Simple Sanitizer: A Local Coffee Roaster's Pivot During COVID-19

As the country began to experience the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Compass Coffee, a Shaw-based coffee roaster with two Arlington locations in Rosslyn and Ballston, scrambled to save their business. 


Compass, founded by two Marines in 2014 after they returned from Afghanistan, saw stores clearing out, and felt the fear not only personally, but from their teams, customers, and community partners.  They knew they had to do something to save their business and employees.  Simple Sanitizer started out as a late-night idea when Compass first realized the pandemic was coming and was going to hit hard.

“We have a syrup production and bottling line that we use to create the cherry blossom, lavender honey, almond butter, and other Simple Syrups that our customers love,” said Kuran Malhotra, Director of Corporate Development at Compass.  “What we quickly realized was that the same equipment could be used to create and package hand sanitizer! We quickly began sourcing the materials needed from around the world, and building out the tools we needed to make Simple Sanitizer a reality. 


The Arlington County government requested proposals for hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer to provide for first responders and Compass was awarded a contract. The Compass team worked around the clock to build a new supply chain and to source the necessary ingredients.


“The Arlington County government inspired us to make Simple Sanitizer,” said Malhotra. “They were one of our first customers, and were the catalyst for this entire product line, which has helped so many individuals, first responders, and other small businesses.”


Thanks to this contract, Compass was able to quickly pivot its business to meet the need in the community.  


“Ask me seven months ago and making hand sanitizer would have never crossed my mind,” Malhotra said when asked if he ever expected the situation COVID forced upon Compass. “The best advice I’d have for anyone looking to pivot is to keep an open mind, but never lose sight of the mission you’ve set out on. For us, that mission is to make peoples’ days better.  ”I never imagined when I first started as a Barista that we’d be carting around drums of Isopropyl Alcohol,” he said. “But it’s been a challenging, exciting, and incredibly rewarding journey, and I’m so proud to have worked on Simple Sanitizer, and in service of our mission.”


Compass also received a small business GRANT from Arlington County.  They plan to use the GRANT to fund two new programs to support the community and their business during the remainder of the pandemic. The first is to roll out Compass Delivery to offices and homes around the cafés. People can get a taste of their regular routine at home, with a fresh drink or pastry delivered to their door. They are also finalizing a K-Cup and Espresso Capsule production line, so customers can enjoy Compass Coffee in a single-serve package while they work from home.

Topic: Company Spotlight, COVID-19 Resources
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