Our home products buyer first discovered Fellow in New York where founder Jake Miller was exhibiting some of his early products, including the Stagg EKG Electric Kettle. The combination of beautiful design and thoughtful engineering made the Stagg kettle a perfect product for the Museum Store, and when we found out that Fellow is located in San Francisco’s Mission District, we knew it was meant to be!
Since then, Fellow’s line has expanded to include Carter, a cup that’s a favorite of SFMOMA staff and customers; Monty, an espresso cup cleverly designed with a parabolic slope that lifts cream to the top for perfect latte art; Clara, a French press with thoughtful extras; and the brand’s latest product, the Ode Brew Grinder, which brings barista-level grinds to your kitchen.
With all these innovative designs coming from the Fellow team, we had to find out more! Jake was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Q: How and when did Fellow get its start?
A: Fellow is the result of a passion for coffee colliding with a passion for design. In 2013, I launched a Kickstarter campaign with the intention to make a beautifully designed product for brewing ridiculously good coffee, which was the Duo Coffee Steeper. After eight months, countless prototypes, and nearly $200K in pre-sales, we turned the success of the campaign into the Fellow brand. What people don’t know is that the original Kickstarter campaign cost us $300,000 just to fulfill the orders. It was almost over before it started! Thankfully, we survived and pushed on. Since then, Fellow has developed an extended portfolio of intuitively designed coffee-brewing products for coffee aficionados and the coffee curious alike.
Q: Who is Jake and where do you get the inspiration for your awesome ideas? We are struck by how carefully designed and engineered the products are – some details are invisible at first glance but really separate your products from the other options on the market. What are your design criteria?
A: I’m Jake Miller, Fellow’s founder. I fell in love with coffee while working at Caribou Coffee in Minnesota. I was able to work with roast masters and travel to coffee-producing countries. This foundation uniquely positioned me to understand the pain points and needs of home baristas and coffee lovers. During grad school, my curiosity started to grow about whether I could build a coffee maker that brewed my preferred flavor profile and improved on previous brewing methods. That’s where the Kickstarter for the Duo Coffee Steeper was born.
I am passionate about designing beautifully functional products for both brewing beginners and world coffee champions alike. We believe this passion and understanding, now shared with a team of designers, is what separates us from other products in our industry. Making is in my DNA, I’m always curious about why products are the way they are and how Fellow can make them better. Fellow was dreamed up with the spirit of never having to choose between aesthetics and functionality, and I want to make sure we continue to help everyone find the fun in the craft of brewing.
Q: Our buyer recalls that when he first saw the Stagg EKG it was your only product. Is his memory correct?
A: SFMOMA believed in Fellow before almost anyone else. SFMOMA was one of the first retailers to carry Fellow and helped build our brand when we were only three employees. We’ll be forever grateful for the partnership. Although Stagg EKG wasn’t our first product, it was certainly the product that put us on the map! We talk a lot about striving for “beautifully functional” design at Fellow. To us, that means the product’s design earns a place on the countertop due to its form AND incorporates functional performance that meet the needs of world-champion baristas around the globe. We think that Stagg EKG achieved this goal, and years later the market now seems to agree.
Q: Where is Fellow headed?
A: Fellow is constantly trying to introduce more people to specialty coffee through approachable design. Unfortunately, specialty coffee culture can be both overwhelming and intimidating. We are trying to break down those barriers so anyone on the planet can say, “Hey, I think I can do this myself at home!” We are designers at heart, so as you can imagine we have a lab full of prototypes and products in development. Be on the lookout for more to come. And, as always, we’ll be approaching SFMOMA with our newest designs, just like we did when we first met in 2015.