Ipsento Coffee had an open event Jan. 22 that not only gave people a chance to try some of its many products but also a unique opportunity to invest in the business itself at $27 a share. Recently, Ipsento decided to go public to offer ownership shares in the company through crowdfunding on Wefunder, which makes it the first coffee company to sell shares to anyone through new equity crowdfunding regulations.
As the lively event started at the Bucktown location (1813 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Tim Taylor, CEO of Ipsento, sat down with LoganSquarist to discuss the company’s upcoming conversion into the corporate world and what it means for its coffee community and investors. This interview has been edited and condensed.
What is the history of Ipsento?
Tim Taylor: Western Avenue Ipsento (2035 N. Western Ave.) opened originally in 2006. The original owners decided to donate it to their church, who then owned it for six months. The church then closed the doors and offered ownership to me. It was in 2009 that I took over, and it’s almost been ten years now. Two years ago we opened the 606 location. The 606 trail was becoming a reality and we figured let’s get this shop open.
What is your motive behind going public? Are you trying to gain capital to expand or do you plan on selling the business?
TT: No, I mean ideally I’m not looking to sell. I opened [Ipsento] in debt, I got loans, and the payments are just too much right now. Our monthly payment is $50,000. The big part for raising equity is doing what I should have done all along, and that is finding equity partners. It really depends on how much we raise. We will open stores on a slower pace if we do not get the bigger goal we are working on.
What does going public mean to Ipsento?
TT: We want to build a brand around town. We already have a decent reputation with coffee nerds. To really be known throughout the city as a coffee brand in Chicago, we have to open up multiple outlets. That is the goal, to have a bigger name.
Was it a difficult choice?
TT: No, I have thought about it for years. I took over the original Ipsento with no capital. I kept the name Ipsento only because I didn’t have the money to change the awning. I’m really drawn to more communal efforts. I’m always drawn to the underdog. I did have several conversations with larger dollar amount investors; each one wanted their own thing; that’s not the direction I wanted the company to go in. The community getting behind us and raising funds would be brilliant because they are already coming in as our costumers—they want to support something that is already working. This way it protects and preserves what the brand is about.
Are you saying you are not interested in accredited investors?
TT: The idea is not to say no, I mean, in some cases I already have. The idea is to be all inclusive. If this doesn’t go through for some reason I have to have a backup plan. I’m still talking to anybody that approaches me. The idea though, is to appeal to people [whether] or not they are accredited investors.
Did you have any fears about crowdfunding in your decision process?
TT: It’s brand new. My fear was nobody knows what this is. I get what going public is, but it’s not public in the sense that I could be traded in the stock exchange. I just hope I can communicate [going public] well enough.
Is this an ideal time to go public?
TT: I don’t think it was an ideal time. We were originally planning on doing it right before Thanksgiving. The end of the year is when people are deciding what to do with their finances. Things didn’t come together in time and we couldn’t pull it off until now. We just haven’t had that type of success [so] we needed to do it as soon as we could.