Featured Startup Pitch: Founded by a barista, Cup Cuff wants to help coffee drinkers become more eco-friendly

By Editor October 31, 2013
CupCuff logo

Sandon Monnastes, CupCuffBy Sandon Monnastes, Cup Cuff founder

Elevator Pitch: Cup Cuff is a company that aims to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of disposable cardboard sleeves used by on-the-go coffee and tea drinkers.

Product/Service Description

Cup Cuff is a reusable coffee sleeve that enables on-the-go coffee and tea drinkers to be eco-friendly and stylish, while reducing the amount of cardboard sleeves that go to waste on a daily basis.

The collection is made up by three different designs that allow consumers to add a touch of style to their daily caffeine habit. ‘The Che’s’ olive green rebel suit is meant to inspire the revolutionary in all of us. ‘The Mariner’s’ navy blue body, braided cord and wooden toggle buttons are the right fit for the adventurer at heart. The plaid pattern on ‘The Professor’ is the main choice for every scholar out there.

Founder’s Story

I have worked as a barista for the good part of four years. A thing that’s always bugged me is seeing the incredible amount of waste that is created as a result of taking coffee to go. I realize that it’s challenging for people to carry their own coffee mug around all the time to avoid using paper cups. One day the inspiration for Cup Cuff suddenly came to me while I was ordering coffee at a neighborhood café. As I was handed my piping hot drink, I thought about creating a tailored reusable sleeve that could potentially replace thousands of cardboard sleeves that are disposed of on a daily basis. Unlike carrying a coffee mug around all the time, a Cup Cuff is a simple piece of fabric that you can carry in your coat pocket or purse and readily have available when you are getting coffee on-the-go.

After this realization, I came to think about what kind of impact reducing the amount of cardboard sleeves used would make on the environment. Turns out that North Americans drink an average of 3.1 coffees per day. We go through approximately 200,000 tons of cardboard sleeves a year, which translates into cutting down about three million mature trees. I did the math—if only 1,000 people used their Cup Cuffs twice a week, 104,000 cardboard sleeves could be saved per year. You don’t need to do the math to realize that with a growing number of people using Cup Cuff, making a positive impact on the environment is possible through waste reduction.

Market Opportunity

When I originally had the idea for a reusable coffee sleeve, I conducted a wide-ranging search to see if there was anything already in existence and discovered that there wasn’t. This realization made me take the idea seriously. I crafted a business plan and secured a trademark for my company’s name. In the years after Cup Cuff’s inception, some competition did arise—however none of them embody our designer look-and-feel. What is integral to our designs is that we model our Cup Cuff from the actual garnet that inspires them. A Cup Cuff is no mere reusable cloth tube, it is a fashion statement and speaks to a person’s character. This way we can expand our models to embody a variety of lifestyles through a varying collection of designs.


Business Model

As mentioned, at the first stages of development I secured a trademark for Cup Cuff and sent 1,000 pieces into production, which set in motion the test market phase. I managed to get my product into a variety of retail stores and coffee shops to see if customers would actually buy them, and they did. I sold through my first round of production within a couple months and with only a handful of cafes retailing them. Cup Cuffs retail for $10, and I’ve now opened 18 retail accounts in both British Columbia and California, along with a steady amount of online sales through our online store.

I recently concluded a successful crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter, and I’m now able to incorporate a charitable cause into my company in order to make a greater impact on the environment. It’s not enough for me to save a significant amount of disposable sleeves from being used; I need to know I’ve helped drive a positive impact on the environment even further. I hope to do so through the Cup Cuff for a Tree program: From now on, for every Cup Cuff sold I will be donating a tree to a local tree-planting firm in the West Kootenays of British Columbia, a thriving tree planting community. By using your Cup Cuff you’ll be able to save trees from becoming wasteful paper pulp products and even get to have one planted as well.

Marketing/ Promotion Strategy

In terms of marketing and promotions, I’ve taken an online social media marketing approach, investing time and money towards developing my social media platforms. My strategy on Twitter has involved reaching out to influencers to make them aware of my product. I have promoted my Cup Cuff Facebook page through a steady flow of positive content and by generating audience engagement. From this approach I’ve managed to get over 1,000 likes and have managed to open some accounts through social media leads.

Since Cup Cuff is a local-based initiative, Vancouver bloggers have shown interest in our brand and provided online coverage of our brand. We have partnered and launched a few promotional contests with local bloggers to help boost brand awareness. I’ve also been engaged in a few community networking events where I’ve spoken about my entrepreneurial insights and showcased my product.

Current Needs

Cup Cuff’s next business goal is to further break into the Canadian and Western United States markets to build awareness and increase demand in order to scale up our production and drive cost down through economies of scale.

As mentioned, I have recently raised $10,000 through Kickstarter in order to meet North American larger factory minimum order quantities. This will enable us to expand and establish new designs, and implement our Cup Cuff for a Tree program. With growing demand and awareness, I hope to be able to make Cup Cuff a mainstream product. Much like plastic shopping bags, I wish to make disposable cardboard sleeves become a thing of the past.

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CupCuff logoWebsite: www.cupcuff.com

Kickstarter: kickstarter.com/projects/721660173/cup-cuff-a-touch-of-style

Founder: Sandon Monnastes

Headquarters: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Investors: Bootstrapped

Year Founded: 2008

Employees: 2

Twitter: @CupCuff

Facebook: facebook.com/CupCuff

Instagram: instagram.com/cupcuff