Erin Newkirk, who once fueled her entrepreneurial drive at Caribou Coffee outposts, is highlighting “the goodness that’s inherent in Caribou” as the company’s vice president and head of global brand strategy.
Newkirk, who joined Caribou this month, brings more than two decades of marketing and brand-management experience along with her record as a successful entrepreneur and effective strategist to the country’s second-largest coffee chain.
“There hasn’t been a more positive time at Caribou Coffee,” Newkirk said in an interview. “From top to bottom it’s doing really exceptionally well.”
That positive outlook, Newkirk said, stems from Caribou’s continuing pursuit of its mission, “to create day-making experiences that spark a chain-reaction of good.”
Newkirk’s brand-management career began at General Mills, after earning an MBA at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
In 2007, Newkirk founded Red Stamp, a mobile correspondence app that had 2 million users when Taylor Corp. acquired it in 2013. Newkirk, who stayed on as Red Stamp CEO until 2016, recalled putting in long hours at Caribou’s original coffeehouse in Edina and other locations in launching that venture.
Newkirk since has served as founding chief marketing officer at Minneapolis-based health insurance startup Bright Health, advised meal-kit company Local Crate and most recently launched Satya, an advisory practice for startups.
“Caribou is a brand capable of disrupting our sector and improving lives,” John Butcher, president and CEO of Caribou Coffee, said in an announcement. “We are particularly fortunate to find a leader like Erin that already embraces mirrored values of the Caribou brand and company culture.”
Caribou Coffee, founded in 1992, has more than 300 company-owned locations nationally, more than 120 license locations in 22 states and more than 270 international franchise stores in 11 countries.
Q: How will your entrepreneurial experience apply at Caribou?
A: Nowadays people want to spend their money in ways that give back to what they’re trying to do, their family, the causes they care about. The brands and the companies that are succeeding are the ones that can recognize that and make their experience and their product and their services about the people that surround that business, the guest, the team. What’s so exciting about Caribou is it still has that passion and purpose of the early days, the days of the [Kim and John Puckett] founding it. I’m excited to bring that back to Caribou.
Q: How can the brand help drive growth?
A: People invest in the brands that they care about, that take care of them and take care of their needs and wants and passions. Brand-building is storytelling for sure but it’s also highlighting the good work that’s being done at the company already. So being able to highlight a lot of the goodness that’s inherent in Caribou is going to be where I focus those efforts first.
Q: What differentiates the Caribou brand?
A: I want to make sure we’re all being thoughtful to make sure we’re doing right by the guest, the team and the quality. It’s important to people that the coffee that’s served to them is not just about convenience. It’s about the taste and the practices that are used to bring that cup of coffee to them. Caribou is the only coffee that’s 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified. You can feel really good about drinking a cup of coffee from Caribou.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.