Customer Service And A Cup Of Coffee: How One Small Business Stands Out

coffee cup
Reading Time: 2 minutes

John Hupp knows that in today’s economy, a small business must stand out.

In his nearly 11 years in business as the president of a coffee equipment and supply distributor, Hupp has applied that mantra in his daily work at DC Coffee Products in Divernon, Illinois. Before striking out on his own, he worked for coffee giant Bunn, and was allowed to work at home as a distributor after the birth of his second child. When he went into business on his own as a sole proprietor, he continued to sell Bunn, but added companies as diverse as Cecilware, Newco and Wilbur Curtis to his stock. Today, he sells equipment, coffee, flavored syrups and other supplies directly to coffee lovers across the United States.

“The coffee industry is set up just like the auto industry,” Hupp said. “You can’t buy your equipment from the industry if you’re not a dealer.”

That means that the equipment needed for zombie-like workers across America to fill their cups with a liquid jolt of caffeine comes in to Hupp, and he deals directly with the customers. At every turn, Hupp said, he attempts to provide customer service his competitors can’t. He is David with a coffee cup, standing against Goliaths.

That leads into his quick answer when asked what the biggest challenge was for his small business.

“The biggest challenge is all the competition that’s out there. There’s a lot of distributors throughout the nation,” he said. “(Hupp achieves separation) by trying to answer the phone every time it rings and providing great customer service. That’s the only thing that separates us, and now manufacturers have been sending end users my way because of distributors not taking care of their customers.

So that’s the difference maker for DC Coffee Products?

“Yeah, you have focus on customer service. That’s the only thing that will separate you from the next guy,” Hupp responded.

What’s changed in his business since it began more than a decade ago? Many customers are choosing to repair instead of replace busted coffee systems as the economy pinches them. DC Coffee Products has also been replacing “a lot” of coffee services in offices, replacing the traditional practice of buying metric tons of coffee and using a company’s equipment as a perk.

“Folks are starting to get away from that type of business, and they’re coming right to us for those,” Hupp said.

Business and the economy being what they are, Hupp turned to Direct Capital to help him sort out cashflow issues from “slow” hospital and government pay orders. As someone who prizes customer service, Hupp said he was pleased with the service he received for his financing, which has gotten him through his cashflow issues at the moment.

Our interview ended after that when I heard another line ringing in the background. I let the polite, well-spoken distributor go knowing he was off to do what he does best: Answer a phone call and win a customer.

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