Alvaro Ortega had struggled with ADD since he was a child. At eight years old, he began taking medication to fight some of the worst symptoms. The main problem with this approach, however, was the gradual increase of dosage. While necessary for the medication to continue working, taking an ever-higher amount of the medication can have adverse side effects such as anxiety.
At age 22, Ortega decided that enough was enough. “I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on this rapidly accumulating pill lifestyle where my palms had started sweating and I started getting really anxious as a result of my medication,” he told Refresh Miami.
Ortega then did what any young person would do, of course: troll Reddit for alternatives. He found that some people had started adding CBD to coffee and gave it a shot. After just a few weeks, he felt significantly different. “I felt way more energetic, less like I was bouncing off the walls, less jittery.”
This experimentation coincided with the onset of the pandemic, when he had returned home to Miami and found himself with more time on his hands. His job working on a Venture for America-backed project in Birmingham, Alabama was remote, giving Ortega some time to give entrepreneurship a go.
Ortega and business partner James Reina started testing out CBD coffee formulations. “The two of us started building this idea as a hobby,” recalls Ortega. “It became real once we started talking to co-manufacturers and testing it out and sharing it with our friends.”
In August 2020 the two left their jobs and started taking on the coffee business full-time. And so, Jibby Coffee was born. Fast forward to today, and Jibby Coffee can be found in 200 stores around South Florida, including Equinox’s juice bars and local shops like Banana Berry in Coral Gables.
Securing those first few locations was no easy task, however. “I would load up my car with a couple of cases, go to the door of a grocery store, and try to befriend either the buyer or the owner,” said Ortega. He even took a page out of Under Armor founder Kevin Plank’s book and printed out business cards with the title “Regional Sales Manager,” in an attempt to project that the company was bigger than it actually was. “I actually got my first store as a result of that card.”
A connection through a fellow Shrimp Society member helped Ortega find a distributor and a Shrimp fundraising event gave him the fundamentals to raise seed capital. Ortega calls The Shrimp Society, a #MiamiTech group for young innovators, “a raw, authentic experience” where founders fill in each other’s knowledge gaps.
Currently, Jibby Coffee’s main product is a can of cold brew that contains 135mg of caffeine and 25mg of hemp CBD. The product is fair trade organic, which Ortega emphasizes is rare in the cold brew coffee space.
The Jibby Coffee team has tried to create a product that tastes just like the coffee you’d expect, with the added benefits of CBD. According to Ortega, the benefits of the CBD coffee are varied, including a less distracted mind, reduced coffee jitters, and help with ailments such as back pain.
In November 2021, Jibby Coffee closed a $300,000 friends and family round led by Pete Lescoe, founder of tortilla chip empire Food Should Taste Good. This funding will go toward distribution efforts in New York City.
On top of this regional expansion, Jibby Coffee also plans to launch a few new products in the near future, including an oak milk latte and a matcha latte – both of which will contain CBD.
Want to give Jibby Coffee a shot? You can find it in stores around South Florida or online at JibbyCoffee.com.
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Nancy Dahlberg contributed to this report.