Kevin Newsum won’t go so far as to describe himself or his wife Allison as mad scientists.
Though he readily admits part of the allure of growing a small business comes from experimenting to see exactly what interests the market.
The test tubes in this stretched-too-far analogy are the 2-shot glass bottles of premium espresso sold under the Steamm brand across physical retail outlets and an e-commerce platform. The base product is already plenty appealing - a served-cold shot of espresso from single-source coffee beans steeped in Peruvian cacao plus a hint of pure cane sugar – for those looking for a natural, fast energy boost.
“The really cool part is that we can be nimble and pivot to do things we think could have some impact with our audience… that part is endlessly exciting,” he said.
Steamm is currently participating in the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs Accelerator at the University of Texas.
New options in serving sizes, limited-edition flavor debuts and surprising product roll-outs to consumers are some of the early twists they’re working to add to the core product.
And the success of those experiments is evident pretty fast, by gauging customers’ reaction when they take a taste.
“If you have an idea, you give it a try and not all of it will make into a final offering. But you take the parts that did land with people and you try to learn from them.”
Steamm’s beginnings come from the heritage of its founder’s Old World Italian coffee culture, where espresso is part of family meals and gatherings. The Newsums acquired the company in 2017.
The Newsums brought a background in product marketing and some history creating with chocolate, and wanted to build a business of their own by rolling up their sleeves and putting their own stamp on the operation, bringing a fresh perspective to how espresso is consumed in the first place. .
They learned quickly how challenging the physical goods world can be, spending almost half a year tweaking and refining the preparation and production process before making Steamm available again online.
The response was fast and favorable, with previous customers snapping up as many cases of six and twelve bottle packs as the company could produce, and interest growing from Austin-area bodegas, hotels and bars exploring ways to incorporate the product in their hospitality offerings.
Your next Austin happy hour could feature a Steamm-powered espresso martini.
“There’s an appeal to the process of creating something tangible, artisan, that people can feel, taste and connect with pretty easily,” Newsum said. “Our aim is to craft espresso at once efficient and indulgent, so coffee lovers can hit their day focused and energetic.”
“The human element comes into play by paying attention to what resonates, by creating a product people can sample—independent of any direct influence—and react to in a way that’s uniquely their own...to interact with what you’ve made. We’ll always be thrilled to make something that can delight folks a sip at a time. And we’re just getting started.”