Predictions for 1 April 2014
31 March 2013
Time marches on whether you want it to or not. Every day is
largely the same as the last and it's easy for time to slip by.
Sometimes though, when you least expect it, WHAM! something unexpected
happens. Big events like a serious accident or a winning lottery
ticket will obviously change everything.
Those dramatic moments are easy to spot but much more often it is
something subtle. A stomach cramp that won't go away, an
unexpected phone call from a friend, a casual conversation about
quitting your job, meeting a nice young couple that's in town
visiting... it's easy to miss the significance of such events when
they're happening because they feel like a normal part of the daily
Dramatic or subtle, pivotal moments don't come along often.
When they do, it's important to be ready. With proper diet and
exercise, that cramp may turn out to be nothing. With some
extra cash saved up, you'll have the option of joining your friend's
new business venture when that phone call arrives. With the
security of family, friends and a good job to come back to, it's
fine to take some time off work just to see what else is out
there. You'll never know who those strangers you meet might
turn out to be unless you stop to say Hello.
Should I work for Microsoft making some stodgy, old operating system
or should I work for Accolade making
computer games? Should I ask my
girlfriend to marry me or should I go talk to that girl down the
street? Should I quit my job or should I save up a little more
money first? Should I really buy that coffee farm? Without
the benefit of hindsight, nobody has the answers to questions such
as these. The best anybody can do is guess.
You won't be reading this until 2014 but I am writing this on 31
March 2013. I feel like I am at one of those points in life
where things are about to change dramatically. At the risk of
embarrassing myself, I am going to try to make predictions for a
year from tomorrow, 1 April 2014. But first, let me back up
one year to 2012.
This time last year (2012, since this is being written in 2013) we
were finishing up our 2011-2012 harvest. Many Kona coffee farms
had been hit hard by the
Coffee Berry Borer
and had little coffee to sell. That supply shortage, combined
with a couple large mills going out of business, caused the prices
of Kona coffee to jump up higher than ever.
We were lucky to have low CBB infestation levels. We were also
lucky to be enjoying our largest harvest ever. Record high
prices, record high production, and were were one of the only ones
in town with coffee to sell. It was looking like it was going
to be a good year and we were planning our first family vacation
since moving to the farm in March 2005.
Despite the good year, we were still concerned that it wouldn't be
enough. Several years of a slow economy and low coffee prices
but consistently high farm expenses had us seriously considering the
need to sell the farm. We didn't want to but it looked like we
had no other choice. Besides, we were tired. We were
tired of all the hard work and the endless expenses. We were
tired of worrying that if just one more thing went wrong, it would
all fall apart.
We turned our energy to fixing up the house and farm so we could put
it on the market. We used the tiny bit of leftover cash from
the unusually good year to renovated the bathrooms, install new carpets
and finished a half dozen other projects
that had been put off for far too long. Doing the math, it looked
like we'd be able to sell the farm and just barely break even. If
everything went well, and the projections were correct, we'd have just
enough to start over somewhere else.
As is often the case, time slipped away. We were busy all summer
with renovations when fall arrived. We were nearly ready to put
the farm on the market but between an unusually hectic harvest season,
commitments with the Kona Coffee Festival, and family coming to visit,
we decided to put it off until after the holidays.
That was a good decision because we ended up being even busier than
expected. Never before had there been such hectic harvest and
we were so busy that we needed some help. Unfortunately, all the
regular farm crews were just as busy with the crazy harvest. In
past years we had occasionally invited farm interns to live and
work on the farm. Results had been mixed and after several
tries we had decided it wasn't worth the effort. However, with
no other labor available it looked like we had no choice. And
that's what changed everything.
I had met Eric and Casey
briefly when they came by for a farm tour earlier in the
year. They were living and working as WWOOFers on a nearby
farm. We get a lot of interest from WWOOFers so when they
asked if we wanted some farm help I was non-committal and dodged
the subject. Besides, we had family coming to visit so we
wouldn't have any extra room anyways.
As chance would have it, we saw Eric and Casey again one day at the
beach. Our guest room would be available in a couple days and
this time I knew I needed the help. The timing worked out well
and they moved in the day after our visiting family had to fly back
It was instantly obvious that Eric and Casey were not the typical
WWOOFers. They already had a lot of Kona coffee farm
experience, I never had to explain things twice and they never
hesitated to tackle any job I had for them, no matter how difficult,
dirty or tedious it was. The best part though was their
enthusiasm. Not only did they do their work cheerfully, they
were also a lot of fun to have around. It didn't take long
before we felt like they were friends rather than just farm interns.
Their constant cheer and enthusiasm rubbed off on us. Of
course it also helped that for the first time in a very, very long
time the farm work was actually ahead of schedule. No longer
did we feel overwhelmed and constantly tired. It's hard to
feel pessimistic when Eric and Casey would say things like "We're
going to live here forever!" or "We'd love to buy the farm if you
ever sell it!" It made us reconsider that maybe things
weren't so bad after all.
Still, as much renewed optimism as we gained from our new friends,
we still had to figure out how to increase our income and security
if we planned to stay. We wouldn't need much, just enough to
get us through any difficult times that might lay ahead. If
only there was some way we could leverage the farm into a new
business. If only I could use my farming experience, local
connections and coffee knowledge to take things to the next
level. Doing the math it was obvious that the farm could
not do it alone, we needed something more.
That's when I was reminded about an upcoming business opportunity
that another friend had told me about months before. When he
first told me about it I was focused on getting ready to sell the
farm and leave the island so I had politely ignored his lofty dreams
of some kind of new café / coffee school something-or-other.
But now, with our new determination to keep the farm, I gave him a
The timing was perfect and it was quickly obvious that this was a
good idea. A quick discussion with the original founder and it
was decided, I would be the third partner. The three of us
together were the perfect combination. Together we would
create a new business called
Daylight Mind Coffee Company.
I admit that I was still somewhat hesitant at first. I'm an
engineer by training and I naturally look for things that might go
wrong. I dug through the very thorough business plan, asked my
partners a million questions, and looked for any flaw or overlooked
detail I could find. I found few problems. In fact, the
more I learned and thought about it, the more sense it all made and
the more excited and confident I became.
It's good that the farm work was ahead of schedule because this new
project consumed me. Things progressed quickly and it didn't
take long for the momentum to build. Reviewing spreadsheets,
signing contracts, procuring funding, buying equipment, hiring
employees... we were fully committed and pushing full steam ahead.
There was plenty of involved, there always is, but as far as I could
tell this new business was a risk worth taking.
At the same time all this happened, Eric and Casey finally received
great news about an opportunity they had been waiting for. For
years they had wanted to purchase and run
Monkey Joe, a coffee shop/roastery
in their home town of Kingston, New York. When it finally became
available they knew they had to jump at the opportunity.
With a couple as intelligent, capable, hard-working, vibrant and
all-around awesome as Eric and Casey, I never had any delusions that
we'd be able to keep them on the farm for long. I always knew
that they were destined for something bigger. It was difficult
to say goodbye to such good friends but I knew that they shouldn't
pass up this opportunity.
They actually would have been perfect for Daylight Mind. They
almost had the opportunity too. Three days, that's what it
came down to. The news about Monkey Joe arrived three days
before the offer to join Daylight Mind. They carefully
considered both options but with Monkey Joe a very real
possibility that they had been after for years, it was the better
choice for them.
I put them on a plane, shed some tears, and told them that if
they ever came back I would guarantee them great jobs at Daylight
Mind. However, I also said they weren't allowed back on the
island until they gave Monkey Joe their best shot.
And that brings us to today.
Predictions for 2014:
So what will things be like a year from now? One thing I'm sure
about and is that as much as I'd love to have Eric and Casey
back, I know that won't happen because they will have phenomenal
success at Monkey Joe. In fact, if you're ever anywhere near
Kingston, New York you should stop in for a visit because I'm sure
the new owners have made it even more awesome than it already was.
Have a cup of coffee because it'll likely be the best coffee
around. And be sure to say Hello for me.
Where will I be? Despite the risk, I'm confident that Daylight
Mind will prove to be successful so we will still be living right
here on Kona Earth coffee farm. I'll probably be neck deep in
emails, phone calls, meetings and paperwork but loving every minute
of it. I'll also have to hire someone to help on the farm.
Other than that, I don't see the farm itself changing much.
Daylight Mind will open its doors in September 2013, right on
schedule. The first four months, with Ironman, the Kona Coffee
Festival and the holiday season rush, will be crazy hectic.
The good news is that I expect us to exceed our budgeted revenue.
By April things should slow down a bit. We will very likely
have had to make some adjustments along the way but by April the
café and bakery should be running smoothly. There won't be any
holding still though, we will be busy focusing on increasing our
wholesale roasting business and bringing the coffee school up to
full speed. If things go as planned, we'll already be seeing a
steady stream of eager students flying in from all over the world to
learn all they can about coffee, from growing to roasting, brewing
There are some side businesses that we can pick up or drop,
depending on our need. For example, coffee deliveries,
corporate events and coffee farm tours. We'll likely have
monthly tours for the high-end coffee school and we might have
weekly or daily tours for the never-ending stream of visitors to the
island. Or maybe we'll be too busy with other things so we'll
drop the tours or contract them out to someone else.
On a personal financial level, I expect that April 2014 will be
about the time that I can finally breath again. I'll likely
end up leveraged pretty heavily before then, putting all my time and
money into getting the business started. By April, after
nearly six months of profits, the financial burden should finally
start to ease. Our second stage of expansion isn't planned
until 2016 but I wouldn't be surprised if we were already talking
about bumping it up a little sooner.
Too optimistic? Maybe. Never once in my life have I been
able to accurately predict where I'd be three years into the
future. Predicting only one year away, maybe I won't be too far
off. I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises but that's part
of life. Nobody said it would be fair and the only guarantee is
that there will be both ups and downs. For me, that's what
makes it such an adventure.