Vincent Emery ’26
Vincent Emery '26 is the founder of the Lil' Rhody Coffee Company. Photography by Alex Gagne.
Student entrepreneur brews success with Lil’ Rhody coffee startup
Jul 01, 2024, by Jennifer Skuce Spira

Inside a nondescript warehouse bounded by aged brick mills in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, something new is brewing. The Lil’ Rhody Coffee Company, an upstart helmed by Vincent Emery ’26, is creating a splash in the regional coffee market.

The Bryant rising junior and Student Government Association president — a self-described “coffee nerd” who drinks five lattes a day — founded the company in 2022, while still a senior in high school. It was profitable within four months.

“I’m shocked we did it that quickly,” he admits, adding his thoughts on the power of entrepreneurship: “When you create a business, you own your destiny.”

While Emery’s parents are largely hands-off, they do pitch in twice a week for aromatic roasting days, filling 12-ounce bags — up to 700 per week — for sale online and at local retailers, including the Newport mansions gift shops.

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There’s a conscious effort to work sustainably; using air roasting, for instance, produces 80 percent less carbon emissions than traditional processes. In May, Emery earned a $5,000 grant to further develop his carbon capture roasting technology. The bean varietals originate from tropical locales such as Kenya and Honduras, but the brand stays true to the Ocean State, with blends labeled Rocky Point, Big Blue Bug, and Federal Hill (his favorite).

Emery’s path to coffee entrepreneurship began in early childhood, with sips from his family’s stovetop moka pot. That early supping progressed to steady sampling when they embraced the Keurig craze.

“To know that on Christmas morning, families were opening my product as a gift — that hit differently.”

At 15, though, urban coffee shops activated an obsession. “On my dad’s work trips to Boston, I’d tag along and we’d always get coffee,” recalls Emery, who also cites his Italian genes as an influence. “I was drinking $9 coffee brewed in a way I’d never been exposed to.”

He pored over books and articles to understand the complex evolution of bean to beverage. The biggest takeaway: freshness fosters flavor. To that end, Lil’ Rhody uses just-in-time manufacturing to ensure a fast journey from field to customer.

“Coffee is perishable, just like fruit or a cut of meat,” explains the Global Supply Chain major, who never has more than a month’s worth of raw beans in inventory.

Emery aspires to innovate his industry and grow coffee within U.S. shores — primarily to stabilize the supply in uncertain times — but that requires expensive R&D that is likely 20 years off. For now, the growth of this startup is driven by very real successes, like a robust holiday season: “To know that on Christmas morning, families were opening my product as a gift — that hit differently."

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