Stories from Vancouver – Eddy Holford of Xpresso 2 U
Launching a premium brand
Eddy Holford typically wakes up at 6 a.m. every day, is out the door by 7 a.m. to begin his coffee route and is usually back home around 1 p.m. to get his van ready for the next day’s rounds. Before he began his small business at the start of 2020, Eddy’s routine looked very different.
The now-café owner used to make Starbucks runs every day he worked as a car salesman in Vancouver, Washington. One day, he left the drive-thru line with what he describes as the world’s most expensive cup of coffee. The long wait in line cost him a sale and hefty commission. Despite this, the hassle of needing to physically go get coffee every day also inspired Eddy to search for a solution and eventually start Xpresso 2 U.
With an opportunity in mind, Eddy browsed the Internet to see if there were any mobile coffee franchises he could bring to Vancouver. He identified exactly what he was looking for in a business based in Australia. Since the franchise was not looking to spread to the U.S., Eddy broke ground and decided to establish his own version stateside.
Eddy ended 2019 with a business plan and enough of his own funds to begin his small business. He was ready to put his plan into action and see his vision come to life with the start of a new year.
“I wanted to launch a premium brand,” Eddy said, which guided him to fully self-finance “top-of-the-line” products and equipment to further define his “mobile expresso café,” which would deliver coffee directly to individuals’ locations – homes, offices, events and more – in Vancouver and the Portland Metro area.
“Our service will save you tremendous amounts of time. No more driving to the cafe and waiting in line to drive back home,” the Xpresso 2 U website advertises. “We come to you, make your drink in your driveway and deliver to your door.”
Eddy’s mobile café needed a vehicle. After endless research, he looked for quality, longevity and elegance in a van, which resulted in his purchasing a white Mercedes Benz Metris. Eddy worked with a local graphic designer to then develop his brand’s logo and car wrap. Latte art, coffee beans, contact information and pleasant puns like, “Thanks a latte,” now adorn the exterior of Xpresso 2 U, in addition to stickers recognizing the business as Black and veteran-owned.
Support from Mercy Corps Northwest
With a fully equipped van and ethical coffee in hand, Eddy was ready to open shop. Fortunately, Xpresso 2 U had an instant customer base – car dealerships where Eddy once worked. Various managers quickly gave Eddy the greenlight to serve beverages and snacks on their lots, which was enough for him to launch his business. That is, until COVID-19 hit, and Eddy was forced to make adjustments.
“When anyone starts a business, they go through the phase where they think, ‘this is the greatest thing since sliced cheese. Everybody will want to buy my product,’” Eddy said. “Then, COVID hit and that has been a gigantic detractor. I have many more ideas to grow the business, but I’ve been forced to rethink and revamp the structure for now.”
The dip in revenue led Eddy to seek financial assistance to help maintain Xpresso 2 U. Simultaneously, Mercy Corps Northwest partnered with Clark County and the City of Vancouver to distribute COVID relief grants to small business owners who were hard-hit from pandemic closures. To support local entrepreneurs the program offered more than $1 million in relief to 250+ businesses in the area, including Xpresso 2 U.
Since receiving the aid, Eddy has been able to ease into new opportunities born from the pandemic. He began with promoting a recurring COVID-safe neighborhood pop-up on Thursday mornings, which was an instant hit and continues to be. The event draws the community safely together for a caffeine and social fix outside.
“I’m like the ice cream truck for adults,” Eddy said. “It’s always nice to have an excuse to see people, catch up and build relationships. It’s not just a business in my mind since coffee itself is an action: ‘Let’s do coffee.’ Coffee brings people together and is a reason for interaction.”
Giving back to the community
The pandemic pushed Eddy to test Grubhub and Postmates for his business, too – food delivery services that increased in popularity while people quarantined more at home. Eddy also leaned into the virtual aspect of this past year and saw himself in a drive-thru again. But this time, people were visiting him during a socially distant office Christmas party.
Xpresso 2 U also prides itself on giving back to the community. Eddy often visits local houseless areas to offer beverages and snacks off his van, in addition to donating 5-10% of everything made to the less fortunate.
To support frontline workers during the height of the pandemic, Xpresso 2 U offered employee appreciation events for medical professionals, serving complimentary drinks in hospital parking lots in the Vancouver and surrounding area. Currently on the website, Eddy promotes a First Responders Donation and a Healthcare e-Gift Card for those who want to send healthcare workers a caffeinated gift direct to them at home or work.
Eddy plans to continue his community work, while also book more events like weddings and other gatherings once the pandemic subsides with the help of increased marketing tactics.
“People find out about me mostly through referrals or exposure,” Eddy said. “People will catch me on my route sometimes and think, ‘hey, he’s making that guy coffee in his driveway,’ which is cool and leads to folks going to my website or social media, but I’ve been doing a lot of work on location-specific advertising, too.”
In addition to a strong website and community word-of-mouth, Eddy has implemented geo-targeted Facebook ads to spread the coffee word and direct people to his webpage. When asked if he plans to add additional vans and employees to the Xpresso 2 U business, Eddy is in the camp of rather helping people who want to start their own business through franchising.
“It makes more sense for me to search for people who want a business of their own that they can get into fairly inexpensively,” Eddy said. “That way, they can write their own destiny. They can work as little or as much as they want to… The freedom that comes with this type of business is priceless, and the opportunity to grow is endless.”
The Xpresso 2 U website includes a section on franchising – outlining the possibility of a mobile café franchise like the current model, in addition to other options such as a coffee kiosk or cart. The first mobile café franchise is currently underway in Salem, Oregon.
Eddy’s coffee empire is just beginning, and the businessman has no plans to slow down.
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” Eddy said. “I’m always taking an interest in watching businesses develop, grow and be better. That’s why I do what I do. Because business isn’t done yet. This is something I will do for the rest of my life. I love the business of sales. I love small business. I don’t think I’ll ever actually be fully retired. I may drive an RV and tow a van behind and sell coffee on the side of the road at different stops along the beach on the West Coast – who knows. I stay motivated every day because I’m excited about where this business is going.”
Xpresso 2 U, LLC is based in Vancouver, Washington, and delivers in town and to the Portland Metro area. Orders can be scheduled in advance through the Xpresso 2 U website, and brand updates can be found on Instagram and Facebook.