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    Entries in entrepreneurship (5)


    Christopher David Experience Design – the Next Generation of the Multi-Use Space

    On hot summer days, now a distant memory, the Pearl District’s Jamison Square teems with activity. From miles around, the park’s wading pool attracts parents who bring their kids to cool their toes and survive the heat. Joyful shrieks of children splashing and frolicking in the water echo off the walls of nearby condos and fill the open space.

    When autumn arrives, the pace of activity slows. Pedestrians saunter through the square, holding on to the season’s waning moments of sun and warmth. Leaves turn golden, bathing the plaza with amber in the afternoon light. Streetcars rumble past on schedule, the metal of the steel rails screeching under the weight of the wheels. Sharply-dressed women strut by in heels, slowly, to make sure they are seen. Fit, toned joggers in short shorts and tight tees bounce along the boardwalk. Curious kids clamber up the park’s granite bear, testing their bravery as they climb to the top of the statue before leaping off, like chicks taking their first plunge from the nest. Toddlers wobble along the top of the tan stone wall that splits the square, their mothers leisurely following behind, pushing high-dollar strollers with one hand, and holding smartphones to their ear with the other. Benches surrounding the park fill up with friends, neighbors, and nappers.

    Amidst this activity, a new café sits on the northwest corner of the square, waiting to be discovered. The name on the door says Christopher David, Interiors | Floral | Café (CDExD). The shop is a unique concept, a multi-use space that combines the diverse interests and talents of its three owners: Chris Giovarelli (whose first and middle names adorn the door), an interior designer, Cosmin Bisorca, a flower and finance specialist, and Kevin Nichols, a former barista at Nuvrei and Water Avenue Coffee, who oversees the coffee side of the business. I stopped in and was able to chat with Nichols, who shared the story behind the company.

    First and foremost, CDExD is dedicated to beauty. The company started out as strictly a design firm, founded by Giovarelli in 2012. Looking to grow the business, Giovarelli knew he needed to get his work in front of the public. “Chris wanted a storefront to showcase his design and have it be a place to show the actual work that he does in people’s homes and businesses,” Nichols told me. “In doing that, we saw the opportunity to have a revenue stream from a small café inside the store, as well as the floral area. We decided to put all three of those together to have it work.”

    The three-in-one concept adds an interactive vitality to a space that would otherwise be limited to shoppers quietly perusing furniture and other fixtures. “It’s kind of a collision of worlds—the designer meets the barista meets the floral designer. We all came in under one roof to create a beautiful experience.” said Nichols, adding, “There’s not many places you can go where you can buy a bouquet, a latte, and a sofa.”

    The Coffee Business

    Naturally, I was curious about the coffee side of the business, so I asked Nichols to share his story too. Originally, from the D.C./Northern Virginia area, Nichols came to Portland in 2007. With a degree in geology from the University of South Carolina, Kevin worked in an environmental testing lab, but he found his job unfulfilling (being holed up in a lab all day did not lead to much human interaction). Outside the lab, he discovered for the first time that coffee could taste good. “Coming here, I first noticed all the latte art, and I was just fascinated by it,” he said. Nichols spent a year abroad in London, during which he decided to switch career paths and get into the coffee business. To get a head start on his new life, Nichols took an intensive course at the London School of Coffee that covered a gamut of topics, from roasting to pulling shots to latte art.

    Back in the Rose City, Kevin found a barista job at Nuvrei, where was trained by Matt Higgins, Coava Coffee’s owner (at that time, Nuvrei was a Coava wholesale account). From Nuvrei, Nichols moved to Water Avenue Coffee. When he interviewed for the Water Avenue position, Kevin was clear about his ultimate intentions. “I was honest with them,” he said. “I said my dream is to open up my own place. That’s what I want to do in the next couple years.” That was fine with Milletto and Smyth, who look to hire employees with enthusiasm for coffee, even if it causes them to lose them when they leave to do their own thing.

    Less than a year later—much sooner than originally planned—Nichols became a partner in the new business. “I was a little daunted about starting my own place, completely on my own,” Nichols said. “Then this came up—not only the opportunity to work with other people, but to work with friends.” When Nichols told Milletto and Smyth he was leaving to start the new business, they encouraged him to go for it and offered their support.

    Click here to see a few more photos of the shop.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the café serves Water Avenue Coffee. Nichols says his choice of coffee was an easy one. “I love the company and the coffee” he explained. “I spent close to a year working there and I just fell in love with the product and the people who work there. I wanted to bring their coffee to the Pearl and I wanted to put their coffee in a beautiful place.”

    CDExD is the fourth café to have inhabited the Jamison Square location during the five years I have been in Portland, so I asked Nichols how the new business would be successful where others were not. He said the mix of talents and the experience of the owners gave CDExD an advantage. In addition to selling goods and services, the puts on several classes each month, in home decoration, floral arranging, and coffee (Nichols will be teaching a class on how to brew a pourover at home the next one will be Wednesday, October 23, at 7:00pm. Details about the classes can be found on the company website). CDExD does design and flowers for events as well. The diverse offerings are intended to complement each other.

    Time will tell how the three-in-one model works as a business, but Christopher David makes a pleasant stop in the north end of the Pearl. Between the furniture, the flowers, and the coffee, the shop is like a little bit of Paris in the heart of the Pearl. It combines the elegance of the Champs-Élysées with elements of third wave coffee, such as the low counter and the open coffee bar, where baristas make drinks in full view of the customers. I might never have a living room as nice as the showroom floor, but I will happily sit at a table and enjoy the setting for the price of un café.

    Address: 910 NW 10th, Portland, OR 97209 (map)
    Hours: Monday-Saturday 7am-6pm
                Sunday 8am-5pm
    Phone: 503-206-8226
    Coffee: Water Avenue
    Recommendations? Take your drink and sit outside on a sunny afternoon
    Wi-Fi? Yes


    Creating a better way to go: FoamAroma

    When you think of coffee technology, you might think of the sleek, shiny espresso machines sitting on the bar, the mysterious glass orbs of the vacuum pot, or the lengthy, spiral curves of a Japanese ice-brewer. These are the complex technologies on display in a specialty coffee shop—the “stars of the show,” if you will.

    One technology you might overlook, because it is much less flashy, is the cup. Despite its relative simplicity, the cup you drink from has a large impact on your coffee experience.

    The best way to enjoy hot coffee is to drink it from a ceramic mug. Mugs feel solid in the hand and smooth on the lips. A mug’s open top allows the full aroma of the coffee to reach your nose. As long as they have been washed properly, ceramic mugs do not impart any flavors into the coffee.

    Drinking from a paper cup is a much different experience. Paper feels cheap and can add a dull off-flavor to your coffee. When you put a plastic lid on top of the paper cup, you trap most of the aroma inside the cup, further reducing the taste experience. If you drink a cappuccino from a to-go cup, you distort the balance between the textured milk and the coffee (the foam gets trapped under the lid when you tip the cup). On top of its taste deficiencies, using paper cups creates a large stream of waste destined for the landfill.  

    Nevertheless, many people drink their coffee from a paper cup. From my own observations, I would estimate that at least 50% of the coffee sold in cafés is ordered to go. For some cafés, the percentage is higher. At the Starbucks I worked at in Boston, the rate was closer to 95% (it was a commuter store). Whatever the exact number, a lot of people order their coffee to go, and a high percentage of them do not get the coffee experience they deserve.

    Enter a new lid

    Entrepreneur Craig Bailey wants to change this. Bailey, a former engineer in the paper industry, has developed a new version of the to-go cup lid he calls FoamAroma. The new lid allows coffee drinkers to taste more of a cappuccino’s foam and smell more of the coffee aroma. Bailey’s idea came to him one day when he stopped in at Lava Java, former USBC champ Phuong Tran’s café in Ridgefield, WA.

    Craig Bailey, inventor/entrepreneur

    “Before October 2007, I was drinking coffee for the caffeine,” said Bailey, a former engineer in the pulp and paper industry. “I had this project up in Longview and I happened to stop in at Lava Java. I don’t know why, but I changed to a traditional five and a half ounce cappuccino. I have no idea why. I just had to try it, and it changed my life. It actually blew me away.”

    His eyes opened to how good coffee could be, Bailey went back for more.

    “I got the same drink to go in the car the next day,” he said, “but it wasn’t the same experience.”

    Trapped under the plastic lid of a to-go cup, the cappuccino failed to impress him.  Disappointed, Bailey began to look for ways to fix the problem.

    “I took the Solo lid and started poking holes and cutting slots and tearing tabs,” he said. “I got some hard clay in the house—I was going to form molds and fix the problem. FoamAroma is the product of that epiphany.”

    Bailey wanted to produce a drinking experience that would mirror that which a mug offered.

    “The velvety, textured foam is such a big part of the experience, as is the aroma,” he said.

    For two years, Bailey’s interest in creating a better lid was just a hobby, but things changed in the spring of 2009, when a large earthquake struck Chile and damaged that country’s main port. Chile is a large pulp exporter, and as a result of the port shutdown, the world price for pulp shot up. The mill where Bailey was working at the time could not afford to purchase pulp, so it cancelled the project he was working on. Bailey took the cancellation as a sign it was time to turn his hobby into a business. That summer, he found a plastic manufacturer in Florida and a patent attorney, and he has been working on FoamAroma full time since then.

    The new lid has a round hole in the center and a large, triangle-shaped hole for drinking from. The triangle mouth hole sits on a surface that is inclined toward the center of the cup. This directs any splashes back toward the center of the cup, unlike a traditional Solo lid, where coffee splashes straight up when the cup is bumped.

    The larger holes in the FoamAroma lid also allow coffee drinkers to slurp the coffee, so customers can drink their coffee right away instead of waiting for it to cool.  

    “It turns out that if you can slurp air through as you sip, it cools the fluid off and you don’t burn your mouth,” said Bailey.

    FoamAroma is currently available in black or white for standard 12-24oz. cup sizes. A version for an 8-oz. cup has been designed and prototyped, and should be in production soon.

    These days, Bailey spends much of his time visiting cafés and other places where coffee drinkers and café owners gather, spreading the message that a better to-go coffee experience is possible.

    “I’ve learned that most baristas don’t drink from paper cups, so they don’t know how bad [the old lids are] until you get them to do a side-by-side comparison,” he said.

    Besides coffee, Baily is also targeting the tea industry. FoamAroma’s first major order was for a container load to England, where tea is the most popular hot beverage. At the London Tea Festival, one tea shop owner called the FoamAroma the ‘holy grail’ because it allows tea drinkers to smell the teas’ aromas. 

    Whether or not FoamAroma becomes the new standard for the hot beverage industry, Bailey says there is no turning back now.

    “I cashed it all in,” he said. “I’m in this 100%. I’m not going back to spending days with chemical engineers behind a computer. I like talking to coffee people. It’s a lot more fun.”


    I Miss the Mob - a lesson in entrepreneurship

    The cover of Anything You Want, Derek Sivers' new book

    Today I came across a video that I thought you might enjoy. To give you a little background, Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, has just written a new book about entrepreneurship that is being published by the Domino Project. CD Baby is a company that helps independent musicians manage their music sales. Anyone can upload their songs to the company’s servers, and CD Baby will managed the distribution of that music, either as a CD or as a digital download. Sivers founded the company in 1997, and it became very successful, selling millions of albums.  He sold the company a couple years ago and has since moved on to start new ventures to help more aspiring musicians.

    I hope to read his book sometime, but today I wanted to share with you a video that he put on the site promoting his book. It has a pretty funny take on the differences between entrepreneurs who are in business because they love what they do and professional businesspeople who are only in business to make money.


    The video is relevant to Portland, a city that has not yet lost its fun spirit. In my discussions with roasters, baristas and café owners, many of them have told me that while making money is important to them, they are happy to be doing something that they enjoy.

    Thanks to all who realize that there is more to business than just dollars and cents. You help keep Portland interesting. 


    It's time to do the work

    Does this ever happen to you? Last night I was so revved up by a book I was reading that I had a hard time sleeping. The book, by Steven Pressfield, was called Do the Work. It is a sequel to his book The Art of Work, which Seth Godin calls “the most important book you’ve never read” (I haven’t read it either).

    The main theme of Do the Work is that you can be successful as a creator (entrepreneur, artist, writer, musician, etc.) if you are willing to overcome your own Resistance and—you guessed it—“do the work.” He pushes you to be creative and to do it now.

    Pressfield writes about how Resistance holds you back from doing the things you know you should do. Do you ever have the feeling that deep down there is something that you have been holding back, some great project you could do if only you would stop hiding from it? I have that feeling all the time, though I don't like to admit it. Pressman gives that feeling a name—Resistance—and says that it is the most powerful obstacle we face when trying to be successful. He personifies the resistance as an actual force that actively works to hold us back, a dragon we need to slay to gain confidence and earn our freedom from our own minds, minds that we often let bully us into believing we are not good enough or talented enough to do something great.

    The book is geared toward authors, screenwriters and others who create art for a living, but it is also appropriate for entrepreneurs and anyone else who wants to improve what they have been doing. Pressfield wants readers to overcome their Resistance to whatever it is they want to do. He wants to give us not only inspiration, but also a strategy for dealing with the Resistance.

    Do the Work left me with my mind buzzing. I was left with a sense not of worry or dread, but of opportunity and possibility, two of the most exciting words in the English language. When that happens, it’s hard to get to sleep. Do you know what I mean?

    [Do the Work is the first publication produced by the Domino Project, a new publishing venture that Seth Godin has undertaken in order to revolutionize the publishing industry. I am still not exactly sure what the Domino Project is doing that is so unique, but I trust that it is. General Electric sponsored the book. Perhaps this is what makes the Domino Project unique—they find sponsors for books, then give them away for free, at least the Kindle version. If you are interested, you can get the Kindle version for free too by clicking here (if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free software from Amazon and read it on your computer).]


    Tired of paper transit tickets? (updated)

    Today, I want to step away from coffee for just a moment. One of my favorite things to talk about is entrepreneurship, and I have something I would like to share with you.

    When I’m out traveling around the city, I prefer to walk or take public transportation. Walking around, you really get the feel of a place, and on the bus or the train, you don’t have to stress about traffic.

    Since I take the bus and the train pretty regularly, I can say with confidence that it would be nice to be able to pay for tickets using an app on my phone, especially when riding the bus. Even better, the phone would serve as a ticket itself.

    Tri-Met (Portland’s public transit agency) doesn’t have a system like that yet. However, a couple of my classmates from Portland State’s MIM program are trying change that. Nat Parker and Michael Gray have started a company called GlobeSherpa to develop mobile phone apps, and their most promising app at this time is called TransitSherpa, an app that acts as an electronic ticket management system for Tri-Met. I’ll let Nat explain:

    Their company is currently in negotiations with Tri-Met to make the system a reality, but they need some funding to speed things up. Tomorrow evening, at 5:30pm, Nat and Michael will be at the Backspace café/pub competing in the second-to-last round of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Seed Oregon competition, a competition that helps start-up companies with funding and guidance. The winner is determined by popular vote of the audience, so the more supporters TransitSherpa has, the better chance it has to win. The winning company gets to present at the Angel Oregon conference in March, where it could acquire the funding it is looking for.

    If you think that a Tri-Met ticket app is something that you would rather have sooner than later, come by Backspace tomorrow evening at 5:30 and support TransitSherpa. It costs $25, which I know is kind of steep, but it’s supposed to include some kind of food and drink spread. In addition, Nat has promised me that he’s going to be especially entertaining during his presentation.

    You might wonder if I get anything out of this advertisement for them. Nope. I’m just spreading the word for them and trying to speed up the process of creating a Tri-Met ticket app. It’s 2011, and the time for e-tickets is here. Let’s help TransitSherpa make it happen.

    No más

    Update: GlobeSherpa won by two votes! Congratulations and good luck at the next round.