Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Robert Hughes, co-founder of Heights Coffee LTD, located in Burnaby, Canada. Robert's co-founder is Garnet Nelson.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Heights Coffee is a small coffee roaster from Burnaby, that formed as a way to share our passion for coffee with our neighborhood.  The tight knit area really inspired us to want to be a part of our community in a meaningful way, and coffee is a great way to do that.

Tell us about yourself

I have always enjoyed connecting with people, the best conversations can be had over a simple cup of coffee. My neighbor started roasting coffee in his backyard on his barbecue, one day he invited me to come check it out. I found the process of roasting to be quite fascinating, I was hooked!  

It wasn't long before I was setup on my barbecue roasting my own coffee, and we would often exchange roasts with each other, comparing notes and techniques.  We decide to purchase a small dedicated roaster, specifically designed for home roasting, this was good, but we soon outgrew it.  

We then decided to take the plunge and setup a full roasting business so we could share this passion with other people, fresh roasted coffee is just so much better, it's really great to see the look on someone's face when they try hyper fresh specialty coffee for the first time, you can see it in their eyes, its awesome!  This is what motivates us to keep spreading the word, and keep making these connections.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

When I first started out roasting, it was primarily single origin coffee, and I love them still to this day, however I really wanted a solid espresso blend with a distinct Italian profile, to me that is the ultimate.  I soon found out, getting the blend of beans just right, and nailing that taste is much more difficult than I thought. I spent a very long time experimenting with regions, roast temperatures, ratios and such.  I would often take my blends to a local store that specializes in selling espresso equipment, if I could impress these guys, then I would know that it was good. I remember one day during the Christmas holiday break, I answered my phone, and it was one of the owners of that store, and he wanted to sell my coffee, I played it cool, but in my head I was freaking out! That was an incredible moment, and one I will never forget.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things as a business owner is being persistent. Often when a person has an idea for a business, they don't fully consider how much drive and determination it takes to make it a success. Your business is the first thing you think about when you wake up, and the last thing you think about when you go to sleep.  Its like that every day! It is a balancing act of keeping the fire stoked, and not letting it consume you.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Keep your chin up, don't let the jaded people get you down, if you know in your gut that you can do something, then do it.

Don't try to be all things, focus on what you are good at, and do that.

Surround yourself with people that are positive, but real. A good team makes all the difference in the world!

Anything else you'd like to share?

Don't always measure your success with money, measure it in goals achieved, I believe that is what leads to a happy life. And drink good coffee!

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; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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