Never expect something of someone else that you wouldn’t expect of yourself. Be the most disciplined individual in your organization, leading by example.
Shane Buerster is the founder of Z Beans Coffee, an Ecuadorian coffee importer that focuses on creating sustainable solutions for coffee farmers abroad and unemployed individuals in The States.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The name, Z Beans Coffee, originated from the town I visited with the Mercer On Mission group during the summer of 2016. Mercer On Mission, an initiative pushed forth by Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, provides real-world experience for students by finding innovative, sustainable projects that can be implemented in foreign countries. The city I worked in with my Mercer On Mission group was Zaruma, Ecuador. When I decided to start up the business, the summer of 2017, I met with the mayor of Zaruma to tell him about my project. I wanted to be as transparent as possible, as I knew there weren’t many other exporters of Ecuadorian coffee due to a lack of infrastructure within the coffee industry. While talking with him, he asked us to name the company, ‘Zaruma Beans.’ However, I decided to shorten it to Z Beans, as that permits a greater deal of scalability when it comes to exporting from other places throughout the world.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When I first started the company, my senior year of college, I would roast coffee beans in a popcorn popper, 13 ounces at a time. Thus, my time was spent roasting. However, I quickly came to realize that in order for Z Beans to grow, I needed to find ways to free up my time so I could scale. Thus, I began exploring roasting partnerships. Partnerships that would help me bridge a gap until I could buy my own roaster. Once I found a stable partner, I began focusing on selling product and stabilizing our logistics. From there, I began recruiting a sales team that could not only find prospects but close deals as well. While I still enjoy focusing on selling product, most of my time is now spent managing my team and putting Z Beans in good positions to succeed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a rule around Z Beans. If you aren’t willing to implement an idea yourself, you can’t throw it on someone else. As a small business that is constantly looking for ways to grow, it’s important for us to channel our focus and energy. By constantly generating new ideas, we found ourselves frequently losing focus on our current one. Eventually, we found ourselves never fully implementing any idea because we had so many going on at one time. Now, we write down all of our ideas, bring them to the table every other week, and choose which ones to implement over the next two weeks. This is kept us focused and efficient.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The most exciting trend for me is the idea of conscious consumerism. At Z Beans, we take a lot of pride in the shared value concepts we enact within our supply chain. We hope to not simply do good because it’s the right thing to do – but to do good because it’s a part of what we do. In this case, doing good is not a separate activity but rather a result of our day-to-day activities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have an extremely addictive personality, and I like to wake up very early. If you put these two pieces together, you will find someone who enjoys working on their business every single second of the day. However, because of this, I have to consciously force myself to ‘put the phone away.’
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice I would give my younger self: Live with a purpose. Ever since I have started working with Z Beans, I’ve found my vocation. I can honestly say that while I work 100 hour works consistently, I’ve never worked a day in my life. I enjoy waking up. I enjoy being part of something that is doing good. I enjoy living life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You can’t bring a UHAUL behind your hearse. So many individuals get caught up in the materialistic world. However, as one of my mentors said to me, “Think with the end in mind.” No matter what anyone else may believe when your time comes, you will be remembered by the lives you touched and the legacy you leave. While money may bring comfort, it can’t buy a meaningful life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly disciplining myself. One of the most important virtues of life is discipline. Our ability to persevere, in my opinion, stems from the discipline with which we’ve done to ourselves. While our parents have instilled discipline in us, our ability to discipline ourselves is what leads to long-term success.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Because the coffee industry is very saturated, we have decided to first focus on our local area. We want to be the dominant coffee provider in the Middle Georgia area. If we can do so, we will have a sustainable business that we can then look to scale across the United States. For us, thinking from the inside out allows us to lay a foundation that we can then build upon. A tree can only grow as tall as its roots allow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As a young entrepreneur focusing on importing, I have experienced many failures. When I imported my first 300 pounds of coffee, I had no idea I needed a freight forwarder or customs broker. So, the customs border patrol in Miami forced me to find one before I could receive my package. In doing so, I learned all about the importing and exporting game, which allowed me to import my next 4,000 pounds then eventually our 14,000 pounds.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One idea I have explored but never acted upon is an application that connects Latin Americans, hoping to learn English, with Americans, hoping to learn Spanish. While there are other apps out there, this app would be strictly for academic use. Curriculums would be developed to connect classes together – not individual people.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We decided to start putting 4×6 postcards that talk about our individual farmer in each bag of coffee we serve. Because we are a direct trade importer, we have constantly looked for ways to connect our farmers to our consumers. We thought a great way to do this would be to utilize these farmer cards. Since implementing this change, it has been received very well.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use a Customer Relationship Management system called Method. This CRM connects with our Quickbooks (which is very useful), and it allows us to keep track of all of our potential and current customers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Leaders Eat Last. The greatest sign of ownership is sacrifice. When you’re starting up a business, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote as said to me by my father: Don’t reward what’s expected.
- By implementing shared value concepts within your company’s supply chain, you will be able to create sustainable change for communities and people in need.
- Before implementing ideas, coordinate with your team, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
- Never expect something of someone else that you wouldn’t expect of yourself. Be the most disciplined individual in your organization, leading by example.
- Develop a business plan and stick with it. You will encounter many yields sign, but as long as you remain persistent, you won’t reach any stop signs.
- Read Leaders Eat Last to understand the importance of sacrifice in building a sustainable company.
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