Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Packy Tagliaferro, owner of Erro Coffee, located in Billings, Montana, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a community-driven coffee roaster that believes great coffee doesn't need to be an overly complicated drink reserved for elite coffee enthusiasts. This means our customers are your average Joe that prefers amazing coffee over their usual Folgers. What makes us' community-driven?' We donate to countless charities but focus on first responders in the communities where our coffee is bought all over the US, so if you buy our coffee, we literally help YOUR community. In 2022 we will be doing special roasts to "Save the West" that will go to help forest fires by donating coffee to the firefighters and forest conservation.
Our other market is people looking for an innovative option for marketing or gifts. We are the only small-batch roaster that has a team of designers to create amazing custom labels for orders over 15 bags all online. Our background has always been in design. Being able to provide custom designs for our clients and amazing coffee in a unique way has been incredibly fun and successful. In 2022, we plan on adding an AR (augmented reality) feature to our custom labels to really wow our client's customers, friends, family, or anyone. Imagine being able to give your wedding guests a party favor where the label links to a thank you video of you and your spouse? Or a realtor can give potential clients a bag of coffee with a link to all of their listings? We don't want to be just a great coffee roaster. We want to be a dynamic brand that pushes the envelope for what you would expect from a typical consumer good.
Tell us about yourself
I have always been a self-starter and came from a family that believed it's better to create a job than find one. I have worked in many fields, all self-taught, after graduating college, including motion pictures (art/set direction), graphic design, computer programming, and finally, coffee roasting.
I got into coffee roasting because I spent countless hours working remotely in coffee shops and hated the atmosphere and pretentiousness of most, if not all, coffee makers and shops. Why should I, the customer feel dumb simply because I didn't know every aspect of coffee? I didn't know what an Ethiopian vs. single-origin Nicaraguan blend tasted like? I wanted just to order a really great medium roast coffee.. and the more we talked to our coffee-loving friends and family, the more we realized they felt the same way. Don't think just because people don't know what they want that they want something of lesser quality. In my mind, simple is better.
What keeps me motivated are really two things: my family and my need to innovate. I think passion is needed for any venture you go into, but you also have to have someone to hold you accountable. For me, my family believes in me but also wants me to succeed, that plus my passion, makes sure I continue to put in the work and not be afraid to fail and pivot when needed.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think right now it has been the success of custom bags. It started out as a fun thing to do because of how much I love design, but we quickly realized that no other small-batch coffee roaster is doing this or doing it as well as we are. Maybe because they’re stuck up and wouldn’t think about slapping a picture of someone in American flag underwear holding a shotgun on a bag of their coffee (we did this), but we thought it was fun and didn’t cost us anything. I was able to do all of the programming to make it work on the website and do all of the initial designs to prove our concept. We think adding AR in 2022 will be huge and totally unique. Because of my programming background, it won’t cost us any additional capital.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I think listening to others is always challenging. When you start your own business, it's hard to take some criticism and ideas that fall outside of your vision with real seriousness. They almost seem like someone is trying to change or take your baby away from you. I have always struggled with this, which is not healthy nor good for a business. At the end of the day, all suggestions given from friends and employees are given to help, not hurt, your business … so remembering that people inside your circle want you to succeed and are giving suggestions from a place of love, not hurt.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find a partner or coach. Several of my first businesses, I went at it alone, and it became an echo chamber of only my thoughts. You need someone to help challenge your ideas and also lean on to really succeed.
- Fail a lot. If you are not failing, then you are not trying. I used to be really afraid to fail or not have everything perfect, and that caused either delays or stuff just not to happen at all. There will always be things you can't predict, forget, and just don't know … being afraid of that won't change.
- Start now. Even if you can't fully quit your day job, just start. There is never going to be a perfect time; you could get hit by a car tomorrow. Every day you wait is one less day you can learn to succeed.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
One last thing I would tell anyone reading this is to get out to network and talk about yourself. It’s crazy where and how you meet people that will become a part of your business. Literally, just last night, my wife and I went to grab a beer at a local brewery and started chatting with a gal next to us. She is in screen printing and embroidery and will now be doing all our gear for us. Her company will be buying our coffee for their warehouse and employees. So just get out and start talking.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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