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By: Kelly Rowe |
October 7, 2020
Ryan Jones is a member of the class of 2011, the last graduates of Pikeville College. A business major, Jones credits Dr. Howard Roberts, dean of the Coleman College of Business, with “mentoring him through every job he’s ever had.” A Bears’ baseball alumnus, Jones said, “My favorite thing about college was playing baseball. I had great relationships with those guys. We’re still close friends. I wouldn’t change that at all.”
As a young boy, Ryan Jones ’11, loved family gatherings on his grandparents’ front porch, sharing stories, usually over a cup of coffee.
These days, his childhood memories are steeped in his Virginia-based company, Lincoln Road Cold Brew Coffee, LLC., a private, family-owned business he started with his sister, Sarah Lawson, and brother-in-law, Brett Lawson.
Coffee has been around for centuries, but the ancient elixir is more than just an energizer or a morning ritual. “It’s a way to bring people together, chat, network and tell stories,” said Jones. “There’s something special about coffee; it brings people together.”
For Jones and his partners, the Lincoln Road brand goes to the heart of their Appalachian roots – “Eat local, drink local and be local.”
“We source locally as much as we can,” said Jones. “We want our ingredients to be high-quality, non-GMO and start out with freshly roasted, coarsely ground beans. The cold brew is nitrogen infused to extend shelf life and to give it a silky mouth feel. Lincoln Road is a versatile product and makes for a delicious, creamy cup of coffee as well.”
Before investing in the growing beverage market, the Lincoln Road team worked with consumer focus groups to develop a cold brew coffee with a low acidic flavor profile that would be delicious hot or cold and served in a variety of ways.
Market research on packaging and design were also part of the business plan. The dark glass bottle and custom logo have a vintage-apothecary feel, appealing to casual coffee drinkers and foodies alike.
“We wanted our product to be unique and stand out on the shelf,” explained Jones, who oversees the company’s branding, marketing and digital media. Sarah serves as accountant, office manager and customer service representative while Brett handles brewing, bottling and sales.
“All of our skills combined make a really great team. We didn’t realize how much work would be involved, but if you’re passionate about something you will do whatever it takes,” Jones said.
Social media is a tremendous driver for the business. The thriving start-up also does a good job of engaging customers with high-quality content that celebrates the Appalachian culture, appealing to followers who share photos and recipes on the company’s social networks.
Demand for Lincoln Road Cold Brew Coffee is on the rise. The entrepreneurs have taken Lincoln Road to festivals and events across the region, designing a custom trailer that serves as a pop-up coffee shop.
The company has plans of growing production in 2018 to reach more retail locations. Lincoln Road is available at Food City stores in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee as well as other select retail locations. The company has plans to open its first brick and mortar shop in downtown Norton, Va., offering cold brew coffee on draft.
Jones said the long-term goal is to get the product in more locations, adding coffee beans as an option, but at a price point that is affordable to the consumer.
The company’s coffee trailer concept is creating franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs who will introduce the Lincoln Road brand in Blacksburg, Va., and Lexington, Ky.
“One of the ways we diversify our economy is through a different way of thinking,” said Jones.
“The franchise is a good option for entrepreneurs who want to work for themselves with low startup costs. We’re hoping to grow that side of the business and plant coffee trailers across the region.”
“I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspirational people,” continued Jones. “My father Herbert Donald Jones II, who passed away in 2017, was our biggest fan and he inspired me to make this business a success. He was a very successful entrepreneur much like many others in my family and encouraged us to jump right in. It’s in my blood. God has blessed me beyond my imagination.”
Jones says his goal is to be a leader in entrepreneurship and inspire people in Appalachia to be “creative in ways that add value to our quality of life.”
“How can we provide the next solution to the consumer’s problem? We have to think outside the box,” said Jones. “Follow your passion and what drives you. If you can mobilize your energy toward your vision, you will achieve your goals and be successful.”