If you were to ask Ken Zeff, founder and CEO of Crazy Mocha, what his favorite drink from the coffee chain is, he would have a hard time giving you an answer — not because he has so many favorites, but because he isn’t a coffee drinker.
Zeff understands how crazy that sounds, but says it’s been a good thing for business because instead of buying what he likes, he focuses on what customers are asking for at Crazy Mocha. And for anyone who has followed the company’s growth in the past 13 years, it’s obvious that Zeff’s methods are working.
Zeff started Crazy Mocha in 2000 and was determined to utilize his Pittsburgh roots by creating a welcoming environment while highlighting Pittsburgh-based companies for development, products and services. He is proud of his company’s focus on helping other small businesses grow.
For example, Crazy Mocha selected a small local distributor adding more than 30 percent growth to its business seven years straight. The same can be said for Crazy Mocha’s coffee distributor who added 43 percent growth since the partnership began.
Zeff says the focus is always on the local economy. Not only has Crazy Mocha created jobs, payroll taxes and sales taxes, but the residual effect of its business can be felt by multiple distributors, contractors and professional companies.
Today, the company’s biggest impact is on locations. Crazy Mocha has taken risk in neighborhoods that others have overlooked such as Lawrenceville and the Northside. In both cases the buildings were vacant for years. In the Northside case, the building was almost beyond repair — now, with Crazy Mocha’s presence, a deli and a taco shop have emerged. Neither of those businesses would exist without the Crazy Mocha anchor.
In 2003, Crazy Mocha had just three locations. During 2004, the operation doubled to six locations and 25 employees. The rapid pace of expansion raised questions among observers about whether the growth was sustainable. In 2007, Zeff opened a store at PPG Place near an existing Starbucks. The new location was to fill the void left by the closure of La Prima Espresso. Other downtown locations were developed to improve brand awareness and by 2008 the chain had grown to 21 locations and had more than 100 employees.
Today, Crazy Mocha has 30 locations, including a few outside the city of Pittsburgh. Of those locations, 14 were takeovers from coffee operators that failed, and in every case the company has made those locations profitable. ●
How to reach: Crazy Mocha, (412) 404-2318 or www.crazymocha.com
2013 PACESETTER CLASS:
(Click below to read their profile.)
- Winner - Troy Gregory, president and CEO, System One Holdings LLC
- Honoree - Dennis Oates, president and CEO, Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.
- Winner - Ken Zeff, founder and CEO, Crazy Mocha
- Honoree - Thomas Mattei, associate dean of professional programs, Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy
- Honoree - H. Rochelle Stachel, founder and CEO, HRV Conformance Verification Associates Inc.
- Honoree - Mark Brennan, president and CEO, Clearview Federal Credit Union
- Winner - Debra Mortillaro, co-owner, Dreadnought Wines
- Honoree - Charley Kennedy, managing principal, Fiducia Group
- Honoree - Darrin Grove, CEO, TrueFit