This Creator Spotlight features Kaitlin Higgins from Rebel Dog Coffee Co. A small coffee company in Connecticut with two locations, Rebel Dog is an awesome shop that’s focused on their local community, using high quality products, and exceptional customer service. Kaitlin is the creative mind behind Rebel Dog’s marketing and branding.    

Kaitlin engages with Rebel Dog customer in the store, but she also has a strong online presence on platforms like Instagram to share stories about the company and connect with community members in lots of other ways. I got a chance to talk to Kaitlin and hear more about the ways in which she uses storytelling online to help grow the Rebel Dog community.

Hey Kaitlin! We’re so excited to have you here for this interview. Could you start by talking to me about how you got involved with Rebel Dog?

I started working when the company first opened in February of 2017. I had just gotten back from grad school and wanted a part time job while I was looking for my career. I always enjoyed working in coffee shops and I thought this would be a cool, in the middle kind of step. I started working as a part time barista for Rebel Dog and after about a year I started taking on more social media and community outreach. It started with me taking pictures and sending them to the owner to post on Instagram and after we expanded to two locations, the Instagram got passed on to me. After we got our initial designs from a creative agency, I took over our marketing and branding. Part of this job is that I fell into it, but part of it is things I always wanted to do and I got to create it for myself.

How important do you think it is to share the story of the company with customers?

It’s definitely one of the most important tools we have, especially as a small business in the coffee industry. It’s a great way of storytelling. I think for me personally, my approach to the specialty coffee industry is very based in the human stories and human interest. With specialty coffee, it helps if you can explain why you might pay more for it and that there are real people depending on it using storytelling. Being able to use social media to tell those stories is hugely important for me and my role in the coffee industry. It’s also really important as a business that when you make a decision you can turn it into a story to share.

What are your favorite digital storytelling and social media tools? Insta? FB?

Instagram is definitely one of our biggest tools. I love Instagram stories and how interactive they’ve become. You can do poles, ask questions or for suggestions, and get responses. Every season we launch a set of seasonal flavors and this summer I posted a bunch when we were experimenting with different things in the week leading up to the launch. I posted people’s guesses to hype them up and get them really interested. When we dropped the post about our seasonal drinks I think it got a lot more attention and interaction than similar posts because of that. I’ve also loved being able to re-share and repost people’s stories and comment on their posts. It also expands our community beyond just the coffee shop to this online space. Why post super staged photos of your own things when you can repost people’s pictures and take the awesome things they’re are saying and share it with the world!

What has been the hardest part about trying to grow the community?

I think that getting people to care about the specialty coffee aspect has been a difficult part. A lot of people see us as a counter service restaurant rather than a coffee shop. We want to be welcoming and approachable but we also want to remind people that we’re a coffee shop first. We try to use social media to share those human stories and stories about coffee production and prices. I’m constantly working to make the educational posts about the coffee industry more approachable and engaging for people and catch their attention on the things that really matter for us.

What’s your favorite thing about working at Rebel Dog?

One of my favorite things about working here is that it’s been the same core staff of five of us from the very beginning. The baristas and one of the owners are in our 20s and we all have grown with this business and feel very dedicated to its growth. We’ve all grown into positions with more responsibilities like me with the social media or others becoming store managers. We all started at the same time and now we’re all so close, and we’re still here. We’re all really dedicated to it.

It’s also the customers as well. We have a lot of really great, loyal customers. Sometimes they’ll overhear us talking about something and they’ll come back to help. A really great story was that one of the baristas working said she forgot to put deodorant on in the morning and an hour later one of our regulars came back and had gotten her some deodorant. Someone was helping us fix our printer yesterday because he overheard us talking about it. It’s that reciprocal thing that we care about them and they care about us. The relationship building and seeing relationships being built because of our business is awesome.

How did you start using Kapwing?

We want to try and start using more video content. We just got cups branded for us and they look really cool and we’re really excited about it. To start letting people know about them, I wanted to make a cool stop motion of one cup. That was the idea I had and after I took the pictures I was like, oh, how do I put this together. I found Kapwing just by looking for a site that would easily let put it together. I think tools like this are great for me because I’m learning a lot of other software as I go and I don’t have a strong background in video editing. It’s been super helpful for me to have something that’s so easy to use and that creates content that’s cool and engaging.

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to grow a community using digital storytelling tools and social media?

I think you’ve got to show that you’re responsive and engaged on social media and when you’re telling these stories that you’re following up and being open to questions. It’s also important to be transparent about the decisions you’re making and the things your company values. I think that’s a trend in general that businesses are seeing, being transparent, being local, being sustainable, and being honest, for me has been working really well.

This article is part of a series that features creators, the projects they’re working on, and how they use digital storytelling tools like Kapwing to share their messages with the world. Are you a creator who’s interested in being featured in a spotlight? Shoot us an email at [email protected]