Building a Startup Coffee Brand and Transitioning To Coaching With Chase Damiano

Chase Damiano is the Founder of Human At Scale, a leadership development company that empowers purpose-driven leaders to elevate their teams and scale their businesses. Under his leadership, the company has served a wide range of leaders and executive teams, representing about $100 million in annual revenue. 

Before founding Human At Scale, Chase served as the COO of Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters and was a Co-founder at Barometer Interactive. He is an alumnus of Virginia Tech and the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business Program.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Chase Damiano, the Founder of Human At Scale, to talk about entrepreneurship and building a coffee brand. Chase shares the challenges he faced finding a distributor, overcoming burnout, and how he became a coach.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [02:06] Chase Damiano’s experience tutoring in high school
  • [05:13] How Startup Weekend inspired Chase to go into entrepreneurship
  • [08:25] What inspired Chase to start a coffee company? 
  • [12:18] The challenges Chase faced finding coffee brewing equipment, getting a distributor, and how he overcame burnout
  • [20:35] Chase talks about coaching his team and supporting his clients
  • [29:04] The connection between entrepreneurship and coaching 
  • [30:45] The people who’ve had a significant impact on Chase’s life

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

All right, today we’re talking about how to get out of your way as a leader and how to build a business around your people with the right systems and processes in place, so that you can lead and my guest today is Chase Damiano. I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:17

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built the relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:33

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. You know, if you listen every week, then you had some great guests on here recently, we’ve had all kinds of entrepreneurs, CEOs, and founders of all kinds of different companies, we’ve had Kinkos, Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Grub Hub, LendingTree, check out the archives, because we’ve got lots of great episodes for you there. And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help B2B businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can learn all about what we do by going to and also emailing us at [email protected]

Alright, before we get started, I want to give a shout-out to my buddy Zvi Band over at Relatable, Co-founder of Contactually, great guy and, real leader in the entrepreneurial community in the Washington DC area and nationwide. And he introduced me to today’s guest, who is Chase Damiano. He’s the Founder of Human At Scale, which is a leadership development company dedicated to assisting entrepreneurial leaders to elevate their teams to scale their businesses. And under his leadership, the company has catered to a range of different leaders, founders, executive teams, and managers, which cumulatively represent about $100 million in annual revenue. And before establishing Human At Scale, Chase served as the COO of a national coffee brand, which we’re going to be hearing about in a second, and also served in a role in a consulting company before that. And he’s an alum of Virginia Tech, and also the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business Program. It’s a great program, my business partner participated in it as well. Alright, Chase, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. And I want to hear about it, I love to ask people just a little bit about what they were like as a kid and kind of how they got started. And I know you did. I believe it was tutoring in high schools, how you kind of got a little bit of the entrepreneurial bug. Tell me a little about that. Yeah, yeah. Thanks, John.

Chase Damiano 2:24

Happy to be here. I think for me, a lot of my attention in childhood went towards building things. So I was really big into things like Legos, we sort of had this robotic type set called Kathy Sela as sort of like connect and make your own machines. I also spent a lot of times in creation and creativity, especially around video games. But I really started the hit the got the entrepreneurial bug with my tutoring business. So I needed a little extra cash in both late high school and early college. And that’s how I got started from a teaching angle. I was gifted in things like math or chemistry, even the harder harder chemistry is as well. And I love teaching I love being able to be with a student to watch them have insights and breakthroughs. And that was a great source of side income for quite a long time. I loved it. It’s kind of

John Corcoran 3:29

funny, now that you mentioned it. I’m remembering now that I did a little bit of tutoring in high school also kind of forgot about this. And there was a girl that I that I tutor that ended up going to a much better college than I went to so I don’t know what I was doing wrong. Hopefully it worked for her. So now now one of the challenges with that is, you know, you oftentimes it just you or did you figure out like hiring your friends and having them do tutoring? You took a cut of it or or did it kind of was it just kind of like something where you know, it was it was your time that you put into it, and you got paid good money for it. 

Chase Damiano 4:10

I started building a team when I became an undergraduate so there was a large chemistry Intro to chemistry lecture that was happening at Virginia Tech, and I had the the honor and the privilege of being one of the teacher’s assistants. So as a result of that I had my own discussion section. So I had students that I can really call my own, and usually about 80 of them per semester. And in that my responsibilities really were to teach a little bit in our weekly class, but also to grade all the homework and then to input the grades in there. And grading homework was very tough, so hard. So that’s when I started building my team and I would have stacks of homework papers. And I would just go up I would go to my fraternity brothers and be like, hey, I’ll pay you X, if you’re able to grade. Here’s all the rubric and you know, just have the Abbou report in and they did it. And that helped me learn to leverage my time from Yeah, totally standpoint. It was awesome.

John Corcoran 5:11

Yeah, that that worked out well. Alright, so So you graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and economics from Virginia Tech. And so naturally, you go and start a coffee company, right, like, totally logical, that would be the next step. But you have one stop in between where you go and pay off some of those college loans, working, and consulting. But you end up going to a Startup Weekend, I believe it was and that kind of re-inspired desire to start your own company. 

Chase Damiano 5:46

Yes. So while working, while consulting, I heard about Startup Weekend, which for those that don’t know, it’s something like 60 hours, you have 60 hours over a weekend to go from ideation to some sort of presentation. For some it might be a product or some it might be just a sketch of what you want to do. And you present to a panel of judges and can receive cash in order for you to go and build your idea. And the team that was part of won second place in the competition, just going from zero to 100, right there. And I loved it. After that, I felt just a strong sense of like, hey, every ounce of effort that I put into this can pay dividends in exactly what I get out the other end and then learn it learning to again, leverage that. So it can be so it can compound even more. And after that I was hooked. It’s like I have to, I have to find a way a pathway into entrepreneurship, I have to build something on my own. 

John Corcoran 6:45

And was the idea that you developed at that Startup Weekend, what became the Coffee Company? Or was it something different entirely?

Chase Damiano 6:52

This was different entirely. It was called dasa beer mocker, which means beer maker in German. And what we had designed was a system to allow you to home brew beer, but for consumers. So if you think about the Keurig, for coffee, where you just put it in a pod, and then cook proof through the device and outcomes, your coffee, we thought of that for home brewing and just like automate the process, so that you would have to do very, very few tweaks to a recipe to make pretty okay, quality home homebrew beer. So that was our positioning. The idea never took off after a startup week. But that’s what it was.

John Corcoran 7:37

Did you ever explore whether that was technologically feasible? Because it sounds like a cool idea. Actually, I don’t like cheese I could correct for beer like that.

Chase Damiano 7:45

So within the 60-hour timeframe for delivering the proposal, we did the best we could to figure out Yeah, is it technologically feasible, had something else like this been done? And we after the 60 hours, we as a team met several more times in person to to explore that we bought a bunch of things like percolators and water kettles and different devices just to learn how they work so that we could get an idea for how the technology would work. But the the idea sort of petered out after that so technologically possible, I think it still can be possible. So yeah, it is free idea for anyone out there who will look and see something

John Corcoran 8:26

I can see kind of the strains of commonality in what would become your coffee company. I don’t know if it was a direct correlation or have a direct line of sight from that idea to the coffee idea, but your coffee company was really doing I believe with Nitro Cold Brew in offices, so you sell it to offices, Nitro Cold Brew was becoming more and more popular see it Starbucks and places like that, but this was going directly to the offices where they had some, you know, I don’t know, pot of sanka or Folgers or something brewing in a corner, no one wanted to touch it, and giving them a Nitro Cold blower sounds super cool. So how did that idea come about? So the

Chase Damiano 9:06

when the CEO and I were both in business together, we both left her jobs to join Commonwealth Joe and get getting started. We were originally thinking of a brick and mortar strategy in the DC area, you know, creating a coffee shop, creating another coffee shop, building a network of them Hub and Spoke type model. But you have

John Corcoran 9:29

an idea of how that would be different or how it would compete with you know all the dominant players like the Starbucks of the world. Yeah, so

Chase Damiano 9:37

back in 2015. When we were thinking about the approach for brick and mortar there, there really were only two options for coffee in the DC metro area. One was Starbucks or large, larger chains. And then on the other side were a lot of small, either mom and pop or boutique shops that may have had only one or two locations. There wasn’t really anything in between that can act as a regional player. And so we saw that as a brand opportunity, and why we were able to differentiate. But you know, on the way, as we were raising capital, we realized that one of our other business lines that we had experimented with actually as a means to promote our coffee shops, was taking off a lot faster organically than we ever thought. And what had happened is we created these little cold brew tricycles that we would have one of our team members ride around in popular metro stations in the DC in the DC area, mostly in Northern Virginia, and have sort of like a little stand that you can get one product. It was cold brew coffee on draft. But what was happening is that during lunch hours, when folks would come out of their offices to the food trucks, they as well, they would get food truck, and they would get their coffee and go back in. And eventually, we started getting more and more inquiries; how can these employees just have that coffee available all the time, because people were loving it. And so we put two and two together, and then designed a service, a scalable service that, that went with that and ultimately ended up pivoting the entire business to focus just on that just the service of putting Nitro Cold Brew coffee into offices.