Green Mountain Coffee: Bob Stiller

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Twenty years ago, Bob Stiller, an entrepreneur with a liking for java, bought a coffee shop in Vermont. Mr. Stiller already had one profitable business behind him. In 1971, he co-founded Robert Burton Associates, marketer of e-z wider papers for rolling ... um ... tobacco, and sold it with his partners for $6.2 million in 1980.

Mr. Stiller, 58, has spent his career starting businesses, and his latest venture was more than just another coffee-brewing operation. He rolled out his business plan by selling wholesale coffee to local businesses and to consumers directly through mail order. Green Mountain Coffee grew to $84 million in annual revenue from sales to wholesalers, resellers and direct, with steady growth of 20% to 25% a year.

Green Mountain's strongest presence is on the East Coast. The company has expanded its reach through a core sales philosophy it calls "discovery" marketing, or sampling. The sampling team has up to 125 engagements a year, including sporting events and music festivals.

The company also employs some traditional media, with a 48-page direct mail catalog it distributes six times a year. Other advertising includes joint TV spots, with other Vermont organizations, in four Northeastern cities. Print ads appear in two Vermont magazines. All advertising is done in-house.

"We have established ourselves without traditional media campaigns," says Mr. Stiller, Green Mountain's chairman and president-CEO. "It's been a quality-product approach. We win over new customers when they try, and like, our products."

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