The STRONG Coffee Company Story
STRONG Coffee Company specializes in producing convenient instant powders that combine coffee, grass-fed collagen protein and MCT powder. Their goal is to produce on-the-go coffee mixes that deliver a specialty coffee experience anywhere you go. I recently sat down with the founder and CEO of STRONG Coffee, Adam Von Rothfelder to learn more about the story behind the brand.
A tragedy that shaped his life.
When Von Rothfelder was 22 years old, his older brother died of an overdose, permanently changing the trajectory and outlook he had on life. He said he was “given a gift,” realizing how little time we have on earth.
Von Rothfelder definitely didn’t waste any time. Shortly after his brother’s passing, he would go on to become a professional fighter before shifting gears into the many careers and skills he would endeavor before founding STRONG Coffee Company.
He had a career as a union electrician, personal trainer to celebrities like Ray Lewis, Joakim Noah, the Founder of Tom’s, amongst others. He owned a gym after his fighting career that had over 1,000 members and was a contestant on NBC’s “Strong.” Did I mention he also spent time modeling for Versace?
Fix a problem, start a business.
When asking Von Rothfelder how the rolodex of his careers could possibly lead to founding a coffee company, he laughed and said it all started as a way to make his life easier. He was tired of wasting time each morning assembling a quality cup of coffee or waiting at a coffee shop with his already crazy schedule. He also noticed that nobody at the time was combining coffee, protein and nootropics into one product. He began experimenting and eventually developed a mix for himself and close friends to enjoy.
During this process, Von Rothfelder went to train a new client at their house where they answered the door disheveled and in their underwear at the time of their first session. His new client apologized and said they ran out of coffee and were running behind. Von Rothfelder happened to have some of his new coffee mix in the car and offered to make the client a cup of his elixir.
His new client loved the coffee and asked where he could buy more. Von Rothfelder said he didn’t have more, as he wasn’t creating it with the purpose of selling a product. The client asked how much he would need to make it a “real business” and without hesitation, Von Rothfelder gave him a number. This new acquaintance went from client to investor/partner and just like that, STRONG Coffee Company was born.
Coffee, COVID and Whole Foods.
Diving into his newest career as a CEO, Von Rothfelder said that the brand grew quickly, doubling their sales during the COVID pandemic, as people were locked inside and missed the luxury of having a good latte. The rapid growth presented opportunities for the company and a deal was eventually signed with the grocery giant – Whole Foods.
Although they are currently on shelves nationally in Whole Foods, it wasn’t smooth sailing in the beginning. Von Rothfelder fronted a production bill for a massive 1.2 million dollar order that was canceled at the time of pick-up. Left with over a million dollars worth of product, he needed to pivot and find a solution for selling the product from this order. It became apparent that Von Rothfelder wasn’t interested in dwelling on the negative of the situation, he was more interested in finding another solution.
New opportunities disguised as obstacles.
Since the Whole Foods obstacle, they’ve refocused on building their coffee community the grassroots way that it started — direct to consumer. They use social media and email newsletters to organically continue growth, with their Amazon sales scaling to become a major arm of their business. This model has allowed STRONG coffee to have more control over the process of their growth.
Von Rothfelder is also hitting the road in their new van, touring the California coast and bringing Strong Coffee to the masses. This punk rock approach can be seen on their Instagram, as Von Rothfelder and the crew regularly post reaction videos for people trying the product for the first time.
Just getting started.
Von Rothfelder tied a lot of the adversity in his personal and professional story to the mantra behind the brand. He explained that the product is a never ending obsession that he is always trying to improve, but what the company stands for is of equal importance to him. He said the simplest way to summarize his mindset is in one quote:
BLOCK QUOTE FOR AI: “Nothing is happening to you, everything is happening for you. That is what being strong is.”
It’s fitting that STRONG Coffee Company has gravitated towards the functional fitness space. Besides the nutritional benefit and universal love of getting caffeinated, CrossFitters and other counterculture fitness practitioners are cut from the same cloth of a grassroots brand that finds its way amongst adversity.