Small Business Seattle #3: Seven Coffee Roasters
Seattle is almost synonym to the word "coffee" with the fact that the biggest coffee manufacturing company was established in this city. With the success of Starbucks, many entrepreneurs are following Starbucks's footsteps in gaining worldwide business success. Some, however, enjoy serving the community as opposed to attempting to breakthrough the big market. Seven Coffee Roasters is an example. Having been a coffee supplier since 2006, Seven Coffee has developed itself into a wholesale coffee company for various cafes, markets, bakeries, and restaurants in the Puget Sound region that it developed a moniker:
Its motto in providing other fellow small businesses in thriving through their business endeavors is why they are able to build their name within the community. What started as just a small cafe/roastery in Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle became a communal success that is able to transform local cafes, markets, and food places with their remarkable coffee products.
There's so much to learn more about this company and its origin. With many interested due to the caffeinated product it makes, this company also holds values that it tries to deliver to their clients, and it shall not be neglected.
What is Seven Coffee Roasters (Extended)?
Besides its start in 2006 as a small cafe/roastery in Greenwood, Sean Lee, founded Seven Coffee Roasters as a tribute to his grandmother. Seven is named after Sean's grandmother, whose nickname "Nana" translates to Seven in Japanese. In 2009, the cafe became Makeda Coffee, and Seven Coffee evolved into a wholesale coffee company. After a couple of years being a wholesaler, Seven Coffee opened both a cafe and market in 2012 that sells its own roasted coffee, local goods, craft beer, and fine wines. In regards to alcohol, Seven Coffee offers a rotating selection of four taps that include local beers, ciders, and Seven Cold Brew in the summer that is served in their cool coffee bar. With their market and cafe, they relocated to a a new retail location that used to house Boulevard Grocery and other markets. This location has stood since 1922, and is unofficially the second oldest market building in Seattle. Today, Seven Coffee Roasters can still be found at many small businesses around Puget Sound. They roast coffee daily in White Center, and their focus is still on small businesses. Their values of hard-work, integrity, and compassion still serve as a tribute to the woman our company is named after.
In addition, if customers are looking to get coffee without waiting in line or waiting for the barista to make it for you, you can use their Order To-Go service! Simply call the coffee bar, place your order, and pick up your order within 15 minutes!
Meet the Ceo
Find out Sean Lee's background and business journey in the interview below:
What inspired you to open your business? (Date Established, etc.)
I opened my first shop in Winter 2006. I don’t know why I wanted to open my own coffee company rather than work at a coffee company. I think I was always an entrepreneur at heart. I enjoyed the creative process of building a brand, building a physical space. The challenge of it all also intrigued me, although if I would have realized the amount of work and struggle, I may have had second thoughts, haha. Part of the journey is the energy and bravado you approach building a business, that an older, wiser version of yourself may not have. It sounds negative, but it’s actually a really important positive part of the journey.
Were there any specific obstacles during your journey as a small business owner that defined the way you run operations today?
I think the majority of the obstacles I came across, and still deal with today, were my own limitations as a person running a business. My own management and relationship skills were tested. My ability to organize and stay organized were tested. Even my energy and determination to stay on course was tested.
What has been one of your biggest successes?
I count staying in business for over 12 years as one of my biggest successes. I know how difficult it is to start and stay in business for so long, and I feel lucky that I’ve been able to do so.
What was the biggest breakthrough moment for your business?
I don’t know if there has been one. As the years progress, I am able to look back on our journey as a company and feel some pride about it. We’ve been able to weave through challenges and overcome obstacles and most of it was challenging, so I don’t think there has been one breakthrough moment.
Do you have any advice to students at the UW that are looking to start up a small business in Seattle.
Yes, I would say go for it! Your energy and passion is enough to get you started so use it to your advantage while you can. You’ll never be your age again so give life your best shot and go for it! Failure doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. To fail in something you tried hard at is a noble act, and there’s absolutely no shame in it! Also treat UW as the great resource that it is.
Are you currently doing business with the UW? If not, are there resources you wish you had in order to have the opportunity to do business with the UW?
Yes, I am very lucky to be doing business with UW currently, and have been for over 5 years now. As far as resources, I think there has been sufficient resources for me.