When Hugo Ciro first conceptualized Galloping Goose Coffee Roasters, his Victoria-based fair trade micro-roastery, he had more than his imagination to rely on. After all, Hugo happens to be the founder of Level Ground Trading, an iconic company in the world of fair trade coffee.
“I started watching the rise of a Seattle coffeehouse in the late 90s and in 1997 I said, ‘I need to go back to Colombia and see if I can source fair trade coffee.’ I’m originally from Colombia, though I’ve been in Canada for 30 years. I grew up spending holidays on my aunt and uncle’s coffee farm. So, coffee is in my blood, though I never dreamed I’d end up working in the industry.”
Level Ground ultimately achieved a 29% average annual sales growth over the 22 years Hugo led it. But Hugo’s contribution went far beyond profitability. He’s responsible for creating a ground-breaking formula that determines how to pay farmers premium prices for their coffee.
“The formula enables us to pay farmers 65% of the price we pay for their coffee. You have to work with traders who can manage logistics for getting the coffee from farmers to roasters all over the world. But you need traders who have the same philosophy of farmers getting their fair share, traders who won’t exploit farmers.”
Having created a company that so successfully spread the “philosophy of farmers getting their fair share”, Hugo was ready for a change in 2019. He sold his shares in Level Ground and—given the timing of a pandemic few could have predicted—settled in for two years of rest.
However, they were not completely idle years. Hugo admits to being “a bit of an entrepreneur” who’s only worked for someone else for five years of his life. Unsurprisingly, he conjured up another great idea during his “time off”.
“I had two years to think about my next move. I wanted to put together all the cool things I’ve learned along the way in coffee.”
Hugo’s next move, of course, proved to be Galloping Goose, which opened its doors in September 2021. The “cool things” Hugo put together boiled down to three major components: a trading partnership, an exceptional roaster, and a sales partnership. The first piece came in the form of a partner with that “same philosophy of fair trade” in East Africa. The second was secured on a trip to the Netherlands, where Hugo purchased the “Tesla Model S of coffee roasters” from the company Giesen. And the third was fulfilled by Jordan McAlonan.
“Jordan is passionate about coffee. He has ten years of experience in roasting. And he is an amazing salesperson. He loves to connect with people and help solve their problems.”
Naturally, with dozens of micro-roasteries on Vancouver Island, competition is the biggest hurdle to clear. To that end, Galloping Goose has invested heavily into a distinctive brand.
“I’ve been connected with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) for a long time because Level Ground worked with them. So, I called them up, inspired by a case I saw a shoe company using. I wanted to create a great shipper that could hold three cans of coffee. We worked together and the results were amazing. That’s so fun to do; develop something real from an idea with people as clever and knowledgeable as the team from GLBC. We kept asking, ‘Can we do this? Can we change that?’ The answer was always yes.”
Hugo looks forward to seeing Galloping Goose prove its merit as a company over the next few years, which he acknowledges are critical ones for a new business. Fortunately, after four months of operating, the micro-roastery has already surpassed the expectations laid out in its business plan. We have a feeling, as long-time partners/admirers of Hugo’s, that there’s plenty of success ahead for Galloping Goose.