Published: Jan. 7, 2020 By
Alex Hanifin

This is a part of the Connecting Community and Classroom series. People and businesses featured here were guest speakers in a business course and a current student wrote the following piece.

Coffee is an essential part of many morning routines. Founder of Alpine Start, Alex Hanifin, is no exception. Alex was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado where she developed a passion for food and business. According to Alex, Alpine Start perfectly pairs these two passions. 

In 2016, Alex left her job to launch her instant coffee startup. Just seven months later, she launched nationwide in REI stores. Alpine Start’s feature product is a premium medium roast instant coffee, available in both hot and cold pre-portioned packets. The coffee, manufactured in a Columbia, is HQ’d right here in Boulder. 

The importance of your network

Prior to taking this leap of faith in herself and the idea, Alex had worked in the food industry for ten years. She worked for several Boulder entrepreneurs who played a big role in guiding her to where she is now, including Justin Gold from Justin’s and Jane Miller, CEO of several natural foods companies. She tapped into a healthy network of business connections to meet a wide range of needs, from help with scaling to introductions with retail food buyers. Alex’s story is not only a testament to her vision and strong work ethic, it also highlights the power of taking an entrepreneurial risk in a healthy economy that invites and supports entrepreneurship. Her journey emphasizes the importance of gaining hands-on experience in the field and working with other inspiring entrepreneurs.

“There were so many 'freak out' moments, it's really nice to have someone to call that can relate to your stressful situations. My mentors also provided so much insight, saving me from making many mistakes.” 

The best instant coffee

Alex searched for a segment of the coffee market that had been untapped and capitalized on this unfulfilled need: premium instant coffee. After two successful years of market acceptance and brand growth, Alpine Start has a national relationship with key retailers and is expanding into new categories such as instant lattes and chai. She has used her brand recognition in the coffee category to enter other booming beverage drink categories. Alex attributes the success of the company to providing a high-quality product in a category that was waiting to be disrupted. 

Alpine Start coffee stands out due to the diverse backgrounds of each team member. 

Her team consists of five highly motivated individuals willing to take risks and work long hours because of their excitement about the product and the success of the company. A team can make or break a venture and for Alex, her team is crucial to the company’s success.

Giving back

Alpine Start gives back to its community through the Protect Our Winters (POW) campaign aimed to help protect the environment from climate change. Alpine Start Coffee donates 1% of sales to For the Planet, a foundation partnered with POW. By taking part in the POW initiative not only does Alpine Start give back to the community but it attracts customers who have a similar commitment to protecting the planet from climate change. It is inspiring to see companies such as Alpine Starts promoting and upholding socially responsible practices.

The next idea

Alex stepped down as CEO of Alpine Start and now sits on the board of directors. She decided to focus on what she is best at, kick-starting new companies. Alex recently took on a new venture, The Good Crisp. She’s a clear example of how hard work, risk taking and a deep passion can result in a successful venture. Alex is excited to take what she has learned in her past roles, and apply them to her new one.

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