Hannah Ulbrich, owner of Copper Door Coffee in Denver, shares what it’s like to be a business owner and boss.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Jeremy Dasher
Every month, I work with a group of people called the Matchbook Coffee Project, where we showcase individual roasters who get to curate a coffee release—we equate it to an EP release of a musical artist. In May, we were lucky enough to work with Hannah Ulbrich, the owner of Copper Door Coffee Roasters in Denver.
As part of the project, I get to interview our featured roasters, and I was absolutely fascinated with and drawn to Hannah’s story. Although Hannah long had ties to coffee, working in cafés since she was a teenager, her career was heading toward teaching and academia. Then an opportunity to buy her local café came up, and she couldn’t walk away.
I was blown away by the candidness of Hannah’s interview, but I wanted to learn more—so I went back and asked her some more questions. In this interview, we learn more about Hannah, and what it’s like to be a business owner—and the persona that sometimes demands.
Ashley Rodriguez: You talked a little bit in your MCP interview about what got you into coffee, and now I’m curious about the very beginnings of Copper Door—what was it like when you first bought the business?
The beginning of the company was a bit of a whirlwind. There was so much I didn’t know and had to learn—not only the art of roasting coffee, but the logistics behind it: ordering, delivering, packaging, regulations, etc.
I’ve always enjoyed learning, so while there was a lot, that was part of the appeal of the business. I come from a background of poverty so learning how to bootstrap and get loans was a hard-won lesson for me too.
What have been some of the biggest things you’ve learned along the way?
Oh man, I’ve learned so much and there is still so much I don’t know! Coming from an education and literature perspective, I had to learn all about business, how to make a spreadsheet, what COG stood for, and all those basics.
The biggest lesson I’m still learning is to find out who you are as a business and stick to it. Have a clear goal and don’t let all of the other distractions pull you from your course.
You mentioned balancing an outward persona versus displaying other sides of you—how do you manage that? In what situations have you had to choose one particular part of your personality to display versus another?
I like being alone in solitude, and being the face of a company doesn’t allow for that. I’m also a good public speaker so I’m asked to do that often. I just have to rally and rely on my roots of being a performer to get through it with confidence.
How would you describe your roasting style?
My roasting style is focused on balance. I like to taste a nice balance of acids to sweetness and not have an acid-forward coffee nor a development-forward coffee. I also believe that coffee, like all things we consume, is a personal preference; we have about eight single-origin coffees so everyone can find something that they love.
What does the future look like for you?
As the sole owner, it is hard to unwrap myself from my business, so I see my future intertwined with Copper Door. One of my goals is to make CDCR a $1 million company. Only 3 percent of women-owned businesses make it to this point, and I want to help tip that scale. I also see myself doing more education, consulting, and mentoring.
What do you want people to know about you? What feels important to you?
I want people to know that while I take my career seriously, I strongly believe we work in a fun industry, and we should have fun! I might seem intimidating, but I’m very warm, approachable, kind, and generous with my time. If you are a woman reading this with dreams of of roasting, opening your own place, and making your mark, feel free to reach out!