Here to Do Good | Chatting with BlueBird Coffee Roastery Founder Dario Scilipoti

After travelling around Europe and reading two pivotal books (more on that in the Q&A), Dario Scilipoti founded Bluebird Coffee Roastery in 2018 – rooted in the ethos that a business must have a purpose beyond making money. In the coffee industry in particular, “transparency” is a word used often and with gusto. Bluebird publishes a report detailing their suppliers and purchase history, and is aiming towards the point of trading 100% direct and 100% transparent. Their Instagram page is not only informative, it’s fun and filled with smiling faces, providing a candid glimpse into a company that is a genuine pleasure to work for, collaborate with and support. As the Instagram Heroes “1000 Grams of Likes” winner for February 2021, we spoke with Scilipoti about how Bluebird came to be, and where to next.

If our research proves us correct, Bluebird was founded in 2018, and your approachable, transparent and educational stance is part of what earned you accolades such as 2019 SA Best New Roastery and 2020 SA Best New Cafe! Tell us a bit about your journey, getting to this point.

Your research is indeed correct. Bluebird was started in July 2018 as a passion project. I bought a small home roaster and started roasting on my veranda while drinking beer with a friend. Going from that moment to where we are today feels quite surreal and it’s a bit of a blur. My wife and I did a Euro trip in October 2018 during which I was fortunate to meet some amazing roastery owners and coffee pros. At the same time I read two influential books, Let my People Go Surfing (the Patagonia story) and The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. The overwhelming take away from both the trip and books was that if I was going to build a new business, it had to do good. It had to have a purpose beyond making money. That remains central to the decisions I make daily and I think people relate to that. No bullshit marketing. Just high quality and a bunch of passionate people being ourselves.

In a few words, what does Bluebird stand for? Tell us a bit about what this business means to you and your community.

Bluebird is here to do good. From the way we trade coffee, to the packaging we import. From the career paths we create for our team, to the inclusive and approachable culture we work to create for our customers. We are just a bunch of people who love coffee more than we probably should. And we want to pull as many people into this incredibly complex and tasty world as possible 🙂 Obviously, Bluebird needs to make money but if we only made money, what a pity that would be.

How has the brand grown since launching? And how does team effort or collaboration play a part in this growth?

As I mentioned, Bluebird was started at my home. In fact, we were still operating from home when we won best new roastery. We then moved into a rad community focused space in the KZN Midlands called The Old Mushroom Farm. You should come visit. We seem to endlessly upgrade equipment, we have the best wholesale customers and our webstore has grown incredibly. We have launched a monthly subscription program that is so exciting, it keeps me awake at night. I am so proud of where Bluebird is today and needless to say, I could never do all of this alone. I have the most supportive wife and the best team I could hope for! Mark, Fanie, Joel and Sarah are some of the biggest legends around. They’re also unbelievably good at what they do. Full #dreamteam vibes.

Over and above your product line, Bluebird provides education and entertainment through videos and posts. You’re engaging with your audience in such an interesting way. Why do you feel this is important?

For me its super simple. I hate selling. We have a world class product and the market for it exists, it’s just pretty spread out geographically. We focus on building the brand to the extent that people seek us out. Its fun talking to people who already want to buy your product. Instagram is our primary focus and I’m very excited about Youtube. I also believe that once we sell someone our coffee, we need to offer practical advice on how to brew it in a way that allows them to taste what we do. Coffee is extremely technical and it can be intimidating. We seek to simplify and keep it approachable.

Bluebird’s Instagram is both visually beautiful and filled with fun content. Tell us about the ways in which you use Instagram to grow your brand and build a community?  

I love photography. I’m not great at it but I love it. I decided that (almost) every photo posted would be shot on a dslr or mirrorless camera. It’s not just the quality of the image, I find I take it more seriously behind a “proper” camera. Sarah is amazing behind the camera and loves film, it has been fun to include her work in our feed. Content wise, I just keep it relevant and I suppose it’s very much my voice. My dad jokes seem to land better on the Gram than in real life, which is great. The pressure of being “cool” on social media would kill me so I just keep it real instead.

What does winning the “1000 Grams of Likes” award mean to you? 

It’s baffling. In any forum, to have your work recognised feels good. I am just doing good work on the daily and the fact that translates is pretty cool. So, thank you!

Do you have any tips for local businesses just starting out – both in terms of their product or offering, and how they go about marketing this?

Having a product you believe in and a viable market is step one. Then the hard work begins. The biggest tip would be to get your headspace right. I have needed a solution orientated mindset and a deep willingness to get stuck in. I built our first website myself, I didn’t know what hosting meant. I imported my second roaster and only discovered that we needed an import licence when it was already on the water. You just need to make it up as you go. But the key is to keep moving! In terms of marketing, figure out where your customers spend their time and connect with them there. Our demographic is primarily 25 – 35, they’re on Instagram. So we are on Instagram. Then be yourself and seek to add value.

What is something that 10and5 readers may not know about you as a person?

My wife and I started dating in high school. We celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary in May. She and our 21 month old daughter, Liliana, are my motivation.

What can we expect from Bluebird in 2021? What should we be keeping an eye out for?

We’ve made some pretty serious equipment upgrades to double our capacity and increase our quality. We have the best green coffees we’ve ever had lined up for the year and we are operating like ninjas as a team. Our subscription program is going to grow, our wholesale network will spread around the country and we are going to deliver quality content on the regular. It’s going to be lekkerkiff!

Follow @bluebirdcoffeeroastery on Instagram.

Between 10 and 5