May 24, 2016 - 8:00am

DREAM BIG 2016: This Business Has Something Special Brewing

Former Digital Content Intern


Greg Ubert, a 1991 Harvard University graduate, realized that computer software wasn’t his thing. But he did have a couple of passions: entrepreneurship and coffee.

Great Lakes Regional Finalist

Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea

Columbus, Ohio

Greg Ubert, Founder and President



Editor's note: The DREAM BIG award, sponsored by Sam’s Club®, celebrates the success of small businesses and honors their contributions to America's economic growth. The Small Business of the Year, seven regional finalists, and 100 Blue Ribbon winners will be honored on June 14 during America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.


How did the company get started

Greg Ubert, a 1991 Harvard University graduate, realized that computer software wasn’t his thing. But he did have a couple of passions: entrepreneurship and coffee.

So he left a promising career in Chicago, moved back to Columbus, Ohio, and started a business with a tiny gas-fired coffee roaster in a one-room office. Greg immersed himself in specialty coffee, started experimenting, and learned all he could from coffee brokers and other roasters.

Crimson Cup works closely with farmers, and its customers include more than 350 independent coffee houses, grocers, college and universities, restaurants, and food-service operations across 29 states, Guam, and Bangladesh. Its coffee and other products regularly win taste tests and have been recognized for quality by Roast magazine, Coffee Fest New York, and Kenneth Davids and the Coffee Review.


“We get energized about the word ‘community,’ and we share our energy through coffee,” Greg says.

“We have established a supply chain of mutual benefits extending from the coffee farmer at origin to the independent coffeehouses, cafes, bakeries, restaurants, colleges and universities, specialty grocers, and food-service operations that distribute Crimson Cup coffee, tea, and coffeehouse products,” he adds. “Our goal is to maximize the growth and profitability of our own company and our partners at every step of the value chain.”

Crimson Cup does more than just sell and roast coffee beans. Greg and his team also provide a service platform to help others open independent coffeehouses, which they describe as a “coffee franchise alternative program.” They provide beans, equipment, and consulting so that other budding baristas can open their doors.

How does Crimson Cup connect with the community?

“Community encompasses our relationships— from farmer to consumer and everything in between.”      — Greg Ubert 

For Crimson Cup, giving back is a core value. The company creates special blends of coffee where part of the proceeds are donated to organizations like the Cancer Support Community and Fallen 15, a nonprofit that honors fallen Ohio service members.

On the international front, Crimson Cup helps support coffee farmers in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico, among other countries. Through its direct trade program, Friend2Farmer, the business helps support families by purchasing beans while giving farmers advice on sustainable practices to extend the consistency and quality of crops.

What’s ahead for Crimson Cup?

Crimson Cup hopes to open 85 to 100 more independent coffeehouses in the next four years. The business opened a new roasting facility in Columbus in 2015 and plans on doubling its number of employees from 25 to 50 to support the distribution of coffee across the country.

About the Author

About the Author

Former Digital Content Intern