A popular coffee chain didn’t lay off a single employee during the pandemic. The CFO explains how they saved jobs

James Freeman founded the coffee chain in 2002. By creating a coffee shop that brewed coffee to order using the pour-over method, the founder revolutionised the concept of a coffee shop.

Freeman, a musician by trade, also envisioned the cafe as a stage with baristas as performers, a novel perspective that drew customers in.

While the cafe began as a single location in Oakland, California, it has grown to encompass a network of locations throughout the United States and Asia.

Then, one day, Irish businessman Bryan Meehan stumbled upon Blue Bottle and was taken aback by the cafe’s unique approach to coffee preparation, the business’s foundation, and its culture. When he was appointed CEO, he took the reins and expanded the business.

Then came Karl Strovink, who was hired by a headhunter to serve as president of North America and chief financial officer. He later discovered that this was a stepping stone, as Meehan had been searching for a successor and had named Strovink CEO after finding the perfect fit.

COVID struck shortly after his promotion.

What is Karl Strovink’s background?
Karl grew up in Berkeley, California. As a result of his father’s position as a professor at UC Berkeley and his mother’s position as a high school teacher, coffee was a constant in his household.

He attended Vassar College and then MIT’s business school. He spent nearly three decades in high technology, developing an interest in consumer products.

He quickly rose through the ranks after consulting with various brands such as Converse. In 2019, as consumer demand shifted away from products and towards experiences, he recognised the value of experiences and decided to return to that side of the business.

That same year, he received a call from a headhunter offering him a position at Blue Bottle, which would allow him to work with an experiential good while also returning to the Bay Area, an opportunity he described as a dream come true.

“I had been to Blue Bottle and had experience with Blue Bottle in both Boston and the bay area, and the opportunity to return to the bay area, the hometown crowd, with Blue Bottle, having been born and raised here, was a dream come true,” Strovink told Fortune in a recent interview.

He began his career with the company as president of North America and chief financial officer before being promoted to CEO just before the pandemic.

Many people were filled with fear during the pandemic. Companies laid off employees like there was no tomorrow, and individuals began slashing their expenses to protect themselves. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this was to reduce the number of coffees they purchased.

Read more • fortune.com

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