Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

San Francisco Alumni Club Monthly Spotlight: Artis Coffee

The San Francisco Alumni Club is launching a monthly spotlight on alumni businesses. Check back and read about more Babson startups! The following post is from Christa Ferguson M’15 of Parrot Foods


Artis is the Latin word for “craft”; Artis Coffee is a business dedicated to the art and craft of coffee.

San Francisco Alumni Club President, Walter Armer M’13 and Board Member Christa Ferguson M’15, met with Elvis Lieban, Babson Alumni and successful coffee bar entrepreneur to learn more about his company, Artis Coffee based in Berkeley and expanding to San Francisco. This is the first installment in a monthly series of alumni bios we will deliver to the Babson Community with an initial focus on the West Coast. Please enjoy Elvis’ story and if there are questions you would like us to ask in the future, please email:

Name: Elvis Lieban M’14
Age: 27
Title: Co-founder & CMO
Industry: Food Service
What is your business: Craft Coffee!
Company Headquarters: Berkeley CA
2014 Revenue: $865,000
Number of Employees: 19
Year Founded: 2013
Partners and Ages: Alex Lowe M’14 (32), James Gutierrez M’14 (32)

Where did you meet your partners and tell us the story of how and when you decided to work together? We all met at Babson. Alex and James met on the incoming class’ Facebook group and neither had a house set up so they became roommates. Alex had come in to Babson with the idea of small batch “live-roast” coffee from his time in Japan. He was sharing the idea with James, and James offered to put his experience in design and retail construction to work on creating a prototype. James found flyers for a business plan competition on campus and convinced Alex to sign up. That’s when I came in. I had met Alex through another classmate who had introduced us because of my coffee experience at Equal Exchange. From there – we had the team, leadership and idea, retail construction and design, and product. We ended up advancing through and winning the competition and the rest is recent history.

Alex, James, Elvis (Left to right)

Alex, James, Elvis (Left to right)

What was your first job: My first job was working for my neighbor’s business. He had an expert witness and consulting business. I filed his case documents during my High School Summers. It was my first glimpse into what it was like to have your own business. His office was his living room– he had a pool table and pinball machine in the office. When you’re a teenager that’s about the coolest thing ever.

Source of startup capital: In no particular order: founders, friends, family, angels, landlords, partners and proceeds from a business plan competition. If you are starting to think of fundraising for a business you’d be surprised where you can find additional funding.

Why did you start this business: I can’t really say I “started” the business. The spark of inspiration, and the business itself comes from Alex Lowe – I joined the team because I really love the concept. It’s something new and every day is exciting because we’re changing the way people think about and enjoy coffee.

Exit Strategy: Exit is important. There are 2-3 really great natural exits along our growth plan, however in the present, the most important thing for us to focus on is building a really sound business.

Scenes from Berkeley location

Scenes from Berkeley location

Toughest part about being an entrepreneur: Not being able to chase every great opportunity.

Key Business goals yet to achieve: We’re looking to break $1mm in annual sales this calendar year in our Berkeley location – and we’re ahead of projections! We’re also working to scale our wholesale and eCommerce businesses. The first year was really focused on creating a strong foundation in our Berkeley Flagship, this year we’re looking to explore other aspects of the business while increasing the store count.

Whom do you most admire and why: I’m not really much of a hero person. There are many

people who have influenced me – but probably most importantly is my Mom. She’s always been independent and creative and I think I get a lot of my entrepreneurship from her.

Company you most admire and why: I really look up to companies like Rapha, Sierra Nevada, and Harley Davidson. They’re all brands committed to quality, excellence in their products, and developing and supporting a die-hard fan base.

Figure 3 - Scenes from Berkeley location

Scenes from Berkeley location

What do you do for fun: I ride my bikes – road bike, and Harley.

Favorite place to eat: Burrito joints – as a Bay Area native I grew up with SF/Mission style burritos, I try to eat a burrito every week.

What is the last book you read: The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – it’s one of those books that every entrepreneur should read.

Most influential person at Babson: Bob Turner – he was really supportive of our move from the full time program in Wellesley to blended learning in SF so we could pursue our business. Without his support we wouldn’t be having this interview right now.

Favorite Babson Memory: Returning for graduation. After being away for a year, working non-stop between managing a new business and studying to finish a degree remotely coming back to campus and seeing everyone again, especially on a day like graduation was really special.

What would you like the Babson community to know? We’re currently fundraising on CircleUP, an accredited investor platform. We’re over 50% subscribed for the current raise, so if you’re interested give us a look soon. And keep an eye out for our expansion into SF! Our Hayes Valley location will be opening this spring. You can keep up with construction by liking us on Facebook or giving us a follow on Instagram.