You hear this a lot among passionate people who start businesses, particularly coffee ones. Â For many of us coffee is compelling, fascinating, satisfying yet frustrating in equal measure. Â It is huge, it’s complex and it easily becomes something of an obsession.
Working with what you love is a goal for just about everyone. Â In any industry there are people stuck, hating where they are and dreaming of turning their hobby into a living.
Within the division of the artisan, of the craft, of the quality focused, there seems to be a pervasive idea that to be in business with the end game of making substantial profit is at odds with the very reason they got into the business. Â They’re there for the coffee, and not for the money. Â It isn’t about profit, it is about quality.
Perhaps I fell into that group initially. Â I don’t really want a lot of stuff, I’m not hugely motivated directly by money. Â (I’m motivated, I can’t deny – but it isn’t the primary decision making factor.) Â It took me a little while to realise that profit was not the antithesis of being quality focused, but was actually a requirement for being sustainably quality focused. Â I can’t continue to work within coffee enjoyably unless the business I work within can support that, can grow and evolve itself and that requires money.
I might see some strong disagreement here, and I’m not picking on people – I am pointing the finger at me as much as anyone else. Â I haven’t sold out, I haven’t become money obsessed. Â I am extremely interested in a sustainable business that can support those that work within it, and allow them to grow and progress and to earn what they are worth.
Where I might really get into trouble is where I suggest that our industry’s tolerance, and proliferation, of not-intentionally-profitable businesses has lead to a marketplace with undervalued and underpriced product. Â This in turn is somewhat debilitating for new businesses opening into that market place. Â It makes the challenge of succeeding in coffee even harder. Â I could well be wrong, but I am still struggling to understand an industry where dramatically better product sells for barely a premium against mass market, commoditised coffee.