Crimson Cup's Greg Ubert on lessons learned through strategic partnerships

byGreg Ubert

Strategic partnerships are a great way to grow your brand. By associating with other valued brands, you enhance your company's visibility and credibility. In many cases, you also can reduce costs and expand your reach by sharing marketing costs, entering new markets or tackling other goals that you couldn't achieve alone.

Since I started my coffee-roasting business in a tiny one-room office back in 1991, I've found partnerships to be one of the most effective strategies for growing the Crimson Cup brand. Here are some of the lessons I've learned through partnering with other small local businesses as well as larger organizations.

Start with strategy. Look at your company's goals, and then find partners that help you meet them. Seek out companies that expand, complement or enhance your capabilities. For example, we teamed up with Johnson's Real Ice Cream a couple of years ago. We know coffee, and Johnson's knows ice cream. The Signature Mocha ice cream we developed for their Columbus Collection is a better product than either of us could have made on our own, and it appeals to both of our customer bases.

Be choosy. When you hook up with another company, you're tying your reputation to theirs. Begin with a clear picture of what your brand stands for. Look for partners that share your core values. In our case, that means companies that share our vision of nurturing and giving back to the community.

Set joint goals. Outlining expectations at the outset helps to ensure that both partners are happy with the results. Make sure that each company receives tangible and measurable benefits.

Cash in with cross promotions. From co-op ads to joint email marketing lists and social media cross-posts to handing out each partner's coupons, cross-promotions enable each company to reach more prospects while lowering costs.

Think local. Local sourcing is a big trend in food and restaurants. But regardless of industry, companies in your backyard have a vested interest in supporting other area businesses. We team up with local restaurants like Spinelli's Deli and Mozart's, grocers such as The Hills Market and Weiland's Gourmet Market and hundreds of independent coffee houses. Our partners gain quality products and marketing support, while we obtain more outlets for our products. Everyone wins.

Go global. If it makes sense for your company to expand beyond U.S. borders, try to establish a mutually beneficial supply chain. For example, by partnering with small-plot coffee farmers in remote locations, we not only improve the quality of the coffee we import but also help farmers raise the standard of living in poor, rural communities.

Expand the partnership. The Hills Market was one of the first local grocers to feature Crimson Cup, and they also carry Johnson's ice cream. All three companies collaborated to open a Scoop Shop and Coffee Bar at The Hills Market Downtown to celebrate its first anniversary.

Invest in your partners. I've found time and again that investing in partners and communities pays big dividends. When your partners succeed, you succeed. It's that simple.

Greg Ubert is founder and president of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, a local coffee roaster and coffee franchise alternative that supplies independent coffee houses, restaurants, specialty groceries and colleges and universities in 28 states. Reach him at

Interested in guest blogging for us? Read ourguidelinesfor guest columns and blogs.