A Bad Time To Start

business coffee shop coronavirus startup white hart

Years ago I was sitting in a coffee shop in Lynchburg, VA pretending to study but mostly just taking in the atmosphere at the White Hart Cafe.  Walking in to the little shop felt even more comfortable than walking into my own living room.  Books lined one of the walls, but they were not just any books - the books were all authored by my favorite group of friends:  The Inklings.  It was almost like a braver, more ambitious version of me started the business that I was meant to start.  At the time I definitely wasn't ready to start a business.

White Hart Cafe

I met my wife at a coffee shop.  Coffee brings her an unreasonable amount of joy.  As do pugs.  Actually, if pugs bring people even a *tiny* amount of joy then I'd say its unreasonable.  I understand why coffee brings joy - it's the caffeoylquinic acid.  But I don't think I'll ever understand why the Danny Devito of dogs would make someone happy.

Sandy is the balloon to my helium.  I have ideas and ambition.  She has patience and follow-through.  So in a moment of foresight, she filed the paperwork for the company in 2019 while she was finishing up her business degree but we weren't quite sure when we would actually use the business entity.  We simply held the LLC and waited.  We weren't ready to start a business.

In the meanwhile, we both worked for a very young company in southern Maryland.  We were able to see some of the victories and highs of small business success; we were also part and parcel to some of the lows and losses of small business volatility.  But the risk is high and we definitely weren't ready to start our own.

At the beginning of this year, Sandy and I began making a business plan and discussing how to start a coffee roastery which would turn into coffee trucks and eventually at least one coffee shop.  But we had a lot of irons in the fire so our idea was simply not mature enough - we weren't ready.

About that time I was scrolling the news and read that China was in the middle of rapidly building a hospital in Wuhan because the Coronavirus was just breaking out.  After a small amount of research I understood the gravity of the situation and began talking with Sandy about it.  It was a terrible time to start a business.

And then I read a book and the author provided a list of examples of companies that started during the worst possible times - GM, AirBnB, Uber, Hewlett-Packard, and a host of other companies.  I was listening to the audiobook in the car on the way back from work.  When I arrived home, I realized that we were NOT ready to start a business.  But we also realized that being ready has nothing to do with whether or not we should start.  And thus while we watched the stock market start to decline, we said a quick prayer and placed an order for our first commercial coffee roaster.

I will be posting regularly because it's such an adventure and I'm going to burst at the seams if I don't start writing about it all!  Thanks for coming along! 

(below are the first renditions of the logos we made last year when were weren't sure if we were going to use the name for a tech company we were tossing around)

  • Trudy Merritt on

    My daughter brought me a bag of your Brazillian Peaberry when she came to visit. I just wanted to tell you how much we loved your coffee and that we are excited to try more! Good luck with your business adventure.

  • Cat Weaver on

    Hey Bryan,
    Just wanted to make sure you got my message from Etsy.com re: possibility of my providing Cozies for your drip/pour-overs. Definitely willing to meet your wholesale price.
    Cat (LifestyleHacks @ Etsy)

  • David J Miller on

    Our daughter in Maryland sent me two bags of Kolbitar, and they are delicious! Glad to know about you folks. Blessings!

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