The biggest part of my morning was a series of interviews I did for Julie Beals of Fresh Cup Magazine. The interview was supposed to be about home roasting, but we ended up talking about a variety of subjects, including one of my pet missions these days... how the SCAA can become a year round organization serving all its members.
My chief criticism of the org lately has been about their "all eggs in one basket" mentality that doesn't serve the .org well or its membership. I am talking about the event I'm at - conference and the trade show. Great event, lots of fun, lots of info and educational opportunities.
But the show is also a hardship to many smaller players in the industry because it costs so much to attend. And the show is a hardship to the .org itself because, if they have a bad conference year (like they did in Miami), it could sink the SCAA battleship. That's not good.
I floated an idea to Beals that I've been talking about in my "circles" for some time. Why isn't the SCAA capitalizing on a golden egg they have sitting right in their paws - Regional Barista Championships.
They have six or seven active right now, and there's supposed to be ten events around the country each year. Why not turn these regionals into a 3 or 4 day Regional SCAA event, complete with seminars, hands on training, and the competitions. Start the event off with a Barista Jam, then go into two days of educationals (including the cupping workshops, brewing workshops, roasting workshops, yada yada) then roll into a one or two day regional barista competition to end it off.
I further expanded on the concept. Almost all the workshops the SCAA is famous for have multiple levels. A beginner level, intermediate, and sometimes a master level.
Further, the SCAA has some real brand recognition with regards to its seminars and workshops. Whereas other trade shows involving coffee pay little heed to educational events at their shows (and when they do, they tend to be more profit driven for the seminar presenter, and not necessarily educational), the SCAA's educational tracks are consider the gold standard in this industry.
So the concept I came up with was pretty obvious once vocalized... do the beginner and maybe even the intermediate seminars at these regional events throughout the year. Then save the intermediates and masters programs for the annual conference. A feeder system to get more people to conference for the upper tier training.
Money... always talked about. Who's going to pay for it. Well, one would hope that a well organized structure of regional workshops and seminars, tied in with regional barista competitions and a jam will become not only self-supporting, but add to the coffers of the SCAA so that they are no longer solely tied to membership dues and the annual conference to fund them throughout the year.
Big thinking, and even bigger effort to get it rolling, but I can't think of a better way for the SCAA to
- stop membership churn, especially in the retailers sector
- better address its membership needs and wants
- achieve the SCAA's own stated misson statements and goals
- diversify the stranglehold that conference has on the .org's overall health.
Than do move to a yea round, regionally focused trade organization.