I’ve given this post a lot of thought, More Half Steps. What more do I include that will be helpful or explanatory? So here goes!
- Following the Overwhelmed Rule. When do you decide to take the next half step? When you are overwhelmed is the answer. When we decided to move out of the house it was because we were feeling overwhelmed with living in the midst of the business 24/7. When did we decide to hire Lia? When we were overwhelmed with all that had to be done to stay current with our orders. When did we purchase a second roaster? When at the end of each day our bins were empty and we were feeling overwhelmed by the crush to roast more coffee the next day. I guess I would say when you lose margin it’s time to take the next half step.
- Setting Realistic Goals. It seems obvious, but setting goals helped us realize where the next half steps were. If we set a goal to have a certain number of accounts by the end of the year we knew how many half steps it took to get us there. When we calculated what it takes to double our production, then the half steps become evident we need to take to get there. One can look at every part of the operation and make assessments based on your goals so that half steps jump out at you.
- Learning to Say No. This one seems like a strange one. But there are times when someone is asking you to take a giant step, but you know you don’t have it in you or the business to make that huge commitment, so you say no, not yet. It’s hard to do, but it has kept us in business.
- Keeping God in the middle of it all! I am called to be a pastor at LifePoint Church. What an awesome church it is. I’m privileged to be a part of such a great movement of God. He is also doing a great work with Furnace Hills Coffee Company. He has been the author of the half step. So as we have kept Him in the middle of it all, He has guided our half steps along the way over these last two years. Yes, we could have been blessed by God and been as huge as the big boys, but I think we would have lost our way. Yes we’re growing and some day may be one of the big boys, but for now we are growing at His pace and pleasure. That gives Erin, Louise & me time for both the coffee business & our service at LifePoint. We love it that way!
I guess these steps are more philosophical in nature & may be more like guiding principles than half steps, but they have served us well. As we look out the window of our roastery we see God at work and more and more people enjoying our coffee, so they are working for us.
A View from our Roastery
If you were us, what might you add as a guiding principle in starting a coffee roasting business? On Friday I’m going to share the delight we enjoy interacting with our customers. I think you’ll like that post. See you soon!
Last week I mentioned that I would share our half steps that have brought us success in the coffee roasting business. These can probably be used in any business someone is starting.
Hopefully these half steps will be informative to you.
- Reading about how to start a business. Before we go into full swing with our business I read several books that helped me set the tone for how we would progress in the coffee roasting business. Two stand out as being particulary helpful.
- Rework was the first book I read. Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson are the guys that started 37 signals. Things like not borrowing money. Don’t quit your day job. Working at it when you can. Those were all half steps I learned from those guys.
- eMyth Revisited was another book I read in the early days. I love the premise the author, Michael Gerber, in that we should start our businesses as if we are going to franchise them. Some of the ideas in this book have helped me organize our business from the start.
- I kept (Am Keeping) My Day Job. We haven’t bet the farm on the business. We keep our day time jobs and use resources and spare time for the business. It has probably taken longer to build Furnace Hills Coffee Company, but it’s been worth the balance we have created in our lives & schedules.
- We didn’t borrow funds. That kind of goes with #2. We have spent funds we have and that means we have had to go slower, but we don’t owe anyone anything but ourselves. And we are keeping track of what we have borrowed from ourselves so we can pay ourselves back eventually.
- We started with the roasters we could afford and that all of us could use. Below you’ll see a picture of the roasters we started the company with. Now others may laugh, but it was what we could afford and what Erin could use. In fact she got quite upset when we stopped using them. By-the-way our Bolivian Superior never tasted better than when it was roasted with these small home roasters. Also, when they broke we didn’t try to get them fixed under warranty. We wanted to maintain our integrity. We were using them more in a day than a home roaster would use them in six months. They were cheap enough we’d just purchase another one.
- We started the business in our home. We started in our kitchen, then moved to the dining room then to the lower level of our town home. Then when we felt we had reached our limit we looked into renting something. God was good to us. We found something right on Main Street in down town Westminster. We took our time looking and found just the right spot.
Erin with one of her Nesco Home Roasters!
Check out our website and all the coffees Erin roasts with larger roasters now! On Wednesday I’ll finish out our half steps. That’s this Roaster’s View:
Furnace Hills Coffee Company has become a movement. So many friends and family & a fair amount of strangers have become a part of our lives. I thought it would be good to share how all this started. The funny thing is any family with a child who is developmentally disabled can do the same thing. In fact we are looking for families to partner with in this grand endeavor of giving our daughter the best life she can live with God’s help.
And So It Begins:
I was on a short-term mission trip in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I had just put the phone back on its pedestal after a twenty-minute conversation with my wife. She was in the Midwest and was ending her day with our daughter. Louise was weeping because of the struggle she sensed in our daughter, Erin, and the growing conviction we needed to bring her home. Erin was no longer the happy person she was when we took her to this place thirteen years ago. It was time that something had to be done. So that evening we both agreed Erin needed to move back home with us.
In talking with the state we live in those who work with the developmentally disabled believed it could be ten years before funding would be available for Erin to find a job. Although we believed Erin sitting home with us was better than where she had been living we felt we should try to start something for her to do. Several ideas went through our minds, but nothing materialized. Erin has Down Syndrome and lives with a number of limitations cognitively but one thing she enjoys is productive work. So we were casting about for what she could do.
The answer came from an unlikely source. Jim Kales CEO of Aspire — an organization that works with the developmentally disabled from birth to the grave — started following me on twitter announcing a new business they were starting. Aspire is in Chicago, IL. He was announcing the start of a coffee roasting business. I thought, If developmentally disabled people can roast coffee in Chicago, why not in Maryland too! So we bought our first roasters — small home roasters to begin with — and green coffee beans and started roasting coffee in our kitchen. April of 2010 was the start of our roasting endeavors and by September of that year we were a legally created roasting company and had started looking for another place to roast coffee. I figured my wife needed her kitchen, dining room and lower level of her home back.
So that’s how we started our coffee roasting business & how great disappointment & frustration can turn into hope and freedom for a family. Erin loves roasting coffee. She is very possessive of her job. On Sunday afternoons at some point she will say, “Tomorrow I go to work!”
On Monday I’ll share the half steps that have brought success to our coffee roasting business. For those of you thinking of starting a business or have a relative with developmental disabilities you won’t want to miss it! By the way visit our website and see what kinds of coffee Erin roasts today! http://furnacehillscoffee.com