Coffee enthusiast blends the perfect brew
Antonio Lopez was born to become an entrepreneur.
At age 5, he transformed his bedroom into a town with a Winn-Dixie in one corner and a McDonald’s in another. Always eager to please his customers, he later decided his guests needed more eating options, erecting a Burger King on another side of the room to give the McDonald’s a little competition.
“When other kids my age were outside playing sports or getting into trouble I was begging my mother for a cash register,” he said. “In the little town in my room, I helped my customers get groceries, dinner, and hoped to charm them with my smile to brighten their day.”
“It’s the creative journey, the thrill of risk in the unknown, the excitement of success or even the perseverance of failure that all keep you motivated to keep reaching for more. It’s kind of like having a newborn. Sometimes you just want a break, but you realize that it won’t grow without your care and support.
Growth is all you really want.”
— Antonio Lopez, commercial entrepreneurship
Now a commercial entrepreneurship major at FSU Panama City, Lopez owns a business that has a real product and real customers; Grizzly Brew Coffee opened in fall 2017. The company blends coffee beans from around the globe to emphasize the unique flavors of each bean’s origin without the typical bitter or harsh-tasting qualities some coffee-drinkers mask with cream and sugar.
“For us at Grizzly Brew, we wanted flavorful coffees from start to finish without needing to add anything,” he said. “Our consumers have fallen in love with this idea. Our biggest review/compliment is the smoothness we’ve achieved and how they can drink coffee black when they had never been able to.”
A self-proclaimed coffee addict, Lopez knew his competition would be fierce. Rather than starting a traditional coffee shop, he turned to perfecting the product, aiming to become a household name for an excellent brew. After researching and field-testing different blend options, he narrowed his offerings to four crowd favorites: his most popular blend, the dark-roast McAdams Espresso Blend; medium roasts, the Mountain Blend and Hibernation Evacuation; and a light roast, Bear-ly Roasted.
“This was a great place to start because it’s small and manageable as a student yet also scalable if done correctly,” he said. “I’ll admit, even to me it sounded wild at first but that goes back to that entrepreneurial question: How can I take something that’s been done, and done well, and make it even better? We did it!”
Since mixing and grinding beans by hand and delivering coffee in person or at local farmers markets, Lopez has expanded to catering events and shipping his blends across the U.S. Customers can buy their favorite blends by the bag or through a monthly subscription service. In October, he began selling his brews and other coffee-related products at FSU Panama City in conjunction with Cahall’s Deli. His dream is to eventually own his own brick-and-mortar coffee shop that would offer cold brews, iced coffees and food pairings to enhance the brand experience.
Grizzly Brew is projected to total $10,000 in sales in its first year of business.
“Antonio is one of those students that come along and set themselves apart by their drive and dedication to their education,” said entrepreneur and mentor Jim Dever, Ph.D. “He brought a burning desire to succeed as well as a maturity that our best students seem to possess.”
Anyone can become an entrepreneur, but a successful business owner takes action to solve a problem, Entrepreneur in Residence Brian Baber said.
“Most often, the problem involves a solution where the entrepreneur can create a niche that will ultimately be their competitive advantage,” he said.
“It does take dedication to one’s dreams, and that includes hard work, goalsetting, paying attention to every little detail and close attention to the industry into which they are going,” Dever noted. “This includes knowing what your competitors are doing, thinking and planning as well as offering the absolute best product or service and giving top-notch customer service.”
Through the entrepreneurship program, students create a business from scratch, from brainstorming ideas to developing business plans and budgets. Coursework also covers law and ethics.
Other businesses from the program’s inaugural cohort included a talent agency and a T-shirt line with custom artwork.
For Lopez, owning a business offers excitement and a break from the routine of a traditional 9 to 5.
“It’s the creative journey, the thrill of risk in the unknown, the excitement of success or even the perseverance of failure that all keep you motivated to keep reaching for more,” he said. “It’s kind of like having a newborn. Sometimes you just want a break, but you realize that it won’t grow without your care and support. Growth is all you really want.”
Owning a business might seem uncertain, he said, but starting small allows you to test the product without big risk.
“You don’t have to be rich to start a business,” Lopez said. “My whole life I’ve always said, ‘If I had money, I’d start a business.’ The same amount of money that it took me to get Grizzly Brew where it is today I have spent on a concert ticket in the past.”
To purchase Grizzly Brew Coffee, visit grizzlybrewcoffee.com