Student launches startup coffee company


Photo by Olivia Qualls

Brendan Nemeth at the Near West Side Farmer’s market booth for his company, Sophisticated Coffee Roasters.

Three years ago, Brendan Nemeth started roasting coffee on a popcorn machine. Now, he roasts his coffee in small batches on a Behmor maker, selling signature roasts for his company.

Sophisticated Coffee Roasters, the startup created by Nemeth, is featured at a weekly Near West Side Farmer’s Market booth on Thursday nights through September 14.

Nemeth, a senior in the College of Communication, said he loved coffee ever since he tried a cappuccino his junior year of high school. He worked as a barista at a few coffee shops, but the idea for a company was inspired by Nemeth’s Hungarian great-grandfather who made his own wine.

“I took those lessons that he taught my grandfather and father, and applied the concept that quality is always better than quantity to something I was really passionate about, (which) is coffee,” Nemeth said.

Nemeth approached the 707 Hub a year ago with his business idea. Megan Carver, associate director of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, encouraged Nemeth to start developing his business right away. She helped him find contacts and look for opportunities to sell his coffee on and off campus.

Carver said Nemeth’s curiosity, open-mindedness and emphasis on customer experience make him stand out.

“It’s really clear, when you see him at his booth and when he’s talking to customers, how passionate he truly is about coffee and the work that he’s doing,” she said. “It helps to draw people in and to really feel connected to his cause.”

Nemeth’s friend of 18 years, Domenico Gianni, a senior in the College of Communication, was with him from the beginning. Gianni now holds a salesman role and helps Nemeth with cleanup.

“Brendan is really the brains behind the company,” Gianni said. “He takes care of the roasting and the roasting process, and he also brews the coffee, whereas I’m still learning the ropes.”

Nemeth takes pride in his work and his small-batch roasting process, prioritizing quality over quantity.

“My competitors are roasting coffee in huge, gigantic batches and it’s very difficult to get that quality in each bag,” Nemeth said. “The passion and love that goes into each batch of coffee go a lot deeper than just trying to mass produce it and serve as many people as we can.”

His coffee is also roasted seasonally, giving it a slightly different flavor based on the coffee-growing regions.

Carver said Sophisticated Coffee Roasters has a taste of its own. “When you try the coffee, it tastes so much different – it’s so fresh, it’s so bold, but it’s not bitter,” she said.

Nemeth is currently finishing up the company’s website, which will allow customers to purchase coffee. It will be ready beginning in September.

He is also open to any students interested in talking about coffee or helping with the company. Nemeth hopes to see Sophisticated Coffee Roasters sold in grocery stores and restaurants; eventually, he wants to open his own coffee shop.

“Really, his entire life is coffee and this business, and I think that’s really important when you have a business or are at least trying to start a business,” Gianni said. “It’s very motivating for me – being part of the company – because I see so much inspiration in him, and so it inspires me.”