Any coworking space operator knows that good coffee is the fuel that keeps the community going, so we set out to find the perfect coffee supplier very early on. Our standards were pretty high: locally roasted, fair trade, organic, and delicious. We found Coastal Roasters through Facebook (where else?) and ordered our first 5 lb bag for delivery.
Donald Machado, co-founder of Coastal Roasters, roasted our coffee to order and delivered it the next day. At the time we were in our tiny BETA space, with barely enough members to justify a 5 lb bag of coffee, but Donald was friendly and enthusiastic about our business, treating us as if we were a huge new account. When we made the big move to our current location, Donald helped us figure out the proper brewing equipment to fit our budget. Coastal Roasters continues to provide us with amazing, freshly roasted coffee that keeps our members happy, and that makes us happy. Their success story as a small local business happens to be very inspiring, and Donald shares it with us here:
What’s your business?
Coastal Roasters is a community-based coffee company: craft roasting coffees for retail and wholesale and a full service cafe. We also do coffee catering, most of it pro bono for local organizations’ events and fundraisers.
What inspired you to start that business?
I was living in Alexandria, VA at the time (I’m originally from New Bedford but moved there in 1990 until 2001). It was 1998 or so I think and I was hoping to get in on the then nascent craft beer home brew phenomenon. After looking into it, I recognized it would take a lot of effort and space and time. As a fan of instant gratification I then looked into home roasting. While not that a much of a thing yet, craft coffees were starting to make some waves, most notably Starbucks, but some small roasters were popping up. I had recently been to Seattle on a business trip and had discovered I was a coffee drinker! I looked into home roasting online and found a guy in Oakland whose sole business was green beans and home roasting (Sweet Maria’s is still in business and is still an amazing resource for me when I need information and ideas about coffees).
I began roasting in a hand-cranked stovetop popcorn popper, a half pound at a time. The results were decent, the gratification instant. Being from New England, the coast, and still a lover of all things coastal, I came up with the name Coastal Roasters and gave out bags to friends for the holidays. I had no idea we (me and my then wife Lisa, also from New Bedford) would be moving three years later, let alone to the coast and to run a coffee business. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was able to take advantage of an early buyout from the company I worked for that we decided to move.
What are the core values and principles that drive your business?
From the very beginning we wanted to be a business that was integrated in the community that supported us. We still are. Our house blends are named after area places and landmarks; we co-sponsor Singing Out Against Hunger (with Evelyn’s Drive In restaurant), an effort that has raised $150,000 for area efforts to help those in need; we donate thousands of dollars in goods and services to local organizations around preservation, education, arts, as well as the library and sport teams. We think giving back is the right thing to do morally but it also has great business results in that we get a lot of support and promotion for our efforts. These efforts and our casual open environment really have made us, humbly speaking, a town landmark and institution.
We think giving back is the right thing to do morally but it also has great business results in that we get a lot of support and promotion for our efforts.
In addition we participate in supporting coffee commerce that lends itself towards sustainability and positive conditions for farming communities. Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified and Bird Friendly certifications cover most of our product line.
Lastly, we like to think we treat our employees fairly. We have a very liberal policy towards schedules to allow staff to attend to their personal lives, we pay well above minimum wage for what some would consider lower skilled positions, and we offer seasonal bonuses based on our business results. Many of our employees have been with us for 5-10 years. This industry is typically one that has high turnover and change, and we hope our working conditions have encouraged employees to stay.
What’s the biggest challenge you face?
Trying not to be overwhelmed by all that the industry has to offer. I get all the trade mags and emails and I keep in touch with newest technologies and processes, products for coffee and tea. There’s some fun things to do now like siphon or aeropress. A lot of what I see is also geeky for geeky’s sake and feels a little faddish. We have very limited space so there are some things we will never be able to do. Nor do I think our customer base wants or needs all of those things. Good, consistent hot/iced/frozen drinks. Freshly roasted beans. In and out. We’ve introduced some newer items like matcha tea and a coffee drink made with coffee syrup and have gotten some interest. But we’ve stayed true to our core program for 15 years and it seems to be working.
So we try not to get distracted with everything else going on or feel we must sell everything that there is. Another challenge is finding more revenue. We do just fine and grow every year over year. But we’ve got limited space to expand services, and limited resources for finding new business. We’re grateful we still continue to grow, but there’s always room for more!
Describe a typical work day for you.
Fortunately most days ARE pretty typical. Though every day can bring something interesting, for better or worse. So on any given day after my morning routine at home is complete (see below) I’ll pop into the shop. I will help out if there’s some busy-ness going on, but mostly I try to stay out of the way. I check all our coffee inventory (we have over 20 coffees at any time that we use for brewing and retail). I’ll determine what’s low and needs roasting. The staff also inform me via text of wholesale orders that come in, so that gets tabulated into my roasting schedule. I may organize bags and labels for our retail resale clients so that the staff can fill easier. Or I head to our local warehouse where we keep all of our green inventory. Then I head back to the shop and roast 3-4 hours a day. I may be filling 5 pound bags for wholesale or helping with the smaller orders.
I leave next day’s coffee brewing menu for the shop, instructions for other orders and then I’m out for deliveries. Or sometimes the deliveries happen before all that roasting. I will attend to mechanical issues at the shop – replacing light bulbs, cleaning the basement, menial things. That’s pretty typical. Fortunately, Lisa attends to the staffing, supply ordering and management, shopping and deliveries as needed, even working behind the counter. Together we’re able to do all of what needs doing with half the work. It’s a great partnership.
What do you listen to during the day?
I have a turntable at home and have started to rebuild my vinyl collection (a little close to 400!) I usually throw on a record while waking up, 60s/70s mellow stuff – Jackson Browne, Loggins/Messina, Joni Mitchell, etc. – to start the day. I live in the country by the beach, so i’m also a fan of nothing but the birds and the ocean in the background. In the car I tend to have on NPR or I’ll throw on the Dead’s Sirius XM channel. At the shop we have Pandora and we let the staff play what they want. Its usually reggae, country, Prince, Tom Petty or like Fleet Foxes radio. My day can be fairly eclectic. Something is usually on though and I get to be surprised by what plays at the shop.
Do you have a special morning routine?
Well I wake up for starters. I do the usual email checking and social media nonsense. Then I make coffee at home. I do cold brew concentrate with water and warm it in an old metal pan. Or I do some pour over. I of course drink our coffee. I either hit a yoga class or head to the shop and check in with things. See what orders have come in; what coffees may need roasting for the day. Touch base with Lisa to see if anything needs attention and then it’s time to work.
What’s in your digital toolbox?
I’m currently obsessed with Neko Atsume, the kitty collector thing. I have collected all the cats! But seriously I don’t use all the stuff that there is out there at least regarding coffees. I enjoy being pretty low tech and find too much digital to be overwhelming. We use Square at the shop for commerce and I can see what we’re doing any minute from the dashboard app on my phone. Revenue, transactions even how many pounds of what coffee show up on my reports. I find that helpful to see in advance what I might be needing to do for the day. We no longer have a website, so we use Facebook and Instagram for getting info out; we have a decent presence on Yelp and TripAdvisor and appreciate everyones support there. We are eager to respond to feedback, both positive and negative.
What do you do to stay sane and balanced?
Oh. Well, yoga and bike riding regularly give me an outlet for finding quiet time, focus and fitness. I try not to work on the weekends when possible. The beach, reading and gardening are other activities which give me something to do that’s creative and that’s important. Recharging and stepping away from the work is critical. I also try to stay away from the phone or email or any work after hours. It was draining at the beginning ALWAYS being on and involved. It almost killed me. Lisa and I also share the heavy lifting and having someone who can split the work and take care of things so you can step away has been a life saver. We’ve both been able to take time off lately and that wouldn’t be possible if one person did everything.
Recharging and stepping away from the work is critical. I also try to stay away from the phone or email or any work after hours.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Love what you do. Passion will be your biggest asset. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help.
Coastal roasters was founded by Lisa and Donald Machado in 2002. Located at 1791 main road in Tiverton RI, they are open 7 days a week. All year. 6am to 5pm. They are a full service cafe with hot and iced coffee tea espresso drinks along with coffee and fruit based smoothies. They serve local fresh baked pastries daily. They offer almost 2 dozen organic fair trade house roasted coffees as well organic fair trade loose leaf teas. Coastal Roasters also offers a full wholesale program for coffee and tea services and products.
Call for more information: 401-624-2343