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Danny O'Neill - President of The Roasterie

Danny O’Neill, President of The Roasterie, describes the journey that led him to starting his own company as well as some of the key attributes of an entrepreneur.  Created by Kauffman Foundation.

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Video transcript

- Danny O'Neill with The Roasterie. I was born and raised in a small town in Iowa, and during my senior year in high school, I signed up to be a foreign exchange student. And, so, shortly after Christmas I got a letter that said, okay, you're going to Costa Rica to live for a year. I went to high school and played basketball with my friends down there, and later in the year I went coffee picking. And I didn't drink coffee at the time, but we were up in the mountains, and it was idealic. It felt totally natural, and I've always really had, kind of, a kinship with farmers. Farmers are the same all over the world. I just love farmers, so I really loved the coffee farmers. I was trying to think about what to do, and coffee was the only idea that I had, and it was in the basement of the Kauffman Foundation actually that I was first called an entrepreneur. And I still vividly remember that I was thinking, oh that sounds good, what's that? The attributes were all the ones that I had always gotten in trouble for, thinking outside the box, being independent, persevering, not quitting, all these things. So I started this notion of give folks what they want, where they want, when they want, and do it better than anybody else. We can pick up the phone and talk to a green coffee broker and get coffee sent to us, and then you roast it. It's deceptively simple. I had wrote out my mission statement, which is still the same. The best coffee, the best roasted, fast as possible. I was scared to death, at $17,000 and started in my basement, right? But it was that fear of failure, I think, that motivated me. That's what worked for me. I was so afraid to fail that I just kept going. I think there's a lot of innate entrepreneurialism that the system takes out of the kids. There's this insatiable curiosity, and I think most of us have it. It might get buried if we're introverted, but it's still this alive, intense, intrinsic curiosity, spunk, spontaneity, and passion. My dad used to say, you find what you're looking for. Every one of these things that I do, somehow or another comes back. Some people might call it karma, some people call it all kinds of different things, but I just know that I have that old Dale Carnegie view, help enough other people get what they want, you're gonna get what you want. When I have an idea, I tell as many people as I can. I want as much feedback as I can. It's messy, so from point a to point b, I have all this mess in the middle. But all that informs that idea, and most likely, it's gonna kill it before I spend a lot of time and effort. I want good energy, be around smart people, and all that comes back and it fills my cup in lots of different ways.