It all started after a chance encounter with a little coffee shop with big dreams and a spunky name. In 1994, Bad Ass Coffee Co. in Kona, Hawaii, caught the eye of Karen Push's husband, Kevin, as he strolled through town. Amused by the name, he went in. Five days later, the Pushes bought the location as licensees. With Kevin, 46, taking care of the books and Karen, 52, behind the counter, they eventually became the company's first franchisees.
Karen attributes the chain's success to its name, which honors the donkeys that hauled loads of coffee beans along Kona's mountains, the only place in America that grows coffee. "It's what makes us who we are," she says. "We're Bad Ass, as opposed to something boring like Karen's Coffee."
Aside from paying royalty fees and acquiring new merchandise, the transition was smooth for the Pushes. The move was also smart for Bad Ass. With profit margins benefiting from sales of both coffee and souvenirs, which include plush donkeys stuffed with coffee beans, Bad Ass coffee shops have since sprung up nationwide. And after seven years in the business, Karen has become a sort of guru for franchisees seeking guidance.
With their first-franchisee status, the Pushes feel a special relationship with the corporate office, as though their store is the favorite child of the Bad Ass family. "I feel pretty special, and they treat me pretty well," Karen says.
And while other coffee shops have come and gone in Kona, the Pushes' is living up to its attitudinal name. Although Karen works hard to keep Bad Ass going, she has fun with it, too.
"It's pretty funny when I answer the phone, especially with wrong numbers," Karen says, laughing "On the whole, I think people who come in get a kick out of it."
- Bad Ass Coffee Co.
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