This week’s Ms New Brunswick is Claire Vaughan, owner of Rescue Coffee Co., the coffee company that helps animals by donating a portion of proceeds to various animal rescue organizations in Canada. Operating out of Moncton, New Brunswick, Claire is a one-woman operation in an industry dominated by men, but that doesn't slow her down.. Her commitment to helping animals in need, combined with her high quality product have made her a favorite at local markets. Restaurants and businesses in her area have started stocking her product, and she is working with over 30 retailers across 5 provinces. Claire talks passionately about her desire to help animals and how she looked for a way to go into business for herself that would allow her to do that. She talked of the struggle many women face, where she found herself extremely unhappy in a perfectly fine career after graduating from university. Many of us fall into that trap for any number of reasons, but Claire found a way out.
Tell me about your business.
Rescue Coffee is a premium, fair trade organic coffee company that’s also a social enterprise. Our main goal is to help animal rescue efforts throughout the country by donating 10% of all proceeds to various rescue organizations. Our beans are ethically sourced, from places where workers are paid fair wages and have safe working conditions, and I ensure that they meet organic farming standards. We use a small family roaster in Nova Scotia to roast our beans, but the business was started in and based out of Moncton, where I live.
How did you get started?
I came out of Dalhousie business school and landed a corporate job and sort of went through the motions for several years there. I sort of felt the life draining out of me. I remember getting a big promotion and feeling sick about it because I knew I wasn’t supposed to be doing that with my life. I had to take some time to do some self-reflection and I decided that the last time I was my true authentic self was when I was a child. I think as we get older it is usually easier to do what’s expected of us, or get on a path and stick to it, but for me that just wasn’t working anymore. When I really stopped to think about it, I realized that I wanted to take what I have always loved since I was a kid, helping animals, and find a way to make a business that would let me do that.
I had this idea to create a business selling fair trade premium coffee and donating a portion of the sales to animal rescue organizations. I was really excited about my idea, and I am so glad that I took the leap to pursue it.
Has the community been supportive?
Yes for sure. I had just moved to Moncton at the time I launched my business, and I couldn’t even figure out how to drive from my house to downtown, let alone have a network setup to help me. In the short time that I’ve been in business though, I have found incredible community support here. Restaurants and businesses have been receptive to carrying my products, and I’ve been incredibly successful at the holiday shows and farmer’s markets. The Moncton SPCA has been an incredible resource for me as well, as they were my first rescue partner and retailer. They’ve helped me gain traction in the community and also validated my business idea. Three years in and I am finally getting to the point where I am making cold calls and people already know my brand and name. and I owe that to the support of my friends, family and community.
Are there many women in the coffee game?
This is definitely a male dominated business. I luckily haven’t had any issues with being a woman in this industry though. Sometimes it has even been helpful for me because companies and people are so excited about supporting and helping women in business. There is a lot of competition in the coffee business, but I really believe that I have found myself a niche in the market through my work with animal rescue organizations. Not only do coffee lovers love my product, but so do people who feel as passionately as I do about helping animals. People also really love to support small and local, and all those things help set me apart.
How can we support you better?
Every little thing helps actually. Every share, like or comment on Facebook makes an impact. Every instagram post with our coffee or your puppy or your love of my product helps out. Everytime you buy a bag of beans or tell your friends about Rescue Coffee Co., you’re supporting my business and helping animals in need.
What is the biggest difficulty in your business?
Well, for me it’s knowing where to focus my energy everyday, especially because I’m still the company’s only employee. Obviously sales are my number one priority all the time, but when you’re the only one working in the business there’s also marketing, accounting, supply and inventory and a million other things you don’t normally think of. I always feel like I’m not doing enough or the day has slipped away from me. I’m at that tricky stage in small business growth where I am not sure I can afford help, but I definitely could use it.
How do you balance work and personal life?
I have a very supportive partner. He’s also very busy doing his MBA and working full time, so even though it’s been a crazy two years, our schedules are pretty similar. I think that not losing sight of your goals is what keeps everything in check. There are hard days but I keep my goals in mind when I’m struggling. That, and I try to remember that there’s always people working harder than you. Don’t let those down times isolate you. The last thing I think that works really well is to find something that will always motivate you, even when you’re in the weeds. I need more than just money to motivate me to keep going, but being able to help animals and the amazing people that dedicate their lives to helping animals gives me all the drive I need.
What piece of advice would you offer other women starting their own business?
Try to find a way to make your business aligned with something that you truly care about. I don’t think everyone has to pursue their passions directly, but if you can find a way to involve them you’ll care so much more about the success of your business. That’s what I love about social enterprises. If you can couple a business with something that you really care about, than that will give you the nudge that you need when you need it. It’s also a way to keep yourself accountable to others even if you’re technically working alone.
Where can we get our hands on your coffee and how can we get in touch with you?
You can always order online at https://www.rescuecoffeeco.com, or find a retailer in your area here. You can find us on Facebook or Instagram, and if you do buy our coffee please tag us in any pictures online! I love seeing you and your pets :)
The Ms New Brunswick project is about taking a title back for all the women who really embody the heart and soul of our province through creative endeavours and entrepreneurship. The makers and doers who are sharing with us their time, energy and talents, and carrying us forward. Full-time or side hustle. Big or small. At home or in an office. Products or service. Crafters, moms, entrepreneurs, shop owners, consultants. Whatever. If there is a woman in our province giving life to an idea or product, I want to know about it.
If you or someone you know would be right for the Ms New Brunswick series please fill out the Nomination Form!