Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Derek LaCrone, Co-Founder of Shady Lion Coffee Co., located in La Jolla, CA, USA.

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

My business is Shady Lion Coffee Co., although we are about to enter into a rebranding phase as the company has evolved beyond coffee and really into a lifestyle brand centered around coffee culture and living a good life. Our coffees are some of the top-rated coffees on the planet (not by us, but by official coffee-tasting ratings), so our customers are people who really want to take their coffee experience to the next level. We have 100% positive feedback from customers, and one of the most common things we hear is "I've never had coffee this good" when people try our Signature Ethiopian coffee.

We have the coffee bean selection and roasting process down to a science. We've also found a lot of people who used to get coffee out of the house, looking to make coffee at home, so educating and helping them become coffee makers instead of just consumers has been really fun. Also, because I am really into mixed martial arts, including Jiu-Jitsu, we have seen a lot of people from the combat sports world buy our gear and become customers, so we are building out more products specific to combat sports. Be on the lookout for a "Ninja Roast" coming soon.

Tell us about yourself

I've been in sales, advertising, and the personal development space and consulting for years, and I have had this idea of a coffee business and really a consumer-facing product-based business since around 2018. I have lived in many places, including Brazil, and when I reflect on my life, I find this theme of coffee having such a significant cultural impact as well as a certain level of ritual to it for so many people. I remember my grandma brewing coffee each morning and the smell of it in the kitchen as I got ready to go to high school. I would have a cup of coffee in my little apartment in Brazil before I would go off to teach English class.

Things like this stood out to me, and so I started really learning about the history of coffee and talking to others about how coffee has impacted their lives. Once upon a time in Europe, coffee helped people become more productive when clean water was a problem, and people were drinking beer all day for flavor. And in regards to motivation, I think motivation comes and goes, but for me, it's about waking up each day with a purpose, something to do that has a positive impact on others and enriches their lives.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Probably making it this far in an extremely competitive industry. There were many times when I could imagine someone with no business experience would have given up, but I understand that when you're building something from scratch like this, especially a brand, there are bound to be days and maybe even a couple few days in a row where things don't seem to be working out. Just assess, adjust, and advance.

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

Knowing when to stop, when to change something, and when to keep going on something. When you have a lot of ideas, you have to really make sure that you realize not all change is a good change and that not all good ideas are worth implementing. Figuring out how to let some ideas die is ok. And also, sometimes, just shut the laptop and let it be for the day or night. That's one of my biggest challenges as I am sitting here right now on "vacation" looking at the beach, and it's just shy of 8 am, and I'm doing this, haha. I love it though.

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

  1. Just get started. Sure, doing things in a certain way or aiming for "perfect" is great, but just realize unless you have big backers and are planning to spend a lot of money, just go for it and figure it out along the way. Sometimes it'll be pretty, and sometimes it won't.
  2. Seek advice from the right people. Not all advice is great advice, and people love to give free advice, just be weary of the source.
  3. Be open to outside thoughts. I know it's almost counter to the last one, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just talk to someone who is a good listener and bounce things off them. Even if they don't give good feedback, talking through things aloud can be great for solving business challenges and advancing.

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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