Alumni don’t snooze on coffee idea

Credit Deland Jessop’s wife for helping brew up an idea that, by the year’s end, could rake in $1 million. The idea? Coffee that puts you to sleep.

Market research has shown women, in particular, drink coffee to relax, said Jessop, who graduated from Ivey Business School’s MBA program in 2002.

Partnering with coffee roaster and connoisseur Joseph Fernandes, as well as Ivey classmates Kalpesh Rathod and Adam Cooper, Jessop recently launched Counting Sheep Coffee, a company that markets a roast mixed with valerian root – a natural sedative to help consumers hit the hay.


Their brand is the first – and only – of its kind on the market. Their motto is catchy:

“The best way to start your day is now the best way to end it.”

And now, the idea is catching on.

“My wife is a horrible sleeper, but she loves coffee. A number of times she’s said, ‘I’d love a cup of coffee, but it will keep me up.’ And so I came up with the idea,” said Jessop, who once worked as a police officer and now teaches entrepreneurship and marketing in the School of Management at Langara College in Vancouver.

“I got a bunch of different types of decaf, a bunch of different roots and herbs and, after a bunch of failed attempts, we nailed it with organic coffee and valerian root.

“My wife was a guinea pig for this and I knew I had something when she started asking for it on a regular basis,” he continued.

While he tested other sedatives, like chamomile and lavender, in his kitchen lab, valerian root was a good fit; its bitter taste goes well with coffee, without changing its taste, he explained.

Jessop and Fernandes recently appeared on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, where all five of the Dragons presented them with an offer. The two asked for $10,000 in exchange for a 5 per cent equity stake. They accepted an on-air offer from Arlene Dickinson and Bruce Croxon, who offered a 5 per cent royalty rather than equity on the episode, which aired March 19. The deal, however, didn’t close.

It’s not that there was any conflict, Jessop said, it just didn’t work out after a number of phone calls. Even so, Counting Sheep Coffee has taken off, and its appearance on Dragon’s Den has only left the idea of a snooze-inducing coffee in the minds of Canadians who watched the episode.

Counting Sheep Coffee is already on retail shelves. Bed Bath & Beyond will soon carry the coffee in all of its 1,500 stores across the United States. It is already available in its 39 stores across Canada, in bags and in K-cups. A number of other retailers are knocking at the door, Jessop added, among them Loblaw Companies. And that’s just the start.

“Feedback has been phenomenal. During demos, people are buying it on the spot. It’s an idea that when you think about it, people have wanted for a long time but it never existed,” Jessop said.

“It’s exciting watching it go. I think we will do over a million in sales by the end of the year,” he added, noting they’ve invested roughly $150,000 in the company so far.

Jessop, who upon graduation co-founded Dekalam Hire Learning, one of the fastest growing companies in Canada in 2002, thinks Counting Sheep Coffee could become a full-time gig. In the meantime, he hopes to continue teaching, and is even using his experience as fodder in the classroom.