Freeing the coffee entrepreneur

The Coffee Entrepreneur

Instaurator tells BeanScene what inspired him to write The Coffee Entrepreneur, a book that will guide the future innovators of the coffee industry.

For many people in the coffee industry, their passion was ignited by a great coffee tasting experience. In the case of Instaurator, Director of Espressology and author of The Coffee Entrepreneur, this occurred with an Ethiopian coffee when he was in his early 20s.

 “I didn’t know coffee could be that good,” Instaurator says. “I don’t know what varietal that coffee was – probably an heirloom Sidamo – but I remember being struck by the exotic taste and aroma. It was very enticing.”

While Instaurator would go on to literally write the book on being a coffee entrepreneur, it was his pioneering brother Robert Forsyth who lured him into the specialty coffee industry. Instaurator tasted that eye-opening Ethiopian coffee while on summer holidays from university when, out of curiosity, he went to see what his brother was up to – setting up his own roastery.

Realising he’d struggle to make a career out of his Australian history degree without taking a further teaching component, Instaurator turned his attention to coffee full time. At the age of 27, he headed up a specialty coffee distribution business of his own, now known as Danes Gourmet Coffee.

“Danes became a wholesale specialty coffee roasting business, and we did things the opposite way around compared to many other roasters who emerged in the 1990s and 2000s,” Instaurator says. 

“Whereas others started with a single café then developed the wholesale part of their businesses, we were already an established specialty coffee roaster before opening three successful cafés.”

Before the end of the 1990s, Instaurator was headhunted by a large franchise chain, which tasked him with establishing a brand-new coffee division. The business enjoyed a great deal of success, and within five years, was worth $16 million. The coffee chain was sold to another group with priorities that contrasted with how Instaurator believed a specialty coffee business should be run. Instaurator says with highs come lows, and this experience taught him some hard lessons about business.

The Coffee Entrepreneur“When you start playing with the big boys, you’ve got to toughen up. It definitely gave me some hard life lessons on how to deal with people and protect myself in business,” he says.

So Instaurator went back into business for himself in 2008, setting up Espressology, a private label specialty coffee roaster that allows him to share his coffee knowledge with others looking to start their own specialty coffee businesses.

“During my time in coffee, I’ve seen the transition from the late 1980s, when consumers looked down on Australian roasted coffee and preferred Italian brands. In the last few decades, Australian consumers have matured and don’t necessarily want European brands anymore. They have higher demands for freshness and quality and café operators have responded to that,” Instaurator says.

“Being successful in the current market is less about having a big brand name and more about being independent. Espressology is enabling small and large coffee entrepreneurs to be just that.”

Several of Espressology’s clients have experienced great success while employing non-traditional business models.

“It has been interesting to see how specialty coffee has changed, developed, and opened up more opportunities for coffee entrepreneurs. One of our clients started an online business 12 months ago and we developed a private blend for them,” Instaurator says.

“Recently, they have signed an export contract to ship containerloads of this coffee overseas. This client had a simple idea for an online business, brought it to life, and now has customers around the world.”

While Espressology allows Instaurator to share his experience with clients, it wasn’t until he went on a sabbatical to the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia that it occurred to him to put pen to paper again and reach a wider audience.

“I was surfing on a remote island with a couple of young, global-roaming business opportunists. They were smart kids, with good business experience, and were working for practically nothing to give themselves the opportunity of surfing on this idyllic island,” Instaurator says.

“One was reading a book about entrepreneurs. He showed it to me, and I realised I had a few similar stories. I shared a few experiences and he seemed to like them, so I thought ‘there’s plenty more where that came from’. Over the next couple of months, I started writing the stories down.”

The Coffee Entrepreneur chronicles Instaurator’s career in the specialty coffee industry, focusing on risks he’s taken to succeed and lessons he learnt from failures. Instaurator tells BeanScene that many people from varied backgrounds want to get into the coffee industry.

“A lot of people around the world get bitten by the coffee bug. It can happen when you’re young or even later on in life. On a recent trip to Italy for HostMilano, I met a 47-year-old corporate lawyer who is looking to get into coffee, and also Mark Folker, a hydraulic engineer who recently developed the Trinity One and Delter coffee brewers,” Instaurator says.

“Other people get stars in their eyes and dream of owning their own coffee shop. But turning this passion into a viable business is trickier than it seems. Running a successful café is hard work, particularly in Australia with high competition and labour rates.”

Instaurator says with a nearly 40-year career in coffee, he can offer insights to others heading down a similar path.

“I followed the coffee rabbit down the hole, like thousands of young people are doing now, but when I started, it was more of a wilderness. There was no internet, nor connection between grower and roasters, or auctions like the Cup of Excellence. You really had to figure things out for yourself,” Instaurator says.

“Through Espressology, we’re empowering new specialty coffee entrepreneurs so they can learn more about coffee and business. We train them up, teach them to cup, roast, and even develop their own brand. My hope for The Coffee Entrepreneur is to continue to help people grow using my hard-won experience.”

This article appears in FULL in the December 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

Instaurator published his first book, The Espresso Quest, in 2008. With his second book, The Coffee Entrepreneur, he turns his attention from the art to the business of coffee.

The Coffee Entrepreneur is available on Amazon, Kindle, ibooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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