We had the good fortune of connecting with Spencer Verhines and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Spencer, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Having the courage to take risks is very important when starting a business. Sometimes risk involves severe hardship but with that can come a big reward. Where starting a business is concerned, when you’re receiving a paycheck a few times a month along with health benefits and a 401k, taking a risk that means giving all that up can be very intimidating. But it can also mean that you get the opportunity to build the lifestyle of your dreams. You get do the things that are important to you instead of having to ask your employer permission for a limited amount of time off to squeeze what you can into those few days of vacation. As an entrepreneur, I believe it’s important to embrace risk.
Whether it was personal or professional, I’ve always taken risks. In early 2019 I lost my job and wasn’t too enthusiastic about going back to work for someone. I wanted to start a business but didn’t know what I wanted to do. It didn’t take long to settle on selling coffee. I had a talk with my wife and told her what I wanted to do – start a business selling coffee. I let her know that if she felt more secure with me going back to work for someone so that I could bring home a paycheck every couple of weeks that I would do that and build a business on the side. I also told her that I wanted to make a bet on myself and start a business and not go back to work for anyone else. After discussing a few other things such as how I was going to meet our monthly financial obligations, she was on board. Hearing her say she believed in me and that she supported my decision was all I needed to get going. Once I got going, I’ve never stopped.
At that time, in addition to working a full-time job, I had been driving for a rideshare company off and on for a few years. I decided to drive full-time, which meant 70+ hours a week on the road so that I could meet our monthly financial obligations and fund the start-up costs of the business. Had I been afraid to take that risk, I never would have given consideration to starting a business nor would I be on the way to building the kind of lifestyle my wife and I desire.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
American Classic Coffee was founded in 2019. When I began this business, I didn’t know anything about coffee. I thought coffee from a particular chain store was the best coffee on the market but soon found out differently. When I decided to sell coffee, I did a deep dive into the world of coffee, and I was amazed at what I found. I learned about the coffee grading scale and the different grades of coffee that were available. I learned that the chain store that I frequented was selling commercial-grade coffee and the coffee subscription service I belonged to was selling me premium-grade coffee. When I learned about specialty-grade coffee and why it’s so much better than commercial and premium, I decided that’s what I wanted to offer people.
When learning more about specialty-grade coffee, I was shocked at the prices that this grade/quality of coffee was selling for. This was before the recent rise in inflation, too. I’d be very reluctant to buy coffee at that price point, so I decided I’d offer our coffee at a price that’s fair for both our customer and our company. Another thing that shocked me was that when I looked on various bags of specialty coffee I couldn’t find a roast date. That’s something I thought was important so I added a roast calendar to the label on the back of every bag of American Classic Coffee.
There have been many challenges along the way. Each challenge has been a difficult one and not easy to overcome. At times I’ve felt like throwing in the towel and giving up but quitting isn’t something I do so each time I persevered and found the solutions needed. When starting a business, whether full-time or on the side, you’re going to come up against things that seem insurmountable. They’re probably not though and the solution is available to you if you get quiet and think through things. Panic and stress can seem like the easiest option to take but if you slow down, get quiet and think through things you’ll find the answer you’re looking for. Sometimes all it takes is a good night of rest. Don’t be in a hurry, as this isn’t a race. Take your time to think things through and reject the temptation to stress over the problem.
The specialty coffee world is filled with trendy sounding coffee companies with trendy names for their coffee. While there isn’t anything wrong with being trendy, we are just not and don’t want to be. American Classic Coffee isn’t a trendy company and we don’t have trendy name for our coffees. With names such as Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, and Woodie’s Brew, our coffees will be enjoyed for many years, long after the trends have changed and something else is considered “in.” We currently have two lines of coffee products. The first is the U.S. National Parks line and the second is the Americana line. The National Parks line features coffees named after our National Parks while the Americana line features coffees that celebrate Americana. Our coffee is always fresh roasted and offered at a price that’s fair to our customer and our company.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife and son deserve the most credit. They believed in me enough to be on board with this crazy idea of starting a business and have been there for me during some of the most difficult times I’ve experienced. Their prayers, words of encouragement, and support have made all the difference in the world. American Classic Coffee wouldn’t exist today had it not been for their support and encouragement.
My brother, Jeremy, has also been a source of encouragement. He’s given me some of the best advice a business owner could hope to receive and has been there for me every time I’ve needed him.