After inventing a specialized coffee cup, Saratoga businessman Mitch Bangert is savoring in his success and earning acclaim from coffee lovers worldwide.
For his growing coffee cup business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced Bangert had won the Wyoming Small Business Exporter of the Year Award, and the Region VIII Small Business Exporter of the Year Award, which includes entries from North and South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Bangert's business goes by the name Offero, LLC, and features six different types of cups and two different types of glasses.
Bangert was presented the two awards he received for Offero, LLC during last evening's chamber social, held at the Platte Valley Community Center.
Four years after his idea developed, Bangert is now experiencing global export sales and well-deserved accolades. Offero, LLC now has several patent designs, is exporting to 10 countries and is working on trademarking.
The company was also the winner of the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2012 Best New Product.
Bangert has been a panelist at the Wyoming Idea Expo, and has mentored other local entrepreneurs. He said was surprised to win both awards out of all the submitted entries.
"They called me up one day and said I won Wyoming's exporter of the year, and then they called me up four days later and said I also won the Region VIII one," Bangert said. "It's really humbling and very cool."
Bangert's road to entrepreneurial success began in 2010, when he was at a coffee tasting in Colorado. He said he recalled the host of the tasting asking him to cup his hands behind the Dixie cup he used for drinking, so the chocolate notes in the coffee could be better enjoyed.
Realizing an idea for a cup that could better enhance a coffee's aroma, Bangert came up with a design for a 12-ounce coffee cup featuring an extended back that covers up more of the nose while drinking.
"Three months later I had a model that I really liked, and I went out and found a manufacturer that would make me 5,000 cups," Bangert said.
After securing the manufacturer, Bangert launched the Offero line at the San Diego Coffee Fest trade show in June 2011. Since then, he has attended four Coffee Fest shows thus far.
"When I went to my first Coffee Fest, I thought 'people are either going to like this or they're not,'' Bangert said. "I thought 'if they're not, at least I've got 5,000 Christmas presents for the rest of my life.' But, people went nuts for it and really liked the design. I later ordered 60,000 cups from a manufacturer and got the office space at the Platte Valley Community Center."
Bangert said Offero cups are now represented in more than 20 countries, including South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. The company's sales are a combination of online, direct to distributors and wholesale client outlets.
After putting out 60,000 units last year, Bangert said he expects to surpass the 100,000-unit mark this year. He said he is now getting ready to open a warehouse in China to serve that region of the world.
"We're going to open up a warehouse in Shenzhen, China, and that's going to be our distribution point to Russia all the way down to Australia and New Zealand," Bangert said. "I'm working with a guy from Indonesia on it, and he's a young smart guy who knows what he's doing."