A Slice on Jenny Verrochi, Co-Founder of Wild Barn Coffee
Jenny Verrochi’s dad was in the Navy, which meant she grew up moving around quite a bit. Verrochi was born in Hawaii before her dad got stationed in Washington state. This ended up being the place her family fell in love with craft coffee, so much so that once her dad entered the reserves, they moved to Massachusetts and bought a house with a barn in the back. They started roasting coffee in that barn in 1997, which is when Verrochi got her first glimpse of entrepreneurism.
Only seven years old at the time, Verrochi watched her parents grow their business from the ground up. She attended college across state lines in New Hampshire then moved to San Diego afterwards. While living in California she worked in breweries, one in particular, where nitro cold brew coffee was served on tap. This was the first time Verrochi had seen anything like this, and it prompted her to consider her parent’s cold brew recipe. “I was like well I have the original cold brew recipe from 1997 before Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts even knew what it was.” Verrochi, very into health and nutrition, started experimenting with the recipe infusing superfoods into it and landed on a Goji Berry Cacao Nib superfood coffee. It wasn’t long before Verrochi purchased a food truck with a few friends and turned it into a mobile beverage bar complete with homemade nut (and banana!) milk.
Though the food truck concept was exciting, Verrochi missed the mountains, specifically, she missed snowboarding and skiing, the sports she grew up doing. She packed her bags and moved to Boulder, Colorado which she deemed the “Silicon Valley of food and beverage”.
She felt that in Boulder she would have the best of all worlds, and really be able to start a viable business. Piggybacking off her previous food truck business, Verrochi thought she’d do something similar, but with a mountainous twist…so she bought a horse trailer. “I had the same idea of ‘well I can just tow a horse trailer around the mountains and sell coffee that way. But then I really thought about it and realized I wanted to start a brand based on my lifestyle. I like to travel a lot, I like to be outside as much as possible, so that’s where canning came in.”
Verrochi started canning as soon as she found out she was able to can nitro cold brew. She had the recipe and business plan, but she was missing the design elements. She reached out to her best friend Alyssa Evans who did design and packaging for a living, and the pair set out to create something creative and authentically them. “She [Evans] said, ‘Jenny there are no rules when you’re doing this, let’s just do what feels right to us.” Evans drew up a naked skier design and Verrochi loved it right away. Though Verrochi loved the design and idea of having a naked skier on the can, she felt the skier should be female, not male, but was “scared” to have a naked female on the can, and wasn’t sure how it would be perceived, even though it was a nod to the fact the entire company was female-owned and operated.
Deciding to move forward with the “female skier version” of the can, Evans called her a few days later and officially accepted the title of co-founder. Since that day, the pair have been hard at work evolving Wild Barn Coffee into a sort of “Colorado lifestyle brand” that not only represents both its co-founders but also represents their consumers. “We are not professional athletes by any means, but some of our friends are. We just want to provide a ‘better for you beverage’, instead of drinking Red Bull or other gross energy drinks, we want to supply our friends with good coffee.” Taking a different marketing approach than most beverage companies, Wild Barn Coffee aims to be the beverage of the outdoors.
Getting the company off the ground was not without its fair share of obstacles, however. Verrochi described a particularly difficult time involving some trademark issues. The brand was initially launched alongside a Kickstarter campaign as BackCountry Nitro. Well, unfortunately, Backcountry.com caught wind of the name and came after them and 50 other small businesses for the trademark. Since they were new to the scene and without funding at the time, the pair couldn’t afford to financially fight Backcountry.com. “It almost ruined the business, it almost ruined our friendship.” Rallying behind the other 50 companies, Verrochi became their collective voice when the CEO of Backcountry.com flew to Boulder to meet with both Verrochi and Evans. Upon arriving the CEO apologized and the pair presented him with a list of things he could help them with.
Fast forward and Backcountry.com is now a partner of Wild Barn Coffee and will be selling their coffee and merchandise in their latest store set to open in August 2021 in Boulder. Though this was not an ideal situation for a company just getting started, Verrochi expressed how she and Evans are “way stronger as partners, because we went through the biggest hurdle you could possibly go through. Now the outdoor community knows who we are… They saw our struggle and watched the whole story unfold and they’re supporting us. It was a bad thing, but we made lemonade out of lemons.”
Verrochi and Evans are committed to keep fighting as female founders and to keep their brand as female-run as possible, right down to seeking out female investors. They recognize they’ve always been at a disadvantage. Verrochi shared that she feels they fight to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs.
Verrochi noted how she’s struggled with her feminine and masculine energy because she feels she has to show up with more masculine energy just to be taken seriously. “I wouldn’t be caught dead showing up to the facility to pick up the coffee in a dress.” Verrochi hopes that other female founders continue to share their stories with one another which, for her, is a source of confidence that stems from “if they can do it, I can do it too.”
The number one question Verrochi said she gets is: “What’s it like being in business with your best friend?” Her answer? “It’s awesome, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I think what makes our brand truly wonderful is that it’s just Alyssa and me, it makes it easier doing it with a friend.”
Jenny Verrochi holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Plymouth State University in Communication and Media Studies. Verrochi co-founded Wild Barn Coffee alongside her best friend Alyssa Evans in 2019. Verrochi resides in Boulder, Colorado and is passionate about the outdoors, health and nutrition. Connect with Verrochi on LinkedIn.