After 10 years and 3000 posts on a well known coffee forum as firstly a member, and then secondly as a sponsor, I have quite a story to tell.
The heart and soul of the forum is a handful of “salt of the earth” hobbyists who are there to help others with fantastic advice. I really admire these members. There are members who buy coffee equipment on a budget and with the help of the community they find ways to brew magnificent coffee without that second mortgage. There are people who join up to say a quick hello and to share their experiences. Others join to ask questions about what to buy and who to buy from. There are also a number of coffee gear snobs on the forum who enjoy showing off their new coffee machines and gadgets. Of course there are the commercial players and the usual forum trolls as well but as a hobbyist they are very easy to ignore. I really enjoyed the forum as a member.
Becoming a forum sponsor was a real milestone. I has honestly expected a warm welcome but the reality of small business was about to hit me as I moved away from a hobby business and towards a serious business. It was soon very clear that the other sponsors just didn’t want me around.
I was harassed by a number of sponsors along with forum members with allegiances to “the old guard.” There were also a few new “members” with suspicious accounts. One sponsor continually called my posts out for “BS.” Another posted that I should “leave it to the professionals.” Another sponsor fed me misinformation off of the forum then called me out on the forum when I acted on the misinformation. The dramas played out on and off of the forum as I established my small business. It was a real battleground.
The forum’s Admin was a disappointment as I called out many times for support and was either brushed off or completely ignored. I felt like I was in a school yard being kicked by bullies and getting the classic “just ignore it” response. I recall one time when I was under attack from another sponsor and the advice from Admin truly was just these words: “Don’t Respond.” It was so frustrating.
One major conflict occurred when a very nice new machine arrived from Italy. Another sponsor didn’t want the machine on the scene in Australia so I was targeted in very nasty ways for selling it. Again, the forum’s Admin ignored my pleas and responded with something along the lines of “we build the sandpit, you to play in it.” Seriously, that was the response. It was all just so frustrating.
Another conflict occurred an ex-sponsor posted on the forum with a personal account. With this account the ex-sponsor continued to promote his own commercial interests (mostly Izzo). The sponsor also continued to hit me with his normal catch phrases including “bean K Beaned,” “box shipper” and various references to my “BS.” Amazingly, it looks like this ex-sponsor may still be posting away. Look for a trail of posts from that shamelessly promote Izzo coffee machines via praise, glowing reviews, re-direction of threads and off forum web links. Perhaps this is because this ex-sponsor imports Izzo coffee machines. Perhaps it is not. of course, I have no firm evidence, so I make no firm accusation.
Anyway, dodgy accounts are commonplace on the forum. They give people the chance to post with anonymity to promote their own interests, or to attack others. It’s a dirty business. At one point I decided to play the game as well. I fought very hard for a couple of years and battled the ongoing harassment. This took an enormous amount of energy and I paid a heavy emotional toll.
Anyway, I’m very happy to say that the forum is now well and truly in my rear view mirror. Away from the forum K Bean Coffee Machines has been living the dream. Seriously, it has been amazing, I’m one of the lucky few who has been able to turn a hobby and a passion into a business and I’m thankful for that every day.
To read about my very cool trek from coffee hobbyist to Melbourne coffee machine retailer please take a quick look at my Blog