Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marcus Contaldo and Jenni Trilik, Founders of Modest Coffee Roasters, located in West Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

In business since 2013, Modest Coffee is a single-origin coffee roasting company that aims to simplify coffee buying. We take the guesswork out of purchasing single-origin coffee by carefully curating coffees and placing them in one of tiers based on cupping score, flavor notes, and region of origin. We cater to anyone who loves coffee, from the most basic coffee lover to the high-end loving aficionado.

Tell us about yourself

We both fell in love with single-origin coffee when we met someone at the farmers' market that roasted coffee during the week and then sold it at the weekend market. That began Marcus's deep diving into learning about how coffee origins, small farmers, and better-growing practices could have such a huge influence on cup quality. Marcus then began experimenting with home roasting on a popcorn popper, then graduated to a 5-kilo commercial roaster. Once Marcus had the roaster, Jenni built a business to support his hobby. Every day we are motivated to make the best coffee we can and to make it accessible to everyone.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Our biggest accomplishment the Modest Coffee is helping people drink better coffee every day. We have grown from a few online sales to selling with large nationwide retailers while maintaining our commitment to quality and the global community of coffee growers. We've had a lot of success while maintaining our quality, sourcing, and pricing standards.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things about being a business owner is maintaining a financial balance. We care about paying high prices to support our farmers, we care about compensating our employees well, but we also care about keeping our coffee prices accessible. This creates a delicate balancing financial balancing act that we constantly have to monitor.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. The most important thing about starting a business is to expect to stay in it a long time to find success. A success that comes quickly is a unicorn. What actually creates success is perseverance and grit. It will get really hard before it gets easier.
  2. Never count your chicks before they are hatched; always plan for the worst-case scenario. A deal may seem completely sure and then could fail at the last moment. If you prepare while erring on the cautious side, then you will not face the stress of planning on something that falls through. This is especially important for financial management.
  3. Treat the people you work with, with gratitude. Any part of your business that is not done by yourself is done by someone contributing to your success. Be grateful for your employees, be grateful for your vendors, and be grateful for your customers. Each of them is the reason you have success.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

At Modest Coffee, Marcus Contaldo does the green coffee buying, roast profiling, and manages sales. Jenni Trilik runs all of the operations of the business. The team at Modest Coffee also has a coffee comedy podcast called No Bad Reviews: A Coffee Podcast, where they try any coffee and commit to giving it no bad reviews. This podcast can be found on any podcast listening app.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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