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Key to success: Never give up

Randy Pederson, Java Moose

Java Moose owner Randy Pedersen has taken a small coffee startup and grown it into a business that punches far above its weight in terms of branding and market presence.
Photo: Cindy Wilson/telegraph-Journal

Randy Pedersen has been passionate about coffee for a very long time. From Vancouver originally, he chose to make the Saint John area his home more than 18 years ago. When he first arrived he soon realized he couldn’t get a latte or a cappuccino in the city. Coming from the self-professed“coffee capital of Canada” Randy immediately felt that there was a need for great coffee here and thought the time was right.

Randy and his partner – Glen McLean– launched JavaMoose Coffee Roasters. Before diving into the coffee business, Randy and Glen purchased a franchise in the photography industry. After selling that business, they had the time and the ability to pursue their passion – sourcing broad green coffee and roasting it locally. That’s when they began educating themselves in the art of roasting coffee beans. After taking roasting training in Long Beach, California and at Ozone Park, New York, JavaMoose was born.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the early days.

A: There wasn’t anywhere to get an espresso in Saint John. The benefit of being first to market is that you get to make a lot of mistakes and nobody notices. For a startup, that’s a pretty good position to be in.

You’ve got to give people in the Saint John region credit. They’re never shy about trying something new. If we had tried this in Toronto or Vancouver, we would have been crushed like little bugs. We were really fortunate and blessed to be in a market like this.

Q: What was the vision of the company?

A: To bring freshly roasted coffee to Saint John. At the time, the closest you could get to freshly roasted would be a can of Folgers on somebody’s shelf. When we first began roasting coffee (we roast every day) people confused freshness, what coffee actually tastes like, with strength. A lot of people found our coffee to be just too strong.

Q: What was it like introducing a new concept into the market?

A: I’ll let you in on a little secret. Back then, all those years ago, we were using about 30 per cent less coffee per pot than we do now because coffee brewed fresh was an entirely new concept. When you have all those flavours happening in your mouth and on your palate, they’re flavours that you’re not used to. People perceived that the coffee was stronger. It wasn’t actually stronger. We weren’t using any more coffee than anybody else at the time. It was just all the flavor was there. Now, people have acquired a taste for what coffee really should taste like and that’s an incredible thing.

[Tweet “People have now acquired a taste for what coffee really should taste like. – Randy Pedersen”]

Q: Tell me about your first location?

A: The first location was in McAllister Place Shopping Centre and it’s still there, at the same very spot, all 400 square feet of it. We actually installed the world’s first coffee roaster in an enclosed shopping center anywhere in the world. It was a first, right here in Saint John.

[Tweet “We installed the world’s first coffee roaster in an enclosed shopping center. – Randy Pedersen”]

It was completely impractical so the roaster is no longer there, but we knew that we were doing something special and we wanted people to see freshly roasted beans tumble out of the roaster into the cooling bin. It was part of the magic of specialty coffee.

Q: Java Moose has grown since its inception, where is the company now?

A: We have five locations plus our roasting facility in the industrial park where our warehouses and our offices are. We’re confident with what we’re doing and we’re happy in the community that we’re in. The key is, we want our stores to be part of the community that they’re in. It takes time to earn that. It doesn’t happen overnight. We want our stores to be enduring.

[Tweet “We want our stores to be part of the community that they’re in. – Randy Pedersen”]

Q: Tell me about your plans for growth.

A: We don’t believe in growth for growth’s sake.We don’t believe in rapid, unbridled growth. We believe in controlled, careful, calculated growth. It’s a very important part of the research: never take your market for granted.

It would be very easy for us to have 100 stores nationwide, if everybody who wanted to be involved got involved. Java Moose is an exciting concept. It’s world class. We’ve traveled all over the world and we’re up there with the very best of them in Europe, Southeast Asia, the United States, Canada; we ship coffee all over the world.

[Tweet “We believe in controlled, careful, calculated growth. – Randy Pedersen”]

Q: What advice would you give to the people, budding entrepreneurs, who may be sitting on the sidelines?

 A: That is a very complicated question. I get asked this a lot. If you have a great idea for a startup, follow your passion. If you’re passionate about it, never give up. That’s the key to success in business – never give up.

Q: Where did you seek advice when you launched your business?

A: There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Saint John who helped us along the way and to who we are eternally grateful. We were willing to go to those people and ask them for their help and advice and be the beneficiary of their experience. My advice would be to seek mentors and ask for advice and help. It’s usually freely given.

[Tweet “My advice would be to seek mentors and ask for advice and help. – Randy Pedersen”]

Q: Tell me about your philosophy in growing your wholesale business.

 A: One thing that we’ve learned along the way is we don’t have any trade secrets. You want to know how to do something, we’ll try to help you the best we can. That’s why our wholesale business has been so very successful (the restaurants, hospitality and offices that we supply). We’re willing to say: ‘We’ll work with you. We’ll help you. We’ll share our knowledge. We’ll share our success.’

Q: What have you found most challenging about being an entrepreneur?

A: The long hours. It’s a lot of work. My day starts at four a.m. and won’t end until seven tonight. Be prepared for long hours.

When you look at JavaMoose, what you see -I hope- is a company that punches far above its weight in terms of branding and market presence. That’s all of those hard hours.

Q: What does the future look like five years from now?

A: A lot can change in the medium term – the plans are for more locations and probably starting to look at partnering with people who want to share in our business. Short term we’ve got lots of really cool things coming down the pipeline that I’m really excited about.

Q: How would you describe your market presence?

A: Our stores have a common look and there’s consistency in the product offering and the service standards. But you know what? No two JavaMoose look exactly alike. They’re instantly recognizable as being JavaMoose, but they fit the communities that they’re in.

Q: How would you finish this sentence: ‘A leader’s job is to …’?

A: A leader’s job is to follow smarter people. Our best ideas don’t come from my brain, they come from other people’s brains.

Q: What’s your favorite coffee?

A: The one I just had and the one I’m about to enjoy.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale. Don’t miss any of Dave’s interviews with leaders…get blog updates in your inbox by signing up over here, at the top of the right column ==>

3 Responses

  1. Marleyne & Harvey Krell

    We are so proud of you. Wonderful interview. Work hard and never give up. Good rule to live by.

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