Peter J. Burns III: Coffee...The Entrepreneur's "Drug of Choice"


What entrepreneur doesn't relish that first sip of delicious coffee in the morning as they sit down and contemplate where their day will take them? The smell of brewing coffee and that very first taste... seems to energize every cell in your body and gives each of us (that drink coffee, of course) that first boost of the day.

No matter what the day's challenges hold in store for us, sitting down to our morning coffee is an intrinsic part of nearly every entrepreneur's day. To that end, my partner in Atlanta and I even figured out how to profit from this. In Phoenix, I put together the first entrepreneurial-based community Co-Working Space. The first was named the eFactory and subsequently, the next two were called Club E Office. If the collection of entrepreneurs officing, meeting and working out of our facility wanted a cup of coffee, they had to leave the premises in search of a Starbucks.

Well, in the Co-working facility my partner and I started in a little town outside of Atlanta, it turned out that there wasn't a convenient coffee shop around. So, being good entrepreneurs that we are, we put in our own coffee shop and viola(!) Club E Cafe continues to be a resounding success and profit center as well as part of the new model for future Co-working facilities in our future.

My love of morning coffee continued during my recent tenure as a Volunteer for an NGO in Ethiopia. Each morning I would share macchiatos with a group of local businessmen on the porch of a boutique hotel near my NGO office. I can honestly say that my morning could not begin on a good note until that first sip of my macchiato, followed by stimulating conversation with my new Ethiopian friends. I even learned something fascinating from my new friends about my "drug" of actually originated right there in Ethiopia.

It seems that long ago, thousands of years, in fact, an Ethiopian goat herder observed that when his goats ate the berries from a certain bush, they became very frisky and jumped all over the place. The herder experimented with the beans and ended up making a hot drink from them. He discovered that this drink was energizing and soon he was drinking it himself and sharing with his workers, who became that much more productive in the fields. The region in Ethiopia in which this began was called Kaffa and forever more, this new drink became known as coffee.

My interest in Ethiopian coffee expanded as I explored different opportunities available to an American entrepreneur in Ethiopia. Soon, I came up with taking my love of coffee and going into the business, so to speak. I learned that despite having originated the wonderful product, consumed the world over, Ethiopia never truly benefited from the the branding and recognition of this contribution. Ethiopian coffee was exported across the world but the recognition of other country brands from Columbia and Brazil, not to mention the prized Kona Coffee from Hawaii and the Jamaican Blue Mountain Blue from Jamaica were all well known to consumers...but not the original coffee from Ethiopia.

I decided that I would help to define the first premium Ethiopian coffee. Taking the story of coffee's origin (Kaffa, Ethiopia) combined with the 3000 year old dynastic history of Ethiopia's Emperors and Kings, I would start my own coffee company from Ethiopia called Imperial Coffee. I am busy working on that project right now...

Posted on March 21, 2018 .