Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverages but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Philip Goodlaxson, owner of Corvus Coffee Roasters, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Corvus Coffee is a coffee sourcing and roasting company in Denver, Colorado. Our mission is to transform farmers into artisans and change the future prospects for them and their families in the process.
We do this by working directly at origin and view sourcing as relationship building versus seeking out products. To this end, most of our relationships go back 7-10 years, and we visit all producers we work with every year (in non-covid times). We've worked hard to extend the customer journey and the "runway" for where we can take a farmer beyond just "great" coffees at 2x - 3x the commodity price and have begun challenging ourselves to re-imagine the new high end of specialty coffee. We've been developing and finding coffees for our exotic and reserve lines that are extremely rare and high quality and command equally high prices. These are exciting not just because of the quality but because of the impact on the producer it has to further differentiate themselves.
It's been equally exciting to see the response among the "Corvus Clan," our customers. As we've expanded into coffees that can be as high as $180 per pound, we've had to limit access to these drops. We have created a "reserve club" for people who want to purchase these coffees before they sell out in a weekend. We're aiming to be the roaster who redefines what "high-end" is in the specialty, challenging the industry to continue pushing and stoking the hunger for change - positively impacting farmers in the process.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in a self-employed family, and I got the advice often and early on "find what you want your daily work to be, and that's how you'll find success." It's the idea that focusing on what you want to do - how you want to impact and interact with the world - is more productive than focusing on what you want to BE.
I went to school for marketing. I love the idea of the art behind a brand - conveying mission, vision, and culture clearly and quickly through visuals and engaging communication. Still, I slowly tried defining this "daily work" that would keep me engaged. I wanted something I defined as a craft, a skill that can never truly be mastered. I also loved flavor and smell but wasn't cooking much back in college, so I wasn't aiming towards culinary fields. Most of all, I loved the idea of one's work that accomplished all a persons' financial goals having a positive impact on the world seamlessly. I didn't want to find a way to make tons of money and then give back to charity.
I started getting interested in coffee in college. I started going to Starbucks for lunch (the only coffee shop), tasting their batch coffee, and comparing it to notes on the bags on the wall. This led to more interest in tasting coffee. I randomly wandered into the Intelligentisias shop across from Millenium Park in Chicago around this time. I had my perspective totally widened as to what coffee was. I remember a photo of their head roaster with his arm around a farmer, and the story of their relationship, roasting this coffee, and the coffee in bags below and available to try on the bar.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I feel like there are more accomplishments I feel we need to pursue than progress we've made. The people who have worked here and do work here with whom I have great relationships are at the top - and the same with farmers who I've worked with for a long time and consider good friends. When we positively impact people, that's the point of business, and I'm learning more about how to do this well. I feel like I still have a lot to learn in this regard.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
When people disappoint you - or you disappoint people. Kind of the inverse of the above. It can be pretty isolating to own a business, and I've had a few people who were less than upfront with me about their intentions and motives. Remaining positive and believing in people and not being jaded by a few is critical to moving forward, but it's not as easy done as said.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Start something you would be willing to do for free:
- Because you probably will be doing it for free for a while.
- Because if you're pursuing something that gives you work you really love every day, you'll probably do it well and succeed despite adversity.
Reject, and seek out false opinions in regards to things people accept as mutually exclusive. The most value can be found in taking two ideas that are commonly accepted as "at odds" with each other or a false choice and finding a way to get the most of both. This can apply to things like quality vs. speed, profit vs. impact, etc.
Become very comfortable with self-assessment. It seems like our default is to believe every good thing we hear about ourselves and dismiss every negative thing we hear. If this is the MO of someone starting a business, they will likely end up one of the 1,000's of former business owners shouting into the heavens about the unfairness of the world - believing they had the perfect product (because "everyone loved it"). Care about the criticism more than the praise.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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