Outside the Box

Written by Rosalind Fournier; Portrait by Beau Gustafson

Bebe Goodrich was just 27 when she decided to take her passion for cold-brewed coffee—the drink she’d grown up with in her native New Orleans—and turn it into a business. It seemed like a niche market begging to be filled. “Cold-brewed coffee is truly part of the fabric and the culture of New Orleans,” Goodrich says. Between the coffee shops that specialize in the beverage and the iced coffee found in people’s refrigerators, “cold brew is as common there as sweet tea is in Birmingham.”

She was working in the marketing department at Royal Cup Coffee and Tea when she decided to pursue her new venture, meaning Goodrich spent the next five years essentially working two full-time jobs, with a young child and husband as well. It was a crazy busy time, but she says her upbringing had prepared her for the challenge.

“I come from a family of strong working women,” Goodrich says. “My sisters are both super successful in their careers; my mother had a very successful career; my grandmother owned several businesses. And so the expectation is that you just push. Life is rich and full, and you make it rich and full by doing things and continuously moving the needle forward.”

She adds that by working at Royal Cup, she was able to gain valuable, first-hand experience in the industry. “That’s a unique position that not a lot of entrepreneurs are in. I think a lot of businesses are birthed out of side hustles, but I had the good fortune that my side hustle and my income stream aligned so well that I was learning while growing my business.”

Her business, Icebox Coffee, was born out of Innovation Depot, where she and her team decided that to maximize the value of their product, the key was to achieve shelf stability. “We spent a lot of time early on thinking, okay, we can make great products, and we can make them available at an effective price point,” she says. “But we wanted to be able to store product and have the same product quality on day 30 as it was on day one. So we introduced shelf-stable cold brew, without preservatives or additives, in 2015, and that was revolutionary.”

Along the way, Goodrich says, they enlisted Mark Froehlich and Ed Buker, partners in the business advisory group Impact Partners—also located at Innovation Depot—as valuable mentors. “Icebox was self-funded until 2017. And when I kept saying, ‘We need to raise money,’ they told me, ‘No, you don’t. You have everything in front of you—just grow, grow, grow.’” Which is what they did, getting Icebox into bigger and bigger retail outlets, as well as gaining a stronghold in the food-service business through a partnership with Royal Cup.

Then the symbiosis between Icebox Coffee and Royal Cup came full circle, when Royal Cup acquired Icebox outright and moved Goodrich into the position of Royal Cup’s director of liquid product innovation. “So Royal Cup gave me the blessing of being able to go back to what I enjoy the most,” she says, “which is finding the idea, finding the special product, the niche, the something different, and going out and formulating it and trying to find out, how do you bring that to the marketplace?”

Meanwhile, Icebox is no longer the only game in town for cold-brewed coffee, which Goodrich says only proves her original theory that this was a product ripe for the Birmingham market. But Icebox  retains its competitive edge and the goodwill of loyal customers built up over its years a small startup.

“Icebox will continue to flourish,” she says, “while I go out and work on finding what is the next cold brew.”

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