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Predictions for 1 April 2014
31 March 2013


Time marches on whether you want it to or not.  Every day is largely the same as the last and it's easy for time to slip by.  Sometimes though, when you least expect it, WHAM! something unexpected happens.  Big events like a serious accident or a winning lottery ticket will obviously change everything.

Crawling Those dramatic moments are easy to spot but much more often it is something subtle.  A stomach cramp that won't go away, an unexpected phone call from a friend, a casual conversation about quitting your job, meeting a nice young couple that's in town visiting... it's easy to miss the significance of such events when they're happening because they feel like a normal part of the daily routine.

Dramatic or subtle, pivotal moments don't come along often.  When they do, it's important to be ready.  With proper diet and exercise, that cramp may turn out to be nothing.  With some extra cash saved up, you'll have the option of joining your friend's new business venture when that phone call arrives.  With the security of family, friends and a good job to come back to, it's fine to take some time off work just to see what else is out there.  You'll never know who those strangers you meet might turn out to be unless you stop to say Hello.

Tarth Should I work for Microsoft making some stodgy, old operating system or should I work for Accolade making computer games?  Should I ask my girlfriend to marry me or should I go talk to that girl down the street?  Should I quit my job or should I save up a little more money first?  Should I really buy that coffee farm?  Without the benefit of hindsight, nobody has the answers to questions such as these. The best anybody can do is guess.

You won't be reading this until 2014 but I am writing this on 31 March 2013.  I feel like I am at one of those points in life where things are about to change dramatically.  At the risk of embarrassing myself, I am going to try to make predictions for a year from tomorrow, 1 April 2014.  But first, let me back up one year to 2012.

Vacation This time last year (2012, since this is being written in 2013) we were finishing up our 2011-2012 harvest.  Many Kona coffee farms had been hit hard by the Coffee Berry Borer and had little coffee to sell.  That supply shortage, combined with a couple large mills going out of business, caused the prices of Kona coffee to jump up higher than ever.

We were lucky to have low CBB infestation levels.  We were also lucky to be enjoying our largest harvest ever.  Record high prices, record high production, and were were one of the only ones in town with coffee to sell.  It was looking like it was going to be a good year and we were planning our first family vacation since moving to the farm in March 2005.

Despite the good year, we were still concerned that it wouldn't be enough.  Several years of a slow economy and low coffee prices but consistently high farm expenses had us seriously considering the need to sell the farm.  We didn't want to but it looked like we had no other choice.  Besides, we were tired.  We were tired of all the hard work and the endless expenses.  We were tired of worrying that if just one more thing went wrong, it would all fall apart.

Bathroom We turned our energy to fixing up the house and farm so we could put it on the market.  We used the tiny bit of leftover cash from the unusually good year to renovated the bathrooms, install new carpets and finished a half dozen other projects that had been put off for far too long.  Doing the math, it looked like we'd be able to sell the farm and just barely break even.  If everything went well, and the projections were correct, we'd have just enough to start over somewhere else.

As is often the case, time slipped away.  We were busy all summer with renovations when fall arrived.  We were nearly ready to put the farm on the market but between an unusually hectic harvest season, commitments with the Kona Coffee Festival, and family coming to visit, we decided to put it off until after the holidays.

That was a good decision because we ended up being even busier than expected.  Never before had there been such hectic harvest and we were so busy that we needed some help.  Unfortunately, all the regular farm crews were just as busy with the crazy harvest.  In past years we had occasionally invited farm interns to live and work on the farm.  Results had been mixed and after several tries we had decided it wasn't worth the effort.  However, with no other labor available it looked like we had no choice.  And that's what changed everything.

Barbie I had met Eric and Casey briefly when they came by for a farm tour earlier in the year.  They were living and working as WWOOFers on a nearby farm.  We get a lot of interest from WWOOFers so when they asked if we wanted some farm help I was non-committal and dodged the subject.  Besides, we had family coming to visit so we wouldn't have any extra room anyways.

As chance would have it, we saw Eric and Casey again one day at the beach.  Our guest room would be available in a couple days and this time I knew I needed the help.  The timing worked out well and they moved in the day after our visiting family had to fly back home.

Pulping It was instantly obvious that Eric and Casey were not the typical WWOOFers.  They already had a lot of Kona coffee farm experience, I never had to explain things twice and they never hesitated to tackle any job I had for them, no matter how difficult, dirty or tedious it was.  The best part though was their enthusiasm.  Not only did they do their work cheerfully, they were also a lot of fun to have around.  It didn't take long before we felt like they were friends rather than just farm interns.
Their constant cheer and enthusiasm rubbed off on us.  Of course it also helped that for the first time in a very, very long time the farm work was actually ahead of schedule.  No longer did we feel overwhelmed and constantly tired.  It's hard to feel pessimistic when Eric and Casey would say things like "We're going to live here forever!" or "We'd love to buy the farm if you ever sell it!"  It made us reconsider that maybe things weren't so bad after all.

Still, as much renewed optimism as we gained from our new friends, we still had to figure out how to increase our income and security if we planned to stay.  We wouldn't need much, just enough to get us through any difficult times that might lay ahead.  If only there was some way we could leverage the farm into a new business.  If only I could use my farming experience, local connections and coffee knowledge to take things to the next level.  Doing the math it was obvious that the farm could not do it alone, we needed something more.

That's when I was reminded about an upcoming business opportunity that another friend had told me about months before.  When he first told me about it I was focused on getting ready to sell the farm and leave the island so I had politely ignored his lofty dreams of some kind of new café / coffee school something-or-other.  But now, with our new determination to keep the farm, I gave him a call.

Daylight Mind The timing was perfect and it was quickly obvious that this was a good idea.  A quick discussion with the original founder and it was decided, I would be the third partner.  The three of us together were the perfect combination.  Together we would create a new business called Daylight Mind Coffee Company.

I admit that I was still somewhat hesitant at first.  I'm an engineer by training and I naturally look for things that might go wrong.  I dug through the very thorough business plan, asked my partners a million questions, and looked for any flaw or overlooked detail I could find.  I found few problems.  In fact, the more I learned and thought about it, the more sense it all made and the more excited and confident I became.

It's good that the farm work was ahead of schedule because this new project consumed me.  Things progressed quickly and it didn't take long for the momentum to build.  Reviewing spreadsheets, signing contracts, procuring funding, buying equipment, hiring employees... we were fully committed and pushing full steam ahead.  There was plenty of involved, there always is, but as far as I could tell this new business was a risk worth taking.

Monkey Joe At the same time all this happened, Eric and Casey finally received great news about an opportunity they had been waiting for.  For years they had wanted to purchase and run Monkey Joe, a coffee shop/roastery in their home town of Kingston, New York.  When it finally became available they knew they had to jump at the opportunity.

With a couple as intelligent, capable, hard-working, vibrant and all-around awesome as Eric and Casey, I never had any delusions that we'd be able to keep them on the farm for long.  I always knew that they were destined for something bigger.  It was difficult to say goodbye to such good friends but I knew that they shouldn't pass up this opportunity.

They actually would have been perfect for Daylight Mind.  They almost had the opportunity too.  Three days, that's what it came down to.  The news about Monkey Joe arrived three days before the offer to join Daylight Mind.  They carefully considered both options but with Monkey Joe a very real possibility that they had been after for years, it was the better choice for them.

I put them on a plane, shed some tears, and told them that if they ever came back I would guarantee them great jobs at Daylight Mind.  However, I also said they weren't allowed back on the island until they gave Monkey Joe their best shot.

And that brings us to today.

Waterfront Row

Predictions for 2014:
So what will things be like a year from now?  One thing I'm sure about and is that as much as I'd love to have Eric and Casey back, I know that won't happen because they will have phenomenal success at Monkey Joe.  In fact, if you're ever anywhere near Kingston, New York you should stop in for a visit because I'm sure the new owners have made it even more awesome than it already was.   Have a cup of coffee because it'll likely be the best coffee around.  And be sure to say Hello for me.

Where will I be?  Despite the risk, I'm confident that Daylight Mind will prove to be successful so we will still be living right here on Kona Earth coffee farm.  I'll probably be neck deep in emails, phone calls, meetings and paperwork but loving every minute of it.  I'll also have to hire someone to help on the farm.  Other than that, I don't see the farm itself changing much.

Eden Daylight Mind will open its doors in September 2013, right on schedule.  The first four months, with Ironman, the Kona Coffee Festival and the holiday season rush, will be crazy hectic.  The good news is that I expect us to exceed our budgeted revenue.

By April things should slow down a bit.  We will very likely have had to make some adjustments along the way but by April the café and bakery should be running smoothly.  There won't be any holding still though, we will be busy focusing on increasing our wholesale roasting business and bringing the coffee school up to full speed.  If things go as planned, we'll already be seeing a steady stream of eager students flying in from all over the world to learn all they can about coffee, from growing to roasting, brewing and selling.

There are some side businesses that we can pick up or drop, depending on our need.  For example, coffee deliveries, corporate events and coffee farm tours.  We'll likely have monthly tours for the high-end coffee school and we might have weekly or daily tours for the never-ending stream of visitors to the island.  Or maybe we'll be too busy with other things so we'll drop the tours or contract them out to someone else.

On a personal financial level, I expect that April 2014 will be about the time that I can finally breath again.  I'll likely end up leveraged pretty heavily before then, putting all my time and money into getting the business started.  By April, after nearly six months of profits, the financial burden should finally start to ease.  Our second stage of expansion isn't planned until 2016 but I wouldn't be surprised if we were already talking about bumping it up a little sooner.

Too optimistic?  Maybe.  Never once in my life have I been able to accurately predict where I'd be three years into the future.  Predicting only one year away, maybe I won't be too far off.  I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises but that's part of life.  Nobody said it would be fair and the only guarantee is that there will be both ups and downs.  For me, that's what makes it such an adventure.

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