Americans drink coffee like water, youth entrepreneur Benjamin Cloud noted, and he’s doing his part to fuel their habit.
The recent Shawnee Mission North graduate — inspired by an intro to business class — started Cloud’s Coffee two years ago when he was 15.
“I initially thought about coffee because of the size of the market,” he explained. “I forget the exact statistic, but it’s somewhere in the mid-60s, maybe low-70s range as to the percentage of Americans that consume coffee daily.”
Since launching in the spring of 2021, Cloud’s Coffee — soon to be rebranded as Nacreous Coffee — has sold more than 5,000 bags. The company offers three blends — Bali Blue (hints of dark chocolate, brown sugar, and cedar), Sumatra Kerinci (hints of ginger, guava, and pineapple), and Peppermint Cream (flavored version of Bali blend). Single-serve cups are also available in the Bali blend.
“We source all of our coffee from Indonesia,” he said. “They have a process. It’s specific to Indonesia. It’s called wet-hulled coffee and it basically gives it a really earthy, rich, full-bodied undertone.”
A portion of the proceeds, he said, are donated back to the coffee farmers in Indonesia.
Photo by Cloud’s Coffee
Cloud — who started drinking coffee in the mornings in high school but has ramped up to several cups a day with the business — noted he best enjoys the coffee French-press prepared.
“I feel like it highlights our origins,” he explained. “When you prepare it as a French press, it kind of highlights that rich, full-body cup.”
The coffee can be purchased online and in Made in KC stores and is served at the coffee shops at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Shawnee Mission North High School. Cloud is also providing samples to many area country clubs in hopes of venturing into that space, he said.
“As we scaled, I began sourcing all the coffee, all the packaging, all the labels, everything,” he shared. “I’m the first person to touch the coffee. And then I’m also the last person to touch it when I sign off on a bag, just to kind of create a sense of personalization.”
“They just take a very, very, very meticulous approach to everything that they do,” he added. “There’s just a level of care behind it that I’ve never really seen before. So it has really highlighted our coffee and we’ve been able to increase quality output, which is phenomenal.”
Click here to connect with Cloud’s Coffee on Instagram.
Cloud was first introduced to business ownership by his family, he said.
“I’ve grown up in an entrepreneurial family,” he explained. “I’m a fourth-generation entrepreneur. So in 1949, my great-grandfather founded his first company. That’s now cycled throughout the family.”
Growing up, he said he spent a lot of time hanging out at Cumulus Companies — which was first IBT Industrial Solutions — with his CEO grandfather, Steve.
“I would just go in there and hang out at the customer service desk or go back down to the warehouse to pull inventory,” he added. “I just kind of grew up in that environment.”
But it was a business-plan writing project for a class, Cloud shared, that really propelled his passion for becoming an entrepreneur.
“Once I had completed it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I had the most fun of my entire life,’” he said.
Photo by Cloud’s Coffee
Cloud considers both his teacher, Cody Fothergill, and his grandfather to be two of his biggest mentors.
“Mr. Fothergill is one of the best people I know,” he continued. “He just is so kind and supportive. I would go into his class and we would just talk for hours about my startup ideas and things that I should be looking at. My grandfather in particular was very supportive. He was there every step of the way.”
The Kansas City entrepreneurial ecosystem, he noted, has also stepped up to support him.
“They’ve given me tips and input whenever I’ve needed it,” he added. “So I love the community here. The support has just been unmatched. I’m so very grateful for where I’m from and what the Kansas City people have been able to do for me.”
Cloud also plans to pay that forward — doing his part to inspire his peers and the next generation of entrepreneurs. He has traveled to several high schools and middle schools around Kansas to share his story and, recently, he was nominated as featured youth speaker for Inspire My Kids.
“That’s probably my favorite part about what I do is just being able to inspire other kids,” he said. “Teach them that they can do whatever they want, regardless of their age.”
New year, new brand
2023 will bring a rebrand for the company, according to Cloud, shifting from Cloud’s Coffee to Nacreous Coffee. While still cloud related, he believes the new name is more unique.
“Nacreous is a term for the rarest cloud formation in the entire world,” he said. “It’s typically found in the Arctic regions. “That kind of goes hand in hand with rare, specialty-grade coffee.”
With the rebranding initiative, he said he will be bringing on two outside investors.
“We have a Chicago VC firm that’s going to be investing in the new project, which will exponentially grow the company,” he added.