Roast! West Coast
Coffee People
Coffee People: Heather Kelley & Miranda Caldwell, The Coffee MBA

Coffee People: Heather Kelley & Miranda Caldwell, The Coffee MBA

This transatlantic duo (and friends) provide business support to the specialty coffee industry.
Heather Kelley and Miranda Caldwell of The Coffee MBA pose for a close-up selfie with big smiles. Copyright @thecoffeemba on Instagram


Guest: Heather Kelley & Miranda Caldwell
Role: Co-Founders of The Coffee MBA & The Coffee MBA Collective
Based: Portland, OR & Berlin, Germany (also The World!)
What they order: Everything!

UPDATE: APRIL 23, 2024

Miranda Caldwell recently posted that she and Heather Kelley are no longer continuing as business partners. She is continuing as The Coffee MBA, but leaving behind The Collective referenced in this edition of the podcast. Miranda shared a link to a new website that will continue to evolve:

Way back in 2011, a book about business came out that left a lasting imprint. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries expounded on the concept of the MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. The (simplified) idea was that it was more important to get your current MVP out into the marketplace, then improve it, release it again, and so on, until upgrading it no longer translated into more sales. Ries’s argument was that the data collected during the various phases of the product’s life would improve the product in the future, outweighing the risk of losing customers unhappy with the current MVP.

I remember reading that book while riding the subway to and from the start-up I worked for.* Between my work life and that book, I started to have dreams, in which an imagined middle-manager screamed, “PIVOT!” at me over and over and over again while I furiously typed on my computer, or tried to as my desk chair began to spin in faster and faster circles.


When I was chatting with Miranda and Heather for the Coffee People podcast, I had flashback memories of those MVP and Pivot! days, except in this case, MVP stood for Maximum Viable Product (see what I did there?).

Maximum because working together, they’ve created something greater than when they were going it alone. Pivot because when starting a business, it sometimes feels like the landscape is shifting beneath you in real time. The duo has been pivoting their efforts while building their collaborative identity. Those efforts have led them to create The Coffee MBA Collective, essentially a collection of consulting experts in their field. They targeted their focus on improving the businesses of specialty coffee.

*The start-up I worked for sold curated goods (dog collars, jewelry, light fixtures, etc.) that could also be bought much cheaper in stores or elsewhere online, but they sold them for an extreme markup.

Not because the the $20 dog leash was somehow now worth $80, but because the customer could say they got it from [redacted], and their friends would know they paid way more than they had to because they had money to burn.

I never understood the business plan, but they sold out to a bigger e-retailer for nearly $90 million in 2012.

“We’re all about, kind of, rising the tide of profitability and support in the coffee industry.”
• Miranda Caldwell

“What I like to say is The Coffee MBA never sleeps. ‘Cuz when I’m asleep, Miranda’s in full gear. When she’s asleep, I’m in full gear. I think that’s part of our superpower—is that we’re working nearly 24 hours a day to build this business.”
• Heather Kelley


  • Heather's introduction to coffee came through family visits to the cafe near their home in Portland, OR, and then more seriously when her Mom opened a coffee cart where Heather worked. It was her first job and also the first job she was ever fired from! It was the beginning of a (still continuing) 20-year career in coffee.

  • Definition: CPG stands for Consumer Packaged Goods. Heather used this acronym during the pod. The goods in question are generally items that we use in our everyday lives that require repeated purchases. Think toothpaste, toilet paper, or coffee.

  • Miranda's coffee origin story also revolves around her extended family sitting together at a favored restaurant and the ribbing she took as a young person pouring copious amounts of sugar into her coffee. I'll note that a chain of Das Dutchman Essenhaus restaurants has taken hold throughout the Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio region that continues to thrive.

  • The Coffee MBA sprung out of Miranda's desire to add business education to the coffee industry. At first, it was her posting online, primarily on LinkedIn, until one day, Heather took a chance and slid into her DMs with a comment of appreciation.

  • The big new step in this partnership is the creation of the Coffee MBA Collective, which is essentially a business and creative consulting agency aimed specifically at the coffee industry.

  • Often a businesses issues aren't a simple fix. They'll need more than a band-aid to fix a systemic issue. That's where Miranda and Heather come in with the Collective to identify business needs and point them in the direction of the right expert in the collective community.

  • Despite the challenges of operating a transAtlantic operation, the knowledge that they've found the right partner makes the early mornings or late nights or challenges in scheduling worth it, not to mention the ability to manage and meet clients where they are within a much greater radius than they could if they were both in the same city.

  • I just want to clarify my stance on sauerkraut. I hate it. If it is on the plate, it taints everything else.


Heather and Miranda will be busy at the Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Chicago (4/12-14/2024). Here are some of the places you’ll be able to connect with them:

  • Retail Buyers Lounge at SCA Expo:

  • Join The Pitch Slam for brands at the Retail Buyers Lounge: CLICK TO SIGN UP

  • "(Act)ionable Impact: What we do with what we know." Panel discussion moderated by The Coffee MBA. The Cropster signature event hosted by Metric Coffee together with Roast magazine, The Coffee MBA and Azahar at Metric (2021 W Fulton St suite k-101b) takes place on Friday, April 12nd at 5:30 PM (CST). Panel will also be livestreamed.

  • Following the panel discussion (Friday), Invite only industry party co-sponsored by Cropster and Roast Magazine. Stop by booth 1051 on the convention center floor for details.

Roast! West Coast will also be at SCA. We’re driving across the country with coffee samples from Coffee Cycle Roasting, Marea Coffee, Cape Horn Green Coffee Importers, Acento Coffee, and Crossings Coffee!

Roastar provided the sample bags. The roasters are doing the roasting, and I’ll be behind the wheel. See you soon, Chicago.


Left: A woman kneels near the trunk of her tree smiling down next to a dog who is looking toward the right. Right: A golden retriever poses with a smile in front of a table at a pop-up market. Caroline (the vendor) smiles in the background standing behind a table with a red cloth covering draped to the ground and bags of coffee for sale on the table.
L: Caroline and Rhys. R: Caroline at one of the many pop-ups you’ll find CCC with a happy pup.

Welcome Cozy Canine Coffee!

Our newest Full City Industry Partner is Cozy Canine Coffee, founded by Caroline Manimtim and inspired by Rhys the dog. Being a small media organization we’re grateful that we can partner with brands and coffee companies whose missions and values align. In this case, dogs and great coffee.


Cozy Canine Coffee is a woman & AAPI-owned coffee company which aims to serve the San Diego community by sharing high quality and approachable coffee that supports and spreads awareness of local animal rescue organizations and local artists. Our inspiration for our coffee company is our love for our rescue pup, Rhys. After adopting him, we wanted to find a way to support the San Diego animal rescue community and local artists. We hope to encourage and share the joy and love that we have found in our rescue pup, Rhys, through our coffee and community.


Cozy Canine Coffee is a big supporter of local animal shelters and efforts. Their biggest upcoming project and event is their inaugural walking team that will be participating in the Human Society’s Walk for Animals on May 4th. Their goal is raise $1000, which they’ve already done! If you join Team Cozy Canine Coffee, you’ll also get a free Cozy Canine shirt for the event.


Check out the interview we did with Caroline about starting CCC in early 2023.


(Links provided by Cozy Canine Coffee)

A huge, on-going thank you to all of this show’s industry partners.

Click these links!

Roastar • Zumbar Coffee & Tea • Steady State Roasting • Mostra Coffee • Coffee Cycle •  Camp Coffee CompanyIgnite Coffee Company • Ascend Coffee Roasters • Marea Coffee • Cape Horn Green Coffee • Hacea Coffee Source • Crossings Coffee • Acento Coffee RoastersSivitz Roasting Machines • Craft 42 Roasters • Me and My Uncle Coffee Roasters • Cozy Canine Coffee

Click here to find R!WC podcasts on your favorite listening platforms!

Do you want to support the show without subscribing? Help keep us caffeinated by buying us a cup of coffee. Thanks for all your support.



I’ve been rocking out hard in the car this week. This classic from Danzig kept me motivated across the Southwest.

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