Nomad Coffee Co.

nomad [noh-mad].  noun.  a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place.

We are a traveling, wandering, voyaging coffee company.  Where ever our tires park and our feet land, the goal is to find new friends and family while preparing the best coffee and espresso drinks you can find.

How Did We Get Here?

Nomad has been full time now for four months!  Some of you may wonder why we chose to do an official, full time launch in Lynchburg at the beginning of summer - the season that nearly all small business owners dread and bunker in for a significant loss of potential customers and clients due to summer break for college students. AND the most miserably hot time to do food truck work 40-60 hours a week. Well, I wanted to give a quick recap to all of our fellow nomads to deliver some background story, some of the things we have learned along the way, and give the inside scoop on what we are working on going forward.

Nomad has been around now for almost three years. Before April of this year, it was mainly a special event and weekend business due to both Jeanne and I having full time jobs. The trailer was something I looked at every day, Monday through Friday, while getting in my truck to go to work and getting out of my truck when I arrived back home at the end of the day. It was something that I talked about almost non-stop. It was something I dreamed about while working my day job. It was my hobby and my side hustle on the weekends. Some weeks, Jeanne and I would work a total of 80-90 hours, including the time spent on keeping Nomad running, trying slowly to gain recognition in the community as well as a social media presence, while being somewhat frustrated due to not knowing when I was going to be able to make this dream and passion a full time endeavor.  You, like others, may ask, "well, why not just do it?  Stop working for 'The Man' and take the leap!"

Well, to answer that question is not difficult. I was comfortable. I was working a fully benefited, salaried job, and frankly, I was good at it. After five and a half years working for this organization, I learned the leadership and management structure, I found a way to be useful and helpful with the talents that I both naturally had and learned along the way, and found myself being promoted to higher leadership positions three times in three of the five years that I was there. I worked with a great team of peers, had excellent workers under me, and leadership directly above me who believed and appreciated me. So, I was comfortable. I had a decent salary that allowed us to comfortably pay our mortgage on our new house, good insurance that made us feel safe and protected, and I saw it as too much of a risk to abandon to go after my dream, even though I would day dream of doing just that.

Without going into much detail, a lot of things rapidly changed in our division and a significant amount of people in leadership were informed that due to a change in leadership and departmental structure, we were no longer needed in our current roles. The decision was effective immediately.

I will admit that there was an initial impact of fear, but due to some of the things that were included in the elimination of my position (including a severance package) I couldn't help to think of the opportunity this presented me to transition to focus immediately on my dream and finally do it full time. The very next day, Nomad became a mobile coffee business that was open 6 days a week. There has been so much I have learned about running a small business, but there is so much more that I know I need to learn as well.

One of the most important things that have been affirmed to me in the last few months is that in order to be any type of successful with a small business, you have to be fully committed, have dedicated support, and make your visits more than just business transactions. We aim to make every interaction one where it is more than just our product, but it's about a connection to where we have been chosen to be a part of someone's day. When a customer goes out of their way to find us, or changes their commute route to work to grab a drink - that is significant, and our aim is to make you feel appreciated for making that decision.

Without our customers, some who come nearly every day we are open, some who come whenever they get the chance, and some who are just passing through, we wouldn't have been able to survive a summer in Lynchburg. I would have had to find another full time, salaried and benefited job, and again looked at the trailer while getting into my truck to go to work, and again when I got home at the end of the day, wondering if/when Nomad would be a full time venture again. We haven't arrived by any means. There's still a lot of work to be done, but we wouldn't have made it this far without you all. Thank you.

Looking forward, we have a very busy fall season coming up. Chances are, thoughts of expansion will surface, the potential of more members of the Nomad team will increase, more partnerships with other small businesses will form, and we may be able to dabble into our next goal for our business a little - roasting at least some of our own coffee... and using that to connect more with the humanitarian vein of our business by building relationships with and doing good for the coffee farmers and their families overseas.

We wouldn't have made it this far without you and we know we wouldn't make it the next step without you either. So here's to the "Flower Childs", "Train Hoppers", "Chai-a LeBoufs", and all other nomads out there. We are on this journey and we invite you to continue to take it with us. Cheers!

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Coffee Grit

Sometimes dreams can suck.

Have you ever had a passion or dream but felt it was too unreasonable to actually pursue it?  Maybe you felt as if you could give it a go as a hobby, but you didn't let yourself pursue it beyond that due to the unreasonability that the unction contained.  I feel you.

My wife and I are at a place right now where we both work 40 hours a week at jobs that we love.  And we have this dream on the side that we are able to get a glimpse of usually 10-15 hours a week.  And we would love one day for this dream to be something that we can live off of completely.  We want it to change others' lives for the better.  We want it to change us.  

BUT

We are in the here-now.  We are in the murky middle stage of having a business that is growing, that people enjoy, but at the same time, we have our responsibilities that we need to take care of.  We like our day jobs...and we are both pretty good at them.   So, at least one of us per week ends up working 60+ hours (sometimes reaching closer to 80).  We get very little sleep.  We don't have much play time.  We don't have much rest.

We get tired.  We get aggravated.  We think about giving up.  

But, then sometimes these little inklings occur.  A customer comes up and tells us that its the best cup of coffee they have ever had.  A mother comes up whose daughter in Tennessee told her that she saw we were open on facebook and that she must go out and partake for her.  A engaged couple is excited with the idea of us being at their wedding reception.  We are told that we have made someone's day by giving them a free drink.  It all becomes worth it.  

It all comes down to grit.  For us, coffee grit.  Its one thing to be on the grind, working tirelessly to try to keep a business afloat, pushing forward through exhaustion.  But, the grind usually is motivated by $.  (Coffee) grind isn't enough for us to pursue this dream and passion.  A little extra money isn't enough for us to push through the days we want to call it quits.  But, (coffee) grit is.  

Every time we get to see a smile on someone's face after putting 100% into each cup of coffee we make, it is fulfilling the reason why we decided to start Nomad.  It gives us hope and determination that the next step is possible in our current situation.  It gives us the strength to press on and figure out a wonky way to adjust our schedules so we can open up more to serve people, to meet new friends, and to try to make the best coffee that we can.  

For those who don't know about our story, Nomad started off in a cup of french press in a dorm room.  I wondered where coffee came from - who picked the fruit that the "beans" came from that ultimately were exported and then roasted?  What were their families like?  What about their communities and cultures?  Then, it was a dream on paper.  The original name of the company was going to be "Acacia Coffee Company", coming from the Acacia trees in Africa, which are symbolic for love and immortality.  

Then, I met Jeanne and somehow she got on board with my weird passion and hobby.  Next thing you know, I am working at a local coffee shop on top of my full time job, just to learn.  Next, I get a job with a coffee roaster, learning more about the technical aspects of coffee while being a sales rep and explaining coffee to potential customers.  Then, a big step occurs - Jeanne and I have an opportunity to scrape up our money and purchase equipment that will allow us to dabble into the coffee business for ourselves.  We purchase an espresso machine, grinder, and other ins and outs that would be what we need to start something small.  

We hold on to this stuff not knowing when we would really get to use it.  In the meantime, I received an opportunity to roast coffee at a local shop for a short season while Jeanne worked there and became a respected barista.  And then we took a leap of faith and decided to raise money to go on a business as mission trip to Rwanda, Africa to hang out with coffee farmers - to learn from them, to love them, and to see what our dream could be expressed as reality.  Then, it happened: Jeanne Beans Espresso Catering was formed.   

We got our first gig by a reference from a coffee shop that wasn't available to do a wedding.  So, we got the additional needed supplies and threw them in my Jeep, and we had a coffee shop on wheels.  And it was a success.  It was the first part of living the dream.  And it was the birth of our coffee grit.  We did only weddings for about a year.

A couple of years ago, we decided to take the next big step and we formed Nomad Coffee Company, LLC.  A few months later, we decided to take out a business loan and get a coffee trailer.  To my knowledge, we are the first completely mobile coffee shop in the model of trailer/food truck in Virginia.   Whereas other coffee companies may have had their hands in catering or even had a trailer to accommodate their storefront, we started with only catering and then added a completely mobile unit.  This year, we decided to take out a couple more business loans to invest in our business and get an awesome inverter generator and a state of the art espresso machine (Slayer).  To Slayer's knowledge, we were the first company to use one of their machines in a business setting in Virginia.  Through time, hard work, and determination, and the fuel that we receive when we see a happy customer or meet a new friend, we continue to raise the stakes and push more and more chips to the center of the table.  

We have developed something we are proud of.  We have also been exhausted and devastated at times.  We have even felt like giving up (on multiple occasions).  But, its the dream that keeps us going.  Its the belief that there is something in this life that we are all meant for.  It is the understanding that success is possible for anyone who works hard enough for it.  It is the thought that you can make a difference in your world if you put your spirit, heart, and mind to it.  It is the seemingly unreasonable belief in grit.  But hey, if everything were easy and reasonable, this life would be boring.

And that my friends, is our story of coffee grit.  What's your grit story?  What's your dream?  What inklings or glimmers have you seen with your dream becoming a reality?