Kyndra Martin-Cobb and Andrew Sparks

Seniors Kyndra Martin-Cobb and Andrew Sparks combine their love of coffee and camping with Cape Ridge Coffee

Standing next to Kyndra Martin-Cobb, her boyfriend, Andrew Sparks, prepared a cortado for me on their Breville Barista Express. I could smell the freshly roasted coffee from the door of Andrew's college room as the liquid dripped over the cup.  

That day, Kyndra and Andrew granted me an interview to discuss their recent experience creating their own coffee brand, Cape Ridge Coffee 

Kyndra is a senior Nursing student from Raleigh, North Carolina and Andrew is a senior Business Administration and Psychology student from Cape Town, South Africa 

Cape Ridge Coffee is owned and operated by Kyndra, with Andrew providing business insight on a volunteer basis. The company delivers specialty grade coffee to customers directly after roasting to assure they can enjoy the best cup of premium coffee during camping or other outdoor expeditions. 

For the first time, I was about to taste a cup of their medium-light roast Blue Ridge Blend, which had been roasted and shipped to them one week before.  

“Here you go,” said Andrew, handing me the cortado as we headed towards the dining table to start the interviewLet me know how you like it; I just did it a little milky.” 

With my eyes closed, I took a long inhale to smell the rising steam and finally took a sip. As their page had promised, the Blue Ridge Blend definitely tasted like “watching the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains.” 


The motivation to start their own brand of coffee came from the couple’s shared passion for coffee. “We both really like coffee,” said Kyndra. “We both have got into going to coffee shops and into trying the local stuff.” 

In the early stages of the company’s creationAndrew and Kyndra had a simple but original concept in mind: creating a coffee brand targeted at hikers and campers.  

Studying at Lees-McRae College, in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Andrew and Kyndra developed a mutual love for the outdoors and the mountains. The idea of a coffee for hikers and campers helped them combine their passion for the outdoors and their passion for coffee. 

“When we are camping, the first thing we pack in is the coffee,” said Andrew. 

Kyndra and Andrew know firsthand the difficulty of making a fresh cup of coffee in the cold foggy Appalachian mornings during a camping trip. “People always try to be creative on how to make a coffee in the wild,” said Kyndra.  

Cape Ridge Coffee would eventually offer adventurers an accessible way to enjoy a cup of freshly roasted coffee during a cold morning, but Kyndra and Andrew had a long and challenging journey to get from the concept stage to making the company a reality.  

Their entrepreneurial spirit and intense passion for coffee did not erase the difficulties of diving for the first time into the business world. Materializing the idea of Cape Ridge Coffee would require many hours of paperwork, branding design, and coffee tasting. 

Andrew had attempted some small entrepreneurial endeavors in the past. His former experiences included a prototype clothing line and a homemade pizza company.

Kyndra’s experience with running a company was limited. Her mom ran a business when she was a kid; however, as a nursing student, Kyndra found the business world “very foreign.”  

Cape Ridge Coffee would become Kyndra's “first legitimate, registered government business,” as Andrew described it. 

Circumnavigating the obstacles of establishing their own coffee brand was a learning experience for both Kyndra and Andrew.  

“That’s the main thing here,” said Andrew, “to learn how to run a company.” 

One of their first challenges was to navigate through the bureaucracy of registering a business, like filing a limited liability company form (LLC). “Filing all the forms and talking to government agencies on how to register” was difficult, according to Andrew. 

For Andrew, the most challenging aspect of helping Kyndra create Cape Ridge Coffee was “integrating all I have learned at Lees-McRae,” Andrew explained.  

In some ways, Cape Ridge Coffee became Andrew’s final exam. This experience allowed him to put all the knowledge that he had acquired over the past four years studying business into practice 

During the creation of Cape Ridge Coffee, the long hours of accounting with Associate Professor Glen Weaver and Associate Instructor Amy Anderson's social media marketing lessons became essential 

“In a large company, there are departments dedicated to all the different tasks require to run a business,” said Andrew. “In college, you only get an hour a day that you must dedicate to one task.” 

Still, creating the company was not all navigating bureaucracy and filling spreadsheets. As Kyndra explained, the fun part of running a coffee business is, of course, drinking coffee. 

The process of selecting the best blends for their brand was one of the most enjoyable steps in creating Cape Ridge Coffee. Kyndra and Andrew tasted countless samples from Colombia, Guatemala, Africa, and numerous other coffee-producing regions.  

“I still got a box in my room full of samples if you want some,” offered Andrew, letting out a stifled laugh. 

Kyndra treated the selection process as an experiment for one of her classes. “This is where the science portion of my background came into play,” she said.  

Like in a lab experiment, Kyndra and Andrew metrically measured factors such as the quantity of coffee, the date the coffee samples were roasted, and the amount of water. They prepared each coffee sample in a French press, following the same steps each time to ensure they select the best grains. 

After many cups of coffee, Kyndra and Andrew selected the five best blends. With the exception of the Guatemala Base Camp medium-roast blend, Kyndra and Andrew named each coffee blend after locations in the southern Appalachian region. 

The other four initial blends were named the Great Smokey Mountain blend, the Table Rock blend, the Blue Ridge blend, and the Shenandoah Valley blend. 

Kyndra and Andrew selected these names “to helped people connect with the ideas behind each coffee,” Kyndra explained. 

On April 3Cape Ridge Coffee became a reality 

The night before, Kyndra and Andrew finally launched the brand and opened the online store to the public. They celebrated this milestone at an Easter pop-up event in The Corner of Wake Forest in Raleigh. Coffee lovers, family, friends, and a lot of cappuccinos filled the day.  

Kyndra and Andrew prepared cappuccinos at the opening day event to allow customers to try the different blends. Visitors could taste the coffee and buy bags of freshly roasted beans. Those who purchased a cappuccino could take the price of the coffee off the bag.  

“Let the coffee speak for itself,” said Kyndra. 

As an online-based business, Cape Ridge Coffee can be run from any corner of the globe. The business model does not require Kyndra and Andrew any inventory or roasting equipment. 

Currently, Kyndra is in conversations with local clubs in the Banner Elk area to become distributors of Cape Ridge CoffeeShe is also exploring releasing a new decaf blend in the coming months.  

As their days at Lees-McRae come to an end, Kyndra and Andrew are eager to see how Cape Ridge Coffee will grow.

The first thing Kyndra and Andrew plan to do after graduation is pack their camping bags and enjoy a cup of their coffee in the mountains. 

Kyndra Martin-Cobb and Andrew Sparks sell coffee at the pop-up event. (Photo by Juan Sebastian Restrepo)
(Photo courtesy of Cape Ridge Coffee)

Get to know Kyndra 

What made you interested in nursing?  

When I was nine, I was there when my mom gave birth to my younger sister. I saw the nurses running around doing everything. The doctor came in for maybe 30 minutes and then left. It was the nurses that really took charge. I liked seeing how big their role was in the process. From that point on, I decided that was something I wanted to follow. 

Why did you choose Lees-McRae?  

It was my friend who told me about Lees-McRae. She was planning to come here for Wildlife Biology, and I found out they had a nursing major, which was the big thing I was looking for. I ended up touring Lees-McRae on a whim and loved it. I was able to speak with the dean of nursing, which was unique. Just everything about it was perfect. I knew that would be a good environment to learn in. 

Where will you be working after graduation?  

I’ll be working at Duke University Hospital in their NICU. It just so happened that I was placed in the NICU for an internship this summer at the same hospital, and it felt right. It’s so rewarding to see someone with all the odds stacked against them grow and thrive and go home with their family. 

How did you get involved on campus?  

I participated in our student nurse's association all four years. Last year I ended up being the vice president and this year I'm co-president with one of my classmates. I’m also a peer tutor. I started out tutoring biology and ended up tutoring writing on the side because they needed help with it. I eventually switched to primarily doing writing because I loved it. Tutoring has been one of my favorite experiences at Lees-McRae.  

What will you miss about Lees-McRae?  

My friends. I have a great friend group that I’ve built, in and out of the nursing school. There’s been a lot of times when my friends, my boyfriend, and I have just on a whim been able to leave the campus and go on a hike in PisgahBeing able to get away from the school aspect and get out into the mountains to hike, go to swimming holes, and just explore has been really amazing 

What advice do you have for future students?  

Take the classes early on very seriously. If you don’t have a good foundation, it’s all going to collapse. They expect you to know anatomy and physiology and microbiology when you go across the street.  

Get to know Andrew 

Why did you choose Lees-McRae?  

Mainly for the cycling team, for which I have raced all four years and many nationals. Studying in the United States allowed me to pursue my sport, while also studying and getting a degree—an opportunity that isn’t usually possible back home in South Africa because one is usually forced to choose between the two. Lees-McRae specifically stands out to me because you do not get this environment anywhere else in the world; I can wake up, walk 20 seconds to class where I am taught in a small class by experienced professors. After class, I can train in one of the best forests (Pisgah), which is right next door to the college. 

What drew you to your majors?  

I came in as a Business Administration major and took a few Psychology classes because I'm really interested in the topic. The professor then said that should probably go ahead and major in Psychology as I had almost enough credits. The same goes for the Finance minor.  

What is your plan after graduation?  

I will be attending SCAD (Savannah College for Art and Design) for a Masters of Art in Creative Business Leadership. I’m interested in doing something creative that is ever-changing and keeping me on my toes. I could see something in the business side of marketing or working with startups. 

What are some of your favorite memories from Lees-McRae?  

Racing for the cycling team that became my second family away from home. What we lack in maturity, we make up for with fun—which is why we have such a large number of graduates from the team. Class was also very fun sometimes with some comedic geniuses like Dr. Weaver creating a great learning environment for us.  

Did you complete an internship?  

Yes, I did event management at Linville Ridge Country Club. The whole experience was amazing and the manager there, fellow South African Rhys, catered to every learning experience—I even got to do some photography work for pay! I would highly recommend this particular internship experience. 

By Juan Sebastian Restrepo ’21May 05, 2021
Campus LifeAcademics