves brothers. Add in their wives, Kelsey and Abby, and they are one big happy family.
“We are a team of four by all means,” Tomlin said.
“Our wives are integral to our business,” McIntyre said. “We would not be Lost+Found without them.”
Lost+Found Coffee Co., which has workspace in the Link Centre and a pop-up cafe at Relics Marketplace antiques mall, came to fruition in February.
“But we’ve been working on it for considerably longer than that,” McIntyre said. “We’re almost three years into development.”
After graduating from MSU, McIntyre, with a degree in communication management, worked as a restaurant manager in Starkville. Then he and his wife, Kelsey, left their jobs and moved to Alaska for four months as missionaries.
“We came back with a different perspective on life,” he said. “We wanted to be serving others instead of being self-serving.”
McIntyre, 25, kicked around several ideas, from a cafe to a food truck to a coffee company.
“Coffee is no more special than ice cream or retail, but it does have something those others don’t,” he said. “Usually coffee is enjoyed with other people. People go to coffee. There’s an opportunity for intimacy, a chance to get to know one another.”
For Tomlin, the road from college graduate to coffee company founder was also twisting.
“When I graduated, I got a job as a financial advisor, but I didn’t enjoy it,” said Tomlin, who has a degree in business administration with an emphasis in management. “I felt like a salesman more than an aide. So then I started studying derivatives, learning how to trade them. All that led to my having a rudimentary understanding of how companies work.”
When Tomlin, 24, heard McIntyre wanted to open a coffee company, he thought he might be able to offer him some business advice.
“From our perspective, the Lord has orchestrated this business and this relationship,” Tomlin said.
When the two young men decided to become partners and founders of a coffee company, they had to come up with a name.
“Originally we were going to call it Taste+See, like taste it and see the difference, but we didn’t think that was representative of who we are as people,” Tomlin said. “That sounds kind of haughty and we’re not haughty.”
When they hit upon Lost+Found, they knew it was meant to be. There are a lot of spiritual undertones in the business, McIntyre said, starting with the + symbol, which they knew was integral.
“We love Christianity and we want to serve Christians, but we want to serve others as well,” he said. “We want to attract all faiths.”
“You know the lost and found box in the library,” Tomlin said, “and that feeling you have when you’ve lost something and you have that hope that it will be in that box? We don’t mind being that tattered box.”
“We want to serve the lost and the found,” McIntyre said. “The plus sign in between them is a beautiful symbol. It’s all-inclusive — it’s the lost, the found and all those in between.”
TOP-TIER, QUALITY COFFEE
The first thing the partners knew was they wanted to serve and sell a superior, top-tier product.
They tried two different coffee bean suppliers, but neither was up to their standards. Then they lucked up on Black and White Roasters in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
“We went in there for a cup of coffee and came out with a supplier relationship,” McIntyre said. “We are fully aware we are creating this market, this culture. It’s far more delicious than what you get in the grocery store.”
McIntyre said most coffees sold in grocery stores rank between 45 and 50 points on the grading scale. The coffee that Lost+Found buys and sells is Grade 1, meaning it’s 80 points or better.
“It’s top-tier quality coffee and we pay top-tier prices ,” McIntyre said. “It costs us more, but the farmer gets paid more and has a better quality of life.”
Ninety-eight percent of coffee beans are hand-picked by individuals, he said.
“Some of the pickers are, for all practical purposes, slaves,” he said. “We don’t deal with those companies. The farmers we deal with — for them it’s an artistry. These are people who commit their lives to growing it, picking it, producing it. The coffee is picked with care, treated with care. If I don’t finish a cup of coffee, even if it’s cold, I can’t pour it out because it’s been treated with such honor.”
Right now, Lost+Found sells three different coffees, which they offer by the bag, or by weekly, bi-weekly or monthly subscriptions (subscribers get discounts and coupons).
The classic, which is $16 for 12 ounces, is representative of everything good about coffee. The original, at $17 for 12 ounces, is a balancing act between acidity and sweetness and is always going to be from Ethiopia, where coffee originated. And the natural, also $17 for 12 ounces, is naturally processed coffee, where the beans are laid out in the sun and the fruit of the coffee is dried until it falls off the coffee seed.
The coffee beans the partners currently buy come from Ethiopia, Colombia, Myanmar, Guatemala and Honduras. Soon, they will introduce a decaf coffee from Mexico.
“Black and White is our supplier and they are teaching us how to roast,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got the knowledge. We just need the customer following to allow us to roast, hopefully by the end of the year.”
Customers can purchase Lost+Found coffee, along with mugs, T-shirts and stickers, at Relics on South Green Street. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Tomlin and McIntyre open the cafe and offer drip brew, cold brew and pour-over coffee from 10 a.m. until close.
“We don’t want to push our coffee on people,” McIntyre said. “We want to invite them to have an experience. Everybody that’s tried it has enjoyed it. The response has been on a small scale because we are small-scale. But the positive impact far outweighs our sales numbers. We want to serve this community first and serve it well and then if Tupelo can help us bless Honduras and Guatamela, that would be huge.”
By Ginna Parsons, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
(c)2018 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.