I took a break from ALTA’s Business Strategies Conference in Philadelphia this week to visit two friends who own and operate Greenstreet Coffee Company, whose tagline is: Coffee Focused. Relationship Driven. Sustainable Practice. They have a retail café at 11th and Spruce, and their roasting facility (which I visited) is on Alter Street.
I have known Chris and Tom Molieri since they were students twelve years ago at Upper Darby High School, when I was a coach and Young Life leader. These guys have always been the entrepreneurial type, and I wasn’t surprised at all in 2011 when I heard they had started a coffee company. What did surprise me was what I saw – and learned – during my visit this week.
I could smell the toasted, nutty aroma of roasting beans from down the block, and turned the corner into their large industrial roasting facility to see Chris repairing a small specialty roaster (complete with cool brass knobs and shiny metal tubing) and Tom overseeing a giant roaster turning beans. I spent the next two hours in their facility and left inspired by these two brothers and their entrepreneurial, passionate approach to their business. The only downside to growing a business, including a national title company like Avenue 365, is how difficult it is to maintain that intoxicating “start-up” energy in the midst of significant expansion. It was good for my soul to be in Chris and Tom’s midst for a few hours this week. Here is what I loved seeing:
- They have an unwavering, unflinching, uninterrupted focus on their core product. They know this product better than anyone on earth, it seems. Chris became animated and poetic when he walked me around, showing me different beans from different places around the globe, holding each bean out for me to see, touch, smell, and experience. “Look at the greens and blues of these beans – isn’t that amazing? See how these still have parts of the skin still on? That will impact the flavor and sense of the coffee. Smell these, Ryan. Can’t you smell hints of fruit and berries in there? Can you smell that?” It was a multisensory experience, complete with a shot of espresso and cup of hand-pressed coffee made on the spot. But more awe-inspiring than the variety in the beans was the passion and focus on coffee. When is the last time I allowed myself to be swept away by my product – the title insurance policy – and the protection that it offers consumers? How it facilitates the most significant and life-changing transaction of most people’s adult lives? How a gigantic component of our nation’s economy relies on our industry as an essential part of the transaction? I was mesmerized watching Chris pick up a handful of beans and describe them. He is an ambassador of his product to anyone who will listen. And we should be too.
- They say that they are relationship driven, and they mean it. Chris mentioned “relationships” more than 20 times while we were talking about their business. Relationships with their wholesale customers. Relationships with the farmers (who Chris knows personally, hand-picks, and genuinely cares about). Relationships with their employees in the café and, of course, relationships with their faithful following of customers who consume their product. When the business is genuinely relationship driven, everyone benefits! I would never in my unimaginative mind think that one of the three tenants of a coffee roaster would be “relationships.” But it makes perfect sense, is the right way to do things, and is what I want my business to resemble.
- They are passionate. Chris and Tom say, “Coffee can be something or it can be nothing.” Their passion is making every cup something. Chris created my sample espresso, and Tom made my sample AeroPress coffee, like meticulous, obsessed, other-worldly artists. The water had to be the right temperature. They used the right tools. They took the exact amount of time needed. The beans were perfectly roasted. The perfect press. The perfect pour. These guys are nuts about getting it right every single time, in every single cup. Their energy, enthusiasm, and effort is infectious. I have that level of passion for the title insurance industry (I really do), but I often let my passion take a back seat to concerns over metrics, margins, the market, the future, compliance, forms, systems, data . . . the list goes on. I am going to take back my passion for our industry – what got me into this business in the first place. Passion for this business and this industry will overrule any amount of change and challenge in the industry, every time.
So, thank you, Chris and Tom. I am so proud of you guys for taking a chance on building a business from scratch. That is the great American entrepreneurial dare – and you took it! But more importantly you haven’t lost one bit of yourselves or your energy, enthusiasm, commitment, or passion for your business along the way. You have ”poured” your heart into it and it shows. I learned a lot, loved the coffee, and my title insurance business will be better for it.