How did you get into the coffee roasting business?
In my experience, some hobbies remain hobbies for rest and relaxation. Other hobbies can easily be turned into businesses. It was like that for me both with coffee roasting and photography at different times in my life.
Specifically with coffee, I acquired the taste for good coffee in my travel agent days while visiting countries like Italy and France, the bean was planted then. Through the years I found few places that could offer that same taste. Eventually there were roasters and stores that at least offered roasted whole beans. Since I had a demanding photography business, I settled for buying roasted beans at local stores.
Still thirsting for a fresher cup, I applied myself to researching what it takes to deliver that great cup of coffee; I decided it was time to practice. I started with a small window roaster and shared some samples with others. My friends loved the freshness and different tasting origins, so the venture was successful. With crafting each roast to its specific region and origin, we were able to share the world of coffee with others, no passport needed.
When the opportunity arose, we were able to purchase a commercial roaster, remodel an area for roasting and we started the High Sierra Coffee Roastery business (www.highsierracoffee.com). The timing was perfect as the photography world was rapidly changing with digital cameras. So a couple of years after the coffee roasting business started, I closed my photography studio in Reno and freelanced from my home, along with coffee roasting.
My experience as a travel agent and having my own photography studio offered me the education of small business skills which was vitally important to beginning this new venture.
How do you balance your day to day commitments with your creative pursuits?
Prioritizing is the main key when all of the pursuits fall in the same week. Most weeks are normal consisting of roasting and delivering coffee along with necessary home projects and maintenance of 3 acres of land. On other weeks, life revolves around rehearsals and concerts and sometimes a photography shoot. So although balancing can vary each week, I try not to schedule or commit to projects on the concert weeks other than roasting and delivering coffee. I do have to add that I have a very supportive wife/partner who not only is the second leg of the coffee roasting business, my assistant on many of the photo shoots, but also runs the demanding home commitments on my busier weeks.
With music, it has been part of my life since seventh grade, joining the Reno Philharmonic in 1969 (as tubist) which I continue to play with, along with the Great Basin Brass Quintet that I have been a member for over thirty years. Coffee roasting can keep us pretty busy, but being a part of music with the symphony and the quintet is the steady underlying creative pursuit in my life. I still play, I still love it.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers, musicians and entrepreneurs?
If a seed has been planted or you know what you were born to do, pursue it, learn as much as possible in that area. You will soon figure out if it will just be a hobby or a hobby turned business. If you feel you can make a living doing what you love then focus on that and don’t give up. Have courage and resist discouragement. The challenge is to maintain focus above all the big and little trials that may come along.
What’s next for you?
I’m always ready for the next adventure and I never want to stop learning. At this time what I’m doing might be enough as far as businesses. I have always wanted to be a beekeeper and maybe have a few chickens. So who knows, I remain open and available for another seed to be planted.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Find a way to make a living doing what you love, what you were born to do or what you are most interested in, whatever it takes. Educate yourself in that area either in school, travel, or researching on your own. Recognize what will remain a hobby and what could become a business. If you feel led to venture out and start a business doing what you love, then I would recommend learning some small business skills. If you are not suited for business skills then find a partner that is.