Interview with Taïna Chalifoux, the creator of Caféine Pusher.
My name is Taïna Chalifoux, but everybody calls me the “Coffee Queen”. I’ve been in the B2B coffee industry for about 9 years now, and more recently in the B2C coffee industry within the greater Montreal area. I love doing completely insane things! Most of the time, people will think that what I do is too crazy to be done, but in the end it always works!
What inspires you?
I’m so inspired by everything underground art and street. I’m convinced that new trends and fashion originate from the street, and that ultimately people like myself are somehow able to add a corporate structure around it. Rap, graffiti, street art and music are among my main inspirations.
As a matter of fact, my goal this year with Caféine Pusher is to bring a connection back between street art and the corporate world. In other words, create a link with the Montreal slang to make it more appealing. I want to introduce street artists to the corporate world to show them that what they’re creating is incredible. This said, in order to do this, streets artists need clients that are willing to explore new boundaries.
What’s your motto?
So, I have 2. It depends on which world I find myself in. In some ways, I’m a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. First, I have Di Napoli that lives in the corporate world. There, I’m mostly serious and wear suits. Then there’s Caféine Pushers. That world is mostly “street” and operates under a different language.
For Caféine Pushers, my motto is “break the rules!”. In the corporate world, it’s "knowledge is trust”. I’m convinced that higher education is a propellant in entrepreneurship and I try as much as possible to fight this trend that wants entrepreneurs to be that school dropout type and use them as an example to try and prove that education is worthless. I’m doing my best to communicate the value of education, mostly to young women.
What gave you the push?
I have this theory. I use 3 criterias organized as a triangle to decide if an idea is good enough to become a project. You need 2 criterias out of 3 to move forward. The 1st corner represents the expertise, the 2nd the obsession and the 3rd the opportunity. So if you have an obsession for a given product, service or solution and you also happen to have an opportunity then go for it! Along the way you’ll find the expertise to develop your idea. In the same way, if you have an opportunity as well as an expertise in a specific area, then go for it! You will most likely develop an obsession. With Caféine Pushers, I had an obsession and an opportunity, and that’s why I decided to jump. With time, I gained a lot of expertise. At first, I knew nothing about coffee. I didn’t even drink It!
Why the Coffee Industry?
Someone introduced me to a product I knew nothing about, a product that you couldn’t find anywhere in Montreal, it was the compostable coffee pod. From then on, I was obsessed. I even took on Italian classes to help me begin in the business. With determination I found an opportunity through someone who knew a roaster in Naples who was in the business.
What do you like the most about your brand Caféine Pushers?
The branding. I just love the branding. The logo, the colors, the freedom of creation we have working within such a wide universe with our campaigns and our communications. In other words, what I like the most is the eye symbolic. Because the eye, on our packaging, can be interpreted in many ways from a sociocultural standpoint: a psychotropic, stimulating, spiritual vision in which each one gives it the symbolic he or she prefers. I like the all-purpose visual effect of the logo and its symbolic which encompasses all kinds of connotations.
3 words to describe Caféine Pushers’ branding?
Street, crazy and purple!
Your definition of a good entrepreneur?
Someone who’s able to welcome rejection. Someone who’s able to make things happen without thinking about potential rejections or refusals that these ideas may give rise to. When we anticipate rejection, we tend to refrain ourselves or do beige things: things that do not catch the eye. I believe it’s important to be bold, polarizing and provocative.
What’s your idea of success?
Two of the most important values in entrepreneurship are freedom and independence. The freedom to create. The freedom to do. The freedom to push the limits without anyone saying "no our investors won’t be happy with this". To me, success is total freedom.
The biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
This is not a typical answer. Because I already owned Di Napoli so most of the challenges were experienced through my first company. When I came up with Caféine Pushers, all the process, the softwares, the logistics and the partnerships were available and had been established. What consumed all of my energy was to create a website and to make sure that the coffee bags were perfect between the graphic design, the branding, the material, the local printer, the manufacturing in China and the final labels. It required a lot of time and effort.
The accomplishment you’re the most proud of as an entrepreneur?
My ultimate pride as an entrepreneur is to have taken on the compostable coffee pods concept which had been snubbed by the biggest coffee suppliers in Montreal, and for which I have been called an idiot by all Italians drinking or selling coffee in Montreal when I decided to move forward with the project. Many people told me that it would never work. My biggest accomplishment is making it a product that works. In fact, I can say that by the end of July 2021, all of the 18 Première Moisson in Quebec will have our machines and our compostable coffee pods. In short, my greatest pride is now to snub everyone who said I would never be successful in this project.
What was your first company?
Any advice for young entrepreneurs?
As mentioned earlier, knowledge is trust. Be thirsty for knowledge. Knowledge is affordable here in Quebec at a small fee. Be confident in yourself and know that you can learn everything you want.
Treat yourself to the result of Taïna's obsession here.
By Corine Pinel, customer experience agent and former barista, the best in the game in terms of milk foam.