This is the blog wherein I give business advice that I completely ignore myself. “Do as I say,” so to speak.
In 2007 I purchased my first commercial coffee roaster, formed a DBA called B-town Beans, and proclaimed myself a business owner. I had low overhead, low expectations and no intention of quitting my day job. I was just out to have some fun roasting coffee. I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly competitive person. However, once I started selling coffee and getting some wholesale accounts, the business took on a life of its own. I got addicted to success and growth. The more accounts I landed, the more I wanted.
Somewhere in the second year of business I decided that I would no longer put my personal money into the business. Up to that point, I had funded everything with cash from my day job. Somehow, things worked out. By year three I was not only not putting my money into the business, I was making money. When I finally sold out to a competitor, I saw for the first time that I could actually build a business that could replace my day job. In retrospect, that is exactly what I should have done.
I always knew when I sold B-town that I would be back in the roasting business some day. It’s just one of those things that clicks with me; I can’t walk away. However, I did not think I would be back in business this soon. I launched Motorhead last year, partly out of desperation to find some peace of mind and sanity, partly because I missed the work. There were a few things I swore I would not do if I started another coffee business. The first thing I didn’t want to do again was use my own money. So far I’ve broken rule #1. Right now I need to spend about $27,000…anybody want to invest?!
The second thing I said I would not do again was to go into business part-time. By the time I sold B-town, I was working around 80-90 hours a week. I worked every day. I came home from the day job and headed to the shop. I stayed there, roasting, packaging, delivering until about 7:30-8 each night. I ran the business all day Saturday, all day Sunday…and my motorcycles collected dust and my gear got tangled in cobwebs. When family or friends came to visit, I said, “Sorry, I’ve got to roast coffee.” It got a little old. When the business sold, I took a promotion in Louisville with the same company. Basically, I chose Corporate America safety over the risk and reward of entrepreneurship. And I hate Corporate America. I hate Goliath; I’m a David kind of guy. But…I sold out for the easy path, a decision I will always regret. Now, here I am again, working the day job, with even more hours than before…and trying to roast coffee part-time. Some people never learn!
I don’t normally watch the show “Shark Tank.” I have only seen it once or twice. I just happened to catch an episode earlier this year while I was in the hospital waiting for my daughter to deliver my newest grandson. There was a Dr. on the show who came to present an idea. She had a good idea. The panel appeared interested. When questioned about how she planned to proceed, she made it clear that she was not going to stop practicing medicine. She would hire others to make the business work; she was not going to give up her safety net. One of the members of the panel said something that rang in my mind for days; “If you don’t believe enough in your idea to commit to it, how can you expect us to?”
So, my advice to those of you who want to be in business for yourself is this: once you’ve done your due diligence and determined you have an idea that makes sense, a product or service that the consuming public wants, step back for a minute and decide how much you really believe in it. Enough to wade into the water without a life jacket? I’m not talking about being stupid and abandoning all common sense. I’m talking about committing. Taking a chance. Removing regrets. Generating a plan to build your new life…and dedicating yourself to it, come Hell or high water.
Listen, it will never get easier. There will never be a better time. You will talk yourself out of it until one day you will look back at life and say, “Well shit. I’ve wasted the one thing I can’t get back… time.” Nike says, “Just Do It.” I’m not saying, “Just Do It,” but if you do decide to “Do It,” then, do yourself a favor and …and Just Do It!
Me? Who knows. I need $27k and a building. I’ve got a couple locations in the general area that I wouldn’t mind setting up shop in. One in Indiana, the other in Kentucky. Certified organics on the offering list again. Wholesale mostly, walk-in retail, maybe. Establish a market in Florida eventually too. Name? Not Motorhead. It would likely be reduced to a private label of the larger business. If I ever decide to “Just Do It,” you will know: just google Black Sheep Roasting. If a website comes up with my ugly mug on it, “I did it!”