Ellie Eckert

I remember the first time I stepped into a New York City coffee shop.  I was homesick, lonely, and frankly looking for anything that reminded me of home.  A quiet stroll on a weekend morning led me to Saturdays Surf, now a SoHo staple – then, a new concept store that merged men’s fashion and coffee.  It was quiet.  It was quaint.  It had a backyard with surfboards lining weathered fences and lush greenery.  It was the most I’d felt at home in the weeks I’d lived in New York.  While I sipped a latte there, I decided that someday, somehow, I would own a coffee shop of my own.  Someday, somehow, I would pass along the same passion; a passion for moments spent and stories told over coffee.

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Shop Written Coffee here.

A few weeks later, spurred by ‘the coldest winter on earth’ (it wasn’t – I’m just from Florida), I determined that leaving my dorm room was absolutely not an option.  So, while snow fell outside my ninth-floor window, I clicked, googled, and clicked some more, until City Brewed was born – a journal (erm, blog) highlighting everything I loved: coffee stops, stories, and style.  At first, I had three readers: my parents and myself.  A few weeks later, that all changed.  People started to tune in.  People were interested.  They too wanted to know more about coffee.  It wasn’t just me, myself, and I (oh, and my parents); there were people listening!

I spent the next seven years consumed with all-things coffee, interviewing roasters, baristas, coffee shop owners – all to see how this world operated.  How is it roasted?  Why doesn’t my home-brew taste like that?  With every new interview, and every new cafe to pop up in the city, my passion grew stronger, but so did my self-doubt.  I couldn’t possibly make a career out of my passion, right?  My side hustle couldn’t possibly take the place of my full-time job?

See, there’s a crippling idea we pick up somewhere along the lines.  A notion that we couldn’t possibly.  Little ol’ me?  Sure, them, but me?  How could I pursue my dream job?  It’s fear of the unknown that really holds us back from chasing those big ideas.  The ideas we deem ‘too big’ to even consider.  I revisited that dream year after year, job after job.  Scribbling ideas into a notebook that would live in the deepest layers of my work bag, as I commuted to the job that was good, but not quite good enough.

It wasn’t until two years after my move to California that the idea became more and more persistent.  ‘If not now, when?’  The quote repeated over and over in my head as I looked to inspiration from the women who inspire me daily: Glossier’s Emily Weiss, the ladies behind co-working space The Wing, the Darling Movement…

Maybe, just maybe, I could, too.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Or do.

I quit my corporate job a few months later, all-in on the idea of starting my own coffee company, then affectionately dubbed X Coffee Company.  I would start ‘small,’ sourcing my own beans, roasting, bagging – all leading to the eventual brick and mortar.

The time came to leave San Francisco and head back to Tampa Bay, the new home of X Coffee Company.  I packed everything into my Nissan Juke – we call him Juke – and shipped my car back to Florida.  If ever there was a hypothetical ledge to leap from, this was it.

Not long after, I was packing my bags again, only this time I was heading to Guatemala for the second time this year.  I could go into details of the months of research that led to this moment – the casual stalking of a farm I wanted to source from, question after question on the mechanics of starting a coffee roasting company, but I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details.  I will say, though, if there was a Dummies’ Guide to starting a coffee company (there’s not, I checked) I probably would have bought it.

I spent three of five days at the farm, and on day two, I broke.  I sat in the hotel room, positioned in the center of Antigua, sobbing.  Was I in over my head?  Could I really do this?  Was I making a huge mistake?

Spoiler alert: I could.  And I did.  With a little urging from my mom – a business owner herself – and a few supportive texts from my best friend (I think they went something like, “I love you, I know you’re overwhelmed, but put on your big girl pants – you’re doing this.”) I started to slowly come back to life.  Tears subsided as I sorted the thoughts filling my head.  What was the worst that could happen?  I could try really, really hard, and worse case scenario I stumble, learn more, and come back stronger?  I wrote down my deepest fears in a notebook thrown next to my bed.  Somehow, on paper, they seemed a lot less scary.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the bSmart community, it’s that coping with fear – and embracing it head on – is not only humanizing, it’s empowering.

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You’ll learn by doing, stumble, and come back stronger, until finally, you’re the one passing your knowledge onto the next person with a dream.

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I left that trip with a renewed sense of self (and swollen cry-eyes).  I decided then and there that I had two choices: I could give up now and opt for something more comfortable.  Something that required less of my talent and didn’t offer nearly as much satisfaction, or, I could keep moving forward.  I could take mini steps in the direction of my dreams, fall a few times, get back up, keep learning, keep growing, and someday say, ‘hey, you know that dream I had at 19 years old?  Well here I am, living and breathing it.’

Written Coffee launched last month out of Saint Petersburg, Florida.  Taking note of my roots (hi, City Brewed), we release each limited-run coffee as a ‘Chapter,’ telling important stories with each launch.  I still pinch myself every time I see someone drinking Written’s Chapter One, praising its smooth, full-bodied flavor.  I do a little dance for every win – big or small – because each ‘I love your coffee!’ text or post makes every tear, every ounce of fear, worth it.

If the road to Written has taught me anything, it’s that no one knows it all up front, especially when you’re just starting your business, and whatever you do, Keep. Going.  You’ll learn by doing, stumble, and come back stronger, until finally, you’re the one passing your knowledge onto the next person with a dream.

Written Coffee’s Chapter One is available for purchase at WrittenCoffee.com/Shop.  Not a fan of coffee?  Come along for the journey.  We’re all about sharing stories over a steaming cup of coffee.

 

Ellie Eckert is a writer turned coffee company owner who seeks inspiration in cafes near and far.

Comments (4)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Your words are so encouraging to ALL entrepreneurs. Thank you!!

 
  1. Ellie

Thank you so much Angelina! This makes me so happy to hear!

 
  1. Angelina Eimannsberger

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story <3 Makes me all tingly and happy to read this!!

 

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