I realize it’s been more than 40 days since CoffeeCon Chicago. Perhaps I’ve downgraded my Google rating by doing this, but I’ve been processing what I’ve learned from our last event, which was by most standards, our biggest success. This year we took a risk by moving this consumer coffee festival from its birthplace in Warrenville to a more downtown location. Warrenville was great and gave us our start, but we outgrew the facility and city dwellers begged us to try their neighborhood. We settled on Bridgeport and the Zhou B Art Center. My ancestors lived in Bridgeport nearly a hundred years ago. The neighborhood was perfect to me and I hope you agree. People were very friendly and yes, it was more accessible for city dwellers while suburbanites found it easy to get to. I’m particularly thankful to both the Zhou Brothers and Alderman Jim Balcer, who with their teams make us feel right at home, a pretty high mark to beat, considering I had moved from my own town.
Thanks to our exhibitors and sponsors. I won’t run the list but you’ve seen their logos on our site and met them in person. This is a unique event for the coffee world and know that our exhibitors and sponsors took a tremendous leap of faith to invest in a festival run by a husband and wife team, two imaginative and creative free spirits in a world where an event of this size is usually run by a twenty person team of organizers. We’re trying to honor them by working out our organizational bugs but so far they’re betting on our dream working in spite of my limitations and they know I’m willing to learn.
Here’s a list or things we learned:
• You like hands-on labs. Labs require much more power, people and gear.
• You like a cool space, but you also like to hear things well.
• You like food trucks.
• You like to mill around the exhibit floor tasting before attending classes.
• You like presenters to be passionate and fun, as well as credible.
• You like presenters who show up. We had two presenters appear eager but neither showed. I still don’t know what happened but we’ll address it and solve it. Promise.
• You like prizes, but you don’t want to rush from a class to win one. We’re tweaking this one so keep telling us what works.
• You want public transit and highway access.
• Do you want an earlier quit time?
• Do you want more different classes or more repetition?
• Classes and layout were far better organized. No one told us they couldn’t find a class or that the class had moved from its promised location.
• No power problems reported.
• All classrooms need AV support. One of the downsides of interesting locations over pipe & drape conference centers is the lack of this feature. But we need it.
• The coffee industry says its most important message to consumers is to buy sustainable coffees, yet no one in the industry rose to sponsor farmers attending. I spent my family’s money sponsoring them and I can’t afford it. I need to find someone in the industry who lives up to their adspeak.
• Home roasting is a special source of pride and I thank all our participants. We need more home roasters. We also need to increase our sponsorship as it’s the highest cost part of the event.
• We need to return to EventBrite for online ticketing. It just works more easily and smoothly. We also had a server overload, which was solved by the event’s date, but make purchasing tickets difficult. Coupon codes sometimes didn’t work as promised. A big thank you to anyone who took the time to contact us to report these issues and help us resolve not to reinvent the wheel henceforth.
• Our decision to host a Kickstarter project as one of our exhibitors was inspired. He got his funding so
I’m proud beyond words that CoffeeCon’s attendees embrace invention and innovation this way.
I’m looking forward to our other CoffeeCon events this year, and Chicago 2015, but am going to try to implement changes right away. Meanwhile, we made a great step forward in getting where more folks can find us. CoffeeCon might be my dream, but it’s for you. Please feel free to post or email me. Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who participated in CoffeeCon Chicago. You’re making my dream a reality. Next, San Francisco.