Founder & CEO, PK Coffee; Director of Business Development, PatientWisdom
It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. My goal is that PK Coffee is a space where people can come together and just connect as human beings.
It sounds like a daydream: Move to a quaint small town in Vermont and open a coffee shop. The coffee would be perfectly on point, the food Instagram-worthy, the café light and airy—modern, but accented with warm hardwoods. But then the phone vibrates, the kids demand attention, thoughts of work deadlines intrude: back to reality.
Not for Katrina Veerman T’01. The co-founder and CEO of PK Coffee in Stowe, Vermont, Veerman is indeed living the dream.
Veerman had spent more than a decade post-Tuck bouncing around the alternative energy sector, launching a green building practice for a property developer, doing solar project development in the Bay Area, and working in sales for a fuel cell manufacturer. Like anyone in sales and business development, Veerman spent lots of time traveling and taking meetings. “You figure out pretty quickly that coffee shops are the best places to do that,” she says.
San Francisco in the early- to mid-2000s saw the birth of third wave coffee, a movement that built upon the ubiquity of high-quality coffee by treating it as a craft to be mastered, the coffee itself an artisanal product with its own terroir. Blue Bottle Coffee, a chain of more than 50 shops which recently sold a majority stake to Nestle for a reported $425 million, got started in Veerman’s friend’s garage in Hayes Valley.
The idea for her own shop was still percolating in 2011 when Veerman was driving east from California and got word that her employer, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, had declared bankruptcy. “I thought, ‘Well OK! I now have some more free time,’” she laughs. “I’d always wanted to live in Vermont, so I’m going to go live in Vermont!”
Veerman had briefly lived in the Green Mountain State post-college as a rowing coach for Middlebury College, and a few years prior, she had connected with her birth father, who lived in Vermont. She’d also long had entrepreneurial ambitions, inspired by family—particularly her beloved great uncle Pierre Ketellapper, who had a coffee business in Belgium before and after World War II—and another brief post-college stint working for a nonprofit that supports women entrepreneurs.
New York and Boston were just starting to catch the third wave buzz, and Veerman saw the gap in the Vermont market. “There were only a few places in Vermont that understood that coffee is a product like wine,” she explains. “Vermont also has some of the best milk on the planet.”
Veerman worked on consulting projects while she waited for the coffee stars to align. She put out feelers for a business partner and eventually found Matt Carrell, a former teacher who she describes as “the most amazing human with the most amazing taste buds.”
Together, they found a coffee supplier in Counter Culture and a small Vermont family dairy, Sweet Rowan Farms. (Even today with one coffee shop, PK Coffee is the dairy’s largest customer.) The duo spent two years doing coffee pop-ups around Stowe as they waited for a space with the right combo of feel, price, and location, and then ultimately built out their shop. While the pop-ups didn’t really make a profit, they served an invaluable marketing and research function.
“We learned how much evangelists help,” says Veerman. “We built a network of visitors and locals who just fell in love with what we were trying to do and got it. We also learned it’s hard to make good coffee. Coffee’s influenced by humidity, temperature, age, how fresh it is. We needed a consistent product in a convenient location.”
Their shop opened in 2016, at a good crossroads to attract locals, but also the skiers and tourists who frequent the area. Carrell focuses on service, spending a lot of time managing and nurturing the staff at PK Coffee—which is named after Veerman’s great uncle—while Veerman handles the business side of the house and scouts additional locations for future shops, perhaps elsewhere in New England.
She recently also became director of business development at a startup called PatientWisdom, an online platform that is improving health and care by listening to patients and focusing on what really matters to them and providers as people. It gives her the flexibility to work part time while continuing to build PK.
How does the reality of owning a coffee shop line up with the fantasy?
“It is a dream,” insists Veerman. “It’s amazing to have created a physical location that I know has had a positive impact on me and on the town.”
But she is also quick to point out the reality that few like to talk about—the need to do whatever it takes to get things going: taking out garbage, bussing tables, cleaning sinks—and the challenges of being in the service industry. She’s grateful that her Tuck network has been so supportive.
“You’re not going to make the money you think you’re going to make, at least not right away,” says Veerman. “But it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. My goal is that PK Coffee is a space where people can come together and just connect as human beings. Every time I walk in, it’s awesome. In that way for me, it’s totally lived up to the fantasy.”
Meet Blair Crichton T’18, co-founder of Karana, a new whole-plant based meat company launched in Singapore.Read More
Meet Allobee Chief Strategy Officer Anne Forsyth English T’08
Allobee is connecting business owners nationwide to an underutilized workforce of experienced, professional women—a mission that deeply resonates with Chief Strategy Officer Anne Forsyth English T’08.
Meet Military Veteran and Fitfighter CEO Sarah Apgar T’11
A commitment to public service is a current that runs through T’11 Sarah Apgar’s career and education.Read More
Meet Peloton’s Chief People Officer Mariana Garavaglia T’08
At Peloton, Mariana Garavaglia T’08 is putting people, and culture, first.Read More
At Wayfair, Tuck alumna Laura Scott completely transformed the company’s operations. Now she’s dipping her toes into the startup world with Takeoff Tech.Read More
Every December, Lincoln Spoor T’84, CEO of Feel Good Brands Corp, delivers a truckload of Popcornopolis popcorn to first-year students during final exams.Read More
The Guru’s Wisdom
CarGurus founder Langley Steinert T’91 has plenty of good advice for budding entrepreneurs, but nothing is more important than loving what you do.Read More
With Everly, Juliet Horton T’14 is changing how couples plan their weddingRead More
How to Make a Successful Startup Pitch
In her seven years as a venture partner at LaunchCapital in Cambridge, Mass., Heather Onstott T’07 has heard about 1,000 pitches from startups.Read More
Susan Hunt Stevens
In 2006 Susan Hunt Stevens T'98 started a blog as a "a guide to going green without going berserk." Years later the idea evolved into WeSpire, a platform that uses technology and social media to promote sustainable living.Read More
CEO of Lixil Corporation Kinya Seto T'96 is leveraging his entrepreneurial smarts to tackle the global sanitation crisis.Read More
Kristiana Helmick T’98 has had three very different jobs in the last decade. And all at a single company: Amazon.Read More
Andrew Smith T'07 chose Tuck first because he was looking for a beautiful environment where he could spend time thinking about how to maximize his impact on big challenges in the world.Read More
Very few people can say that the shoe business is in their blood. Tom Slosberg D’90, T’99 is one of them.Read More
How to breathe new life into one of the country’s oldest companies? During his twenty years at King Arthur Flour Company, former president Steve Voigt T'86 did it by embracing people’s love of something timeless: baking.Read More
Poshmark co-founder Tracy Sun T’05 turned her love of fashion and psychology into a leading mobile commerce app. Shopping will never be the same.Read More
Gibson “Gib” Biddle
NerdWallet's Gib Biddle T'91 came to Tuck as a marketer, but then realized he was more of a builder.Read More
Bill McLaughlin D'78, T’81 is leading America’s oldest mail-order company into the digital future, while mentoring its next generation of leaders.Read More
Former investment banker Rohit Dugar T'07 is transforming his beer-brewing hobby into Hong Kong's first craft brewery—and using his Tuck experience to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship.Read More
Fluent in four languages and passionate about entrepreneurship, Michelle Mooradian D’95, T’04 went from her post-Tuck consulting job at Opera Solutions to spend almost five years working for McKinsey’s Rio de Janeiro office.Read More
For Jack O’Toole T’14, “building” and “contributing” are words to live by. As a Marine, he did both.Read More
Investor. Philanthropist. Entrepreneur. Roger McNamee T’82 is all of these and more in a career that has taken him to the top of the tech world.Read More
After graduating from Tuck, Barry Hume T'95 joined PepsiCo’s Boston-area operations as finance director—a position that quickly provided the opportunity for advancement, but with a difficult choice to make.Read More
Digital marketing was practically in the stone ages when Carly Rosenberg T'05 graduated from Tuck and went to work as a marketing manager at Saks Fifth Avenue.Read More
What's for dinner? Pantry, a new food retailer founded by Dennis Lasko T’08, has the answer.Read More
T’87 Jeff Coleman’s quest for better nutrition led him to a new, whole-food fuel for athletes and a surprising second act.Read More
Vice president of store operations, Leslie Hampel T’07 is helping chart a bold future for the coffee retailer.Read More
PureLiving China founder and CEO Louie Cheng T'03 is helping to improve indoor air quality in a country known for its pollution problems.Read More
CEO Jim Weber T’86 transformed Brooks Running Company from a dying shoe manufacturer into a premium running brand, and he’s not done yet.Read More
Joe Santos D'95, T'00 is the co-founder of the boutique, New York-based distillery Brooklyn Craft Works, and the creator of craft spirit Brooklyn Gin.Read More
According to Jacques-Philippe Piverger T'07, the one-word solution to energy poverty in developing countries, is Luci, a low-cost solar light.Read More
Former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz T’84 won people over—one eco-friendly piece of gear at a time—with a deeply held belief that doing good in the world is also good for the bottom line.Read More