This week, I’m featuring my interview with Gus Dean, owner of Gus Dean Coffee – a micro-roastery he started right here in the Twin Cities where he roasts high-quality beans, creating a smooth and enjoyable cup of coffee.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been highlighting some incredible small businesses in the Twin Cities – it’s my way of lending a helping hand to our local economy during this surreal and challenging time. To learn more, you can read the first article in this series: How to Help in the Pandemic.
You can also read previous interviews with:
- Cardigan Donuts: 4 simple reasons why I absolutely love Cardigan Donuts
- Sprinkles & Confetti: 3 important muscles you need to hustle with heart
- Lauren Kirkbride Photography: the best way to let your skills shine bright
Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks.
I love coffee.
In the morning, I start my day with a cup of bold dark roast – as I write this, I’m drinking a cup of Gus’s Blend, while I listen to the birds outside my office window.
In fact, you can expect me to have a cup of coffee in hand for most of the day – whether I’m looking to relax with a book or get stuff done. When I was introduced to Gus, I knew I had to learn about his story.
As it turns out, in the year and a half that Gus Dean Coffee has been open for business, Gus has flipped several obstacles into opportunities. And, I believe, in this moment, that’s exactly what we need.
NEVER SETTLE. STRIVE FOR MORE.
How did Gus come to start Gus Dean Coffee? Well, when he felt unfulfilled at his job as a veterinarian, Gus started looking for other creative outlets.
“I love science. I enjoy helping others care for animals, and I had a very successful career doing it. But, I felt unfulfilled professionally – that I was destined to do and be more. When these feelings began to spill over in my personal life, I knew I had to make major changes in my career. Looking back there were several key factors that contributed to me needing to make such a significant change in my career path:
- I’ve always been interested in business, trying to figure out why some businesses were successful and flourished while others did not.
- I was frustrated that many of my managers didn’t seem to understand what our customers wanted, didn’t care and appeared to be focused primarily on making their quarterly budget numbers.
- I came with new ideas, initiatives and the ambition needed to make an impact. However, many of the people I worked with were more interested in maintaining the status quo.”
Many of the new entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have shared something similar: they felt frustrated or stifled at work – and just a little more ambitious than the people around them. But, rather than settle, they’ve strived for more.
Gus’ desire to strive to do and be more was strong enough to compel him to make a change. And, a year and a half later, he pursued one of his other passions – coffee.
It takes some self-awareness to flip an obstacle – like feeling unfulfilled – into an opportunity. You need to reflect with a curious mind and ask yourself questions, like:
- What would it take to become fulfilled?
- How else could I learn and grow?
- And, what do I want?
MAKE STRATEGIC PIVOTS.
I asked Gus how COVID-19 is impacting him and his business.
Here’s what he said:
“The coronavirus has had a significant impact on my business and on me as an African American. Reports indicate that the clinical effects of COVID-19 are more severe in African Americans. Being aware of the increased health risk, I had to consider the health implications for me and my family should I get infected. From a business perspective, I relied heavily on farmers markets to establish my brand and build a customer base. The markets afforded me the opportunity to engage with my customers and learn what they liked and didn’t like. The pandemic wiped that all away and left me feeling panicked and in despair.”
When an obstacle suddenly blocks your path, it’s normal to feel some stress and panic.
But, as a business leader, it’s your job to flip that obstacle into an opportunity – to respond with a strategic pivot rather than react out of fear.
You’ve got to acknowledge the feeling, then let it go, and get to work.
And, that’s exactly what Gus did:
“I knew I had to quickly make significant changes to my business model and needed to reset my 2020 business goals. I worked with my marketing consultant to revamp my website and change the way we were marketing my coffee, offered free delivery, embraced online farmers markets, found new sale outlets, added new products, and did more online advertising and promotions. Now, eleven weeks after the markets closed, my sales have grown and far exceeded my expectations.”
Rather than frustrate Gus’ progress, the obstacle became a call to innovate and see his business from a new perspective, allowing him to discover new ways to engage with his customers and earn new ones.
Here’s Gus, again:
“The coronavirus pandemic has taught me that I need to be nimble, embrace change, and be willing to adjust my personal and business expectations. What was great about this experience, was that it wasn’t some generic step-by-step plan in a book or article. I learned by doing and I proved to myself that I could do all of these things while being faced with adversity. A business mentor once told me that it is nearly impossible to accurately predict the future – things typically take 3x longer than you anticipated, cost 4x more than you estimated, and success seldom comes how you planned it. I believe that’s true.”
Truly, the best business school is running a business.
The pandemic has certainly raised the stakes for business owners.
And, the higher the stakes, the greater the learning experience.
Gus also shared:
“My business style is collaborative, not only with my team, but also my vendors and customers. I want to learn more and do better. I know and accept that I don’t know everything, nor can I do everything. And, I also know there are specialists in every field that can help me be more successful. Knowing these things has helped me embrace the fact that seeking help and insight from others is an important part of being a successful entrepreneur.”
Embrace the change.
Admit what you don’t know and ask for help.
And, learn by doing.
If you’re thinking about starting a business, those are rules to live by.
ORDER GUS DEAN COFFEE TODAY
Gus Dean Coffee is open for business.
You can place your order on Gus’ website and get it delivered right to your home. Check out customer favorites like, Gus’s Blend, and his new Cold Brew Concentrate.
I’d like to thank Gus for taking the time to answer my questions and share his story.
Stay tuned for more, right here on the 321 Liftoff blog.
Next week, I’ll share my interview with another small business in the Twin Cities – Jennifer Chenoweth, owner of The LinkedIn Gal.
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ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line. It can feel messy. It zigs and zags. It starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok. It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself. And, that’s why it’s worth it.