Localizing Your Brandname in Chinese... [CC#6]

Why can't the Chinese just call McDonald's, McDonald's? Instead they call it "mai dang lao". I remember when Starbucks first came to Wuhan (back in 2007). I hopped into a cab and told the driver, "wo yao qu Starbucks" I want to go to Starbucks. The driver looked at me blankly. I tried again but with a heavy accent (guessing at what the name may sound like from a Chinese perspective) "wo yao qu se'er ba'ke". Still a blank stare.

So, I resorted to going to the shopping plaza I heard rumor as having Starbucks and searched for myself. Upon arrival I learned that Starbucks is "xing ba ke". "Xing" has the meaning of "star" though phonetically sounds nothing like "star". The later part: "ba ke" is a transliteration sounding like "bucks" but has no real meaning when translated. This often happens in a mysterious way where brands mix meaning and sound to create a cool Chinese name.

Thankfully, today (as was not the case in 2007) the rise of smart phones loaded with translation apps and ride hailing services (like DiDi) make finding Western tasting coffee or cheeseburgers much less confusing.

It only took ROCC a couple weeks before it received its own Chinese name transliteration. At first I wasn't happy. I wanted to choose a Chinese name with more meaning. However, Chinese friends naturally came up with their own version, calling us: "luo ke" which phonetically sounds like you've stretched the word "ro...ck" to make 2 syllables: "law...kuh". No need to fight something that was working, so we took our new localized Chinese name and owned it.

ROCC 洛克 "luoke"

Choose a Business Name [CC#5]

How do you chose a great name for your business?

Depending on the business resources you read, you will likely encounter an infinite number of the following sample responses.
- Make it memorable
- It should be easy to spell
- Give it a visual element
- Ensure it has a positive connotation
- Let it include information about your business
- A good name should be fairly short
- Research who, if anyone, else is using the name or words
- Consider (if you live outside of the US, Canada or English) filing for Trademark rights. 
- Finally, go with your gut - don't let others choose your name for you.

Before finally landing on ROCC (an acronym for Roasters of Central China) we tried about 2 dozen combinations of coffee+landmark+location such as:
Roasters of Wuhan (our city)
Yellow Crane Coffee (our city's landmark)
Wuhan Coffee Company (very clear) 
Yellow Crane Roasters (construction?)
Along with many others which apparently had less sticking power in my brain.

Every name was scrutinized for its meaning and considered as an acronym. I especially liked the use of "Yellow Crane" as it tied a historic tower overlooking the convergence of the Yellow and the Yangtze River (also a site of many famous poetic inspirations) to our brand. However the Chinese name "huang he lou" if added to any extra monikers like "kafei" coffee or "hongbei" roaster just became a painful mouthful.

Ultimately the decision was mine, but I had to get the team on board. ROCC when spoken sounds like "rock" which has many strong connotations. The letter K-sound also has a definitive and lasting effect when spoken. Brands like Nike and Coca Cola when spoken linger in the air. When combined as "ROCC Coffee" or "ROCC Coffee Company" there was a rock & roll masculinity and playfulness we three were all drawn to.

the logo that never stuck

Well intentioned business books will advise you to "test your name" or survey random people to get feedback on how potential customers may respond to your name. While it may be necessary in certain more sensitive consumer sectors, by and large with any sort of creative discretion you should choose the name you are excited to give life to daily.

Initially, people had a little trouble with the name "ROCC" and would belabor through it letter by letter, "Hey Adam, can I buy a bag of R- O- C- C- coffee?" Naturally it was an easy conversion for them when I replied, "No problem I'll bring over a bag of ROCC (rock) tomorrow." Later on you experience the benefit of being part of the 'in crowd' and there is pride being in-the-know. Only a rookie would make the mistake of saying R- O- C- C letter by letter.

If Paul, Louis and I loved it we knew others would too. We went on daily to infuse ROCC strength into our brand and ROCC playfulness into all that we did. Culture starts with something so simple as a name.

The 100 Day Business Launch [CC#4]

Starting a new business is exhilarating! Rewind 100 days from our Grand Opening and our story finds itself in the beginning of July, 2012.

In the birthing stage of a business cost analysis, projected cash flow, startup equipment, budgets, design plans, marketing assumptions and stuff like visual identity systems consume incredible time and energy. But its ok! Before you have a business to run this stuff is fun. It feels real, even if its just plans and PowerPoints and spreadsheets.

In 2012 it didn't matter if you were a "waiguoren" foreigner or a "zhongguoren" Chinese in Central China; you couldn't find a local coffee roaster. No one was talking about fresh roasted coffee and no one seemed to care. How could a group of fanatical hand craft artisans not find a market for their premium product in China's 5th most populous urban center Wuhan?

* Insert "A Dream Alive". This is how we told it on the back of our coffee bags.

Since December 2011, Paul and I had scoured our financials looking to extract every possible source of "lirun" profit. All good roasters should sell B2B "pifa" wholesale and B2C "lingshou" retail. Roasting your own private label is a mainstay whilst roasting custom labels for others (toll roasting) can also be an income source. Catering and providing services can be a reliable revenue stream for a new roastery, while activities and training provide intermittent income with a marketing bonus.

We estimated (too generously) how much coffee our wholesale customers would buy each month and built in a too-hefty growth curve at 15%. Market research showed then (and still today) that China's coffee market has grown at an annual rate of about 20% for the last decade.

far too optimistic budgetting

Although the financials were far too optimistic, their underlying spreadsheets were rock solid and useful for years. Knowing the cost of each green coffee bean, down to the gram; counting "fen" Chinese pennies spent in bags and labels; or scrutinizing "shuifen" water moisture variance by roast level helped the whole team understand the value gained or lost in each step of our operations.

Whatever free time Paul and I had from December 2011 to June 2012 was spent researching the China Coffee market, formulating plans and drumming up enthusiasm.

Louis joined the team at the end of June 2012 after a small coffee brewing demonstration and business plan presentation in Huangshi at the ManJing Hotel. It wasn't immediate, but a few days after the June 23rd presentation he told me that the exciting possibility of starting a business and launching into a coffee career path was a chance he couldn't miss. His dad was an entrepreneur fish farmer and the entire family was amazing - supporting Louis both emotionally and financially.

However, the whole business plan was nearly scrapped just before Louis called me. The presentation was on Saturday and by the following Monday I was on a plane with my family back to the USA for a summer holiday. Meanwhile Paul had decided, "if money doesn't come in by the end of June, I need to tell Adam I'm out." Well, needless to say, ROCC Coffee was launched as a tribute to the Higher Power at work in our summer 2012.

As Paul (who stayed in China for the summer) was getting ready to send me his message, "I'm out!", he received my email stating effectively, "Louis is in!". Paul made an abrupt 180 degree turn.

While in flight I received Louis' email stating "Count me in for a $20k investment into ROCC! But by the way I have decided to quit my job and I will come to work for ROCC full-time... immediately."

I was amazed and encouraged! Someone believed in my dream called ROCC Coffee!
Paul was affirmed and confidently made a 2 year commitment to build the business.
Louis already cashed in his chips with his former employer HuaXin Cement Company (a huge Chinese Government Owned Company) and was ready for a call to coffee-action.

ROCC - Roasters Of Central China was moving from dream to reality!

Renting a shop in China [CC#3]

Finding a good business location and renting a shop to operate from is an especial challenge in Central China.

Every city, every district, every industry of China has its own idiosyncrasies. Sometimes (as in our case) you rent from a "fangdong" landlord who owns rights to a rental unit. At other times you may deal with a small property management company and lease a "menmian" storefront. Other hybrid scenarios often emerge with countless and ambiguous "ceng" layers of "laoban" bosses taking their own piece of the rental payment pie, which effectively drives rent prices sky high.

No matter what the diligent tenant does, they must sign a "hetong" contract. Absolutely you must consider how you can minimize any security deposits and "zhuanrang fei" transfer fees (cash bribe payments to gain permission to lease). Any cash given up-front should be clearly documented and should be given slowly. The eager entrepreneur often is too loose with the ample cash available during the startup phase. Without a doubt you should negotiate how much your rental fee will increase annually (10-20-30% is common). Additionally ensure you know what penalties exist for early withdrawal. Sadly you can seldom believe what you are told, trust the documents you sign, rely upon the hands that you shake or make claim to the promises over dinner and hearty "ganbei" dry-your-glass toasts when celebrating the new lease signature.

China redefines the game Caveat Emptor - Renter Beware!

Pro-tip if you plan to lease in a shopping complex you may be able to get 6-12-18 months rent free (because the place won't have electricity or customers for 5-11-17 months... which means you won't have any income!)

The day after our Grand Opening party, we "sange pengyou" 3 Amigos didn't have a clue about any of these shenanigans. Except perhaps we did encounter and successfully dodge a 100,000 yuan ($15,000 USD) transfer fee! A feat marvelously executed by Louis!

Louis signing contract in blood... not really it was red ink.

Louis signing contract in blood... not really it was red ink.

The shop we finally rented had two levels and was "yibai pingfangmi" 100 square meters. Before we moved in, the 50 sq.m. below was customer seating with a small restroom on the back left. The front was all glass and about 7 meters wide. About 8 meters back from the center doors was a heavy duty steel staircase, painted black, that ran against the back wall leading upwards with a sharp righthand turn to the second floor.

The second floor was partitioned into 3 functional rooms. Standing at the top of the staircase, the left side was all open seating space with narrow windows beyond over looking the front entrance. To your right was a small enclosed seating area (typically used in China for meetings or "majiang" Majohng table gambling). Beyond the partitioned room, in the far back righthand corner, (also over looking the entryway) was a tiny kitchen with a big steel sink with simple plumbing stolen from the bathroom below. A gigantic vent hood nearly filled the small room to take care of the oily smoke produced from all the heavy "guo" wok frying required in authentic Chinese grub. However the best part of all was a little elevator shaft with rope and pulley assembly for sending food down below to customers below. Sadly we never found a suitable use for elevating our green or roasted coffee beans up and down the wall.

A special feature which enabled us to roast coffee on site was the oversized exhaust pipe running left from the kitchen, into the left dining area and snaking back over the stairway to exit five floors up and out the roof of the hotel behind us. This same hotel provided KTV music for us most evenings through the concrete walls separating our stairwell with one of the many KTV rooms beyond.

The place was really clean (for a former restaurant) and the landlady seemed pleasant enough so we decided to go for it. Paul, Louis and I set off to make ROCC Coffee dreams come to life in the Xianglong Times Plaza.

But those dreams are all part of a "jihua" planning and building "gushi" story which occurred over the 100 days leading up to these Grand Opening Memories.

Entrepreneurs Need Sleep Too! [CC#2]

So what do all good business builders do the day after a Grand Opening party? They sleep in! For once in their life, they give themselves permission.

Aside from Sundays, I don't believe Paul, Louis and I were really able to sleep in for the prior 100 days. Nor do I believe that there were many mornings in the proceeding years that we slept in (in good conscience). So this was a cool October morning to relish.

Wuhan is no small city. As the capital of Hubei province, it clocks in at a population of 11,000,000. While estimates may vary +/- 1 million, 10-12 are the typical figures produced. As all good cities with a history of 3,500 years Wuhan can boast as a epicenter of trade, battles and education. It's a fun name to say too "Wu" sounds like 'woo!' and comes from the military word also found in "WuShu" martial arts. "Han" is classic to the majority people of China, "Hanzu" or Chinese majority people. However, "Han" get's it's meaning from the "HanJiang" Han River which comes down from the north to intersect the great "YangZe" Yangtze River.

My mother and father-in-law happened to be staying in our home for a few weeks which fell amid our ROCC Coffee Roastery Grand Opening party. With 2 young daughters and a sprouting new business my wife and I had our hands full. In order to make ends meet she occasionally taught at a "YouErYuan" Kindergarten in our apartment complex in exchange for discounted tuition for our 5 year old. I believe at the time it was only 1,200 yuan rather than the full 2,400 ($550 USD) per month. The following year we would switch to a more prestigious school (a 15 minute bike ride away) where tuition and relationships were a whole different amazing story.

Education is big business in China! In a nation most recently founded on only children (we've all heard of the One-Child-Policy) there is incredible pressure to ensure that the one child succeeds. Schools of choice, exam scores, college admissions all contribute in major ways to the future prosperity of families.

I digress...

There was work to be done at the roastery on the other side of town. I lived in the WuChang district but the roastery was in HanYang. If I chose to take the bus to work, the alarm would sound at 5 to ensure I was on the "GongGong QiChe" public bus by 6am. In this way I could get a seat while the bus made its first round through the city. Traffic also hadn't reached rush hour pitch as I rolled up to the roastery on the west side at 8am. It was a 30 minute ride on bus "qi yao wu" 715 with a transfer to bus "wu jiu liu" 596 for the final 90 minute stretch.

one man bus band

I'm a morning person so getting up with the "yeye" grandpas and "taiqi" TaiJi practitioners was welcome. Besides, I enjoyed watching the "gongren" manual laborers pile onto those first buses with buckets and tools, shovels and pickaxes hanging off of bamboo poles straddling their shoulders. The roasted "Zhima" sesame smell of (and desire for) "re gan mian" hot dry noodles wouldn't hit me until I switched to the double decker bus 596 and grabbed my seat top-front overlooking the now bustling Wuhan streets below.

But all of this city street romance won't be happening on my well-deserved morning of sleep-in. If the 6am bus is missed by any more than 15 minutes, every minute delayed is multiplied 2-3x. That means a 6.30 bus will get me to the roastery 8.45-9.00am. A 7.00am kickoff easily takes 3 hours (all of which is spent standing jostling for a good position away from sweaty neighbors and hopefully near a good window breeze.)

After a stack of pancakes and couple cups of coffee with the family, reality crashes back upon me, "I've got a business to run!"

Rather than a "san dian liu" 3.6 "yuan" dollar (3 hour long) bus trip, I opt for the 65 yuan ($10 USD) taxi ride. Taking a taxi was a mere 50 minute ride on "san huan xian" the 3-ring road.

Wuhan also has an inner 2nd ring road and a less used outer 4th ring road. Many Chinese cities have such ring roads (Beijing is huge with 6 rings).

I wish both my 3 year old and 5 year old daughters a good day, "Daddy's gotta go to work" and kiss my wife goodbye on my way out the door.

Nearly an hour later as I walk up to the roastery Louis & Paul are finishing off their breakfast noodles and cleaning up from remnants of red paper, decorative flowers and French pastries. The place looks great and full of potential. "What should we do today?" Was the question both felt and voiced. "Lets get these borrowed tables back to our friends and go from there" I responded.

The more important question we three entrepreneurs should have been asking day 1 was, "Who are our customers and how do we reach them?"

SCAA Coffee Taster Pathway

The SCAA Coffee Tasters Pathway was created to provide coffee tasters with both practical and theoretical instruction. Skilled coffee tasters contribute to any coffee organization’s buying program, especially helping to establish quality control protocols and define a coffee program. These elements are essential for any professional coffee outfit to build its reputation and maintain its integrity.

Therefore, the SCAA Coffee Taster Pathway is designed to develop both more professional coffee palates and more professional coffee careers, preparing graduates for work in evaluating coffees and confidently analyzing coffees to participate in portfolio decision making. Due to the rigor of this sensory craft, sensory experts help our industry to push the boundaries of specialty coffee both expanding and incorporating traditional and innovative techniques in a tireless pursuit of improved coffee quality.

Learn more at: http://scaaeducation.org/pathways/coffee-taster/ 

SCAA Roaster Pathway

The SCAA Roaster Pathway is a great way to invest in your roasting career. Herein both the craft and the science of roasting presented as machine operations, safety, maintenance, and sensory applications are all explored. 

Endorsed by the Roasters Guild, the Roaster Pathway has a clear goal to help more graduates roast amazing coffees. To do so, all graduates should develop superior sensory skills, learning to evaluate roasted coffees for quality control and establish a mastery required to safely and effectively manipulate roasting equipment. Practical aspects such as inventory control and production management help finish the curriculum.

Roaster Pathway Graduates should be well equipped in a wide range of roasting facilities, with a strong background in theory backed by hands-on roasting and evaluation experience. However, it must be noted that true mastery takes great investments in both time and practice after such a theoretical framework has been laid.

With two levels available, the Roaster Pathway is available to coffee professionals looking to transition into or expand their understanding of the world of coffee roasting, and will build upon information and skills that demonstrate competence as a professional specialty coffee roaster.

Learn more at: http://scaaeducation.org/pathways/roaster/ 

SCAA Coffee Buyer Pathway

The SCCA Coffee Buyer Pathway establishes the precedent that the supply chain from farmers to customers is critically integrated (albeit if unknown) throughout the world. Coffee buyers can be considered the key link to help ensure specialty coffee quality along this chain.

Topics such as impacting communities, balancing finance, business strategy, and sensory evaluation, negotiating contracts, maneuvering financial markets, understanding trade intricacies and navigating sales channels are all represented in the Coffee Buyer Pathway.

Coffee Buyers comprise as global trade network of producers, importers, traders, and buyers as green coffee travels a complex journey before ever reaching the roaster.

Learn more at: http://scaaeducation.org/pathways/coffee-buyer/ 

SCAA Barista Pathway

The SCAA Barista Pathway presents a series of classes at both Intermediate and Professional Levels which are designed to develop a coffee crafters coffee career. Content includes but is not limited to: instruction in espresso and espresso drink preparation alongside equipment operation and customer service.

Upon completion, graduates should have established a set of immediately relevant skills to thrive in most any coffee bar environment focussing on high-level, high-quality standards as defined by the Specialty Coffee Association.

Endorsed by the Barista Guild of America, the Barista Pathway is a powerful step forward as you pursue a meaningful career in specialty coffee.

Learn more at: http://scaaeducation.org/pathways/barista/  

SCAA Foundations Of Coffee

The Foundations of Coffee course by the SCAA is designed to lay the groundwork for a life in coffee. This course is a foundation introducing the other SCAA Pathways building coffee vocabulary; while expanding critical topics to coffee such as agronomy, earth sciences, economics, and sociology along the global supply chain.

This overview of "the seed to cup journey" explores how the senses and chemistry meet in practical experiences including: coffee tastings, cuppings, and flavor perception. Beyond this theoretical and practical workings of brewing and extraction are explored.

Foundations of Coffee should prepare students for other Pathways with a comprehensive overview in both big-picture coffee trade and minutia details in coffee craft.

Learn more at: http://scaaeducation.org/pathways/foundations-of-coffee/ 

Bienvenida SCA!

Estimado miembro:



Bienvenido a la Asociación de Cafés Especiales. ¡Nos alegra tenerle a bordo!



Confiamos en que su afiliación mejorará su experiencia con los cafés especiales. Ya sea por la oportunidad de poder aprender más del increíble viaje que recorren los granos desde que son semilla hasta la taza o por la posibilidad de colaborar con entusiastas del café con usted, estamos seguro de que conseguiremos satisfacer sus necesidades y ayudarle en cosas que ni siquiera ha pensado.

Puede ver todos sus beneficios como miembro en www.sca.coffee, donde encontrará información actualizada sobre próximos eventos, educación, investigaciones y la última información de nuestro movimiento de cafés especiales en todo el mundo.

Le animo a participar activamente en la asociación. En nuestra web encontrará siempre oportunidades para conectar, ejercer como voluntario y participar. ¡Disfrute de nuestra comunidad!


Paul Stack
Presidente, Asociación de Cafés Especiales

Добро пожаловать SCA!

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С уважением,

Пол Стек (Paul Stack),

президент, Ассоциации спешелти кофе