Being a one-person operation definitely has its advantages. No boss hovering over you, demanding more productivity. No huge payroll obligations to meet. Etcetera.
It also presents some challenges from time to time. As my business continues to grow on two complimentary but inherently different tracks–the wholesale/mail order side versus the retail cafe side–I find difficulty sometimes keeping pace with what’s happening in the larger world of coffee. You can call it coffee myopia, or, the business of being in business.
Chasing dollars (yen, euros, pesos, whatever) as a man of commerce is a perfectly legitimate and centuries-honored endeavor. But I sometimes lament–quickly, that is, because I’m busy, you see–the lack of time I have lately to dive into a lively debate here or a good discussion over there. I simply so often anymore don’t have the time to read and chew and swallow and regurgitate and maybe even add a voice to the chorus.
I can zoom out and recognize what’s going on here: that I’m working hard to establish the cafe and a more sophisticated coffee culture in a place that has only a well-developed cantina culture (read: margaritas, not macchiatos). And I know the day will come when things will look a lot different financially for me and my family: where I won’t feel like we’re still fighting for every dollar and pouring it all right back into the operations of the business. That time is actually closer than it ever used to be, as we are actually contemplating the steps we need to take to purchase our first home, and can realistically consider making slightly larger necessary purchases (new tires, an actual vacation, a new computer, etc.) without needing to rob Peter to PayPal Paul (if you will). But by and large it’s nose to the grindstone for this period until blue sky breaks through on a much broader, more permanent basis.
This manifests itself in my business activities as well. Being busy with day to day operations of roasting, bagging, labeling, boxing, shipping and making countless presses, Chemexes, espressos, pourovers, etc., can distract sufficiently from the need to look up and out a bit and forecast, for example, what tasty new coffees are coming on the horizon. Granted, this is not exactly the busy time for great coffees to be coming online; but the idea is the same. When you have barely scanned anyone’s offerings list in weeks because you’re too busy trying to get a full 5 hours of sleep while still being able to watch your children grow (and grow up) while wondering still in the back of your mind whether that pain on the left side of your chest is because you moved too many bags of coffee by yourself and you strained muscles or if something in there is damaged and you’re ticking toward calamity…it’s then you know you need to just set the microscope aside for a bit, take a walk around the block and remember that all the work is for a goal. It isn’t the goal itself.
Better, it’s the process of going through it all that is the goal in itself. My children will never be these ages again. Neither will I. What good will having worked myself to the bone to give them everything they need and a lot of what they want if what they want will have forever changed from the wonderful and simple things we all want as children into the droll, tired and world-familiar things we all want as adults?
No one is quitting. Brown is not going anywhere. Not after all this clawing out of the doldrums and poverty I have endured these 4+ years. If anything, this post is a self-directed post-it sticky note (to you as well) to remember to savor it all along the way and pull off the road every now and again, just to make sure you are not being currented away by the rush to stay current.
Now if you’ll excuse me–a new set of customers just came in, talking about how they heard this was the best coffee in town…