Our Weekly Series on Homeroasters Turning Pro
Many home roasting enthusiasts dream of starting their own roasting businesses. I’ve always seen homegrown start-up businesses such as these in the same light as someone putting together a band and recording and touring, or making a public access TV show (from the pre-YouTube age) and getting it on the air. Not that it’s necessarily an art project or even a labor of love, but it’s a grand idea. I kneel at the altar of the Grand Idea.
Bringing something into existence, however, is no small feat, especially in a commercial context, because that something has to have a reason why. Why are you starting a new roasting business? You are essentially taking something that’s a hobby, something that you do to relax or engage in a particular way, and turning it into a job. How will professionalizing this activity affect your relationship with it? How do you make sure that in the process of creating a business around this activity you actually still enjoy the activity itself?
There is a good chance that you will find, as I have, that a job in coffee is incredibly rewarding. It is a profession that provides endless possibilities for deeper engagement. It could happen! But there are a few other questions to be asked if you’re looking to start your own roasting business, and I’ll address those questions in this series of articles, Day After Day Job. The first question is: Are you good enough?
Are You Good Enough?
I’m gonna say the words “good” and “great” a lot. We’re seemingly in the middle of a coffee roasting boom. All across the country, and globally as well, small roasters are popping up left and right. Great coffees and roasting equipment are all readily available. Even in the smallest cities throughout Middle America it seems as though there is already an established marketplace where these small businesses can and do thrive. You also want to do this. You’ve been roasting your own coffee for some time and have even roasted some for gifts and possibly sold some at the office. That office job that you can’t wait to get away from and do something on your own.
You love to roast coffee; it’s fantastic and fun and an engaging hobby that allows you to experiment and push yourself to do better. You’ve maybe gotten some positive feedback from the roasts that you’ve shared with others. Everyone tells you how good it is. You think it’s pretty good too. As good as anything else that’s out there? Is the coffee you roast good enough to convince people who aren’t friends, family, or coworkers that it is in fact “good?” This is the question you’ll have to answer if you’re going to turn your hobby into a day job.
Christopher Schooley is a coffee roaster who works for Sweet Maria’s wholesale site Coffee Shrub, and has served as the chair of the Roasters Guild Executive Council and has worked for the SCAA.
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