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

John Corcoran 11:20

Now, coffee is kind of famously can be very high margin, did you find that nitro was similarly high margin or was it not as good a margin as regular coffee.

Chase Damiano 11:31

So coffee is high margin, especially at point of service. So if you think about a coffee shop, it costs very little and cost goods sold to then brew a pot of coffee, which is mostly made of water. And then from a cog standpoint, it’s very, very high margin there. However, when you think about that, in the grand cost of running a coffee shop, the EBITA left at the left at the end is not exactly match those margins that you can capture. So cold brew is similar. At the at the unit level, the cogs for a single keg were great, not as great as hot coffee brewed in a coffee shop, but they were still very fat. And then building out the distribution service consumed some of those margins to to bring about the Yeah.

John Corcoran 12:18

Now when you were developing this, we were talking before and you said there weren’t there wasn’t even like infrastructure in place like you like there wasn’t, he wasn’t anyone you could go to and just buy, I guess a white labeled cake of this nitro coffee. So how did you develop it did you literally were tinkering in your garage to figure out how to do this. 

Chase Damiano 12:42

Step one was CEO and COO manually brew cold brew coffee in giant five-gallon buckets, and then bottled them. But then we stopped bottling and then started kegging them. And I think when I think when I got involved in it, we were doing something like eight to 16 kegs a week. And so it was just a manual process we had, we built the company out of a carriage house out behind the CEOs house is just little 200 square foot separated unit from the house and we did everything and we did everything in there. Then when we got our first coffee shop built, we moved everything over there volume started picking up a little bit and then now we had a team to work with. But eventually it got to be too much like we needed a lot more space if we really want to double down on this business line. But no one had ever brew. No one had ever created brewing equipment for cold brew coffee at scale. If there if there had been then it was so severely protected and blocked from our knowledge, we couldn’t we couldn’t find any brewing equipment manufacturers that knew how to do that. But we found the companies that

John Corcoran 13:56

were that were kind of innovating with cold brew coffee were really protective of how they what their processes were keeping

Chase Damiano 14:02

it closer. Yes, yeah, that’s right. Yeah. But we ended up finding a brewing equipment manufacturer and consultancy in North Carolina that helped us design and create this equipment that never had been created before. So that was just like one of many decisions that you know, we couldn’t call up someone and like you said, Say Yeah, can you make us? You know, can you make us 10,000 kegs of this coffee and find anyone?

John Corcoran 14:29

Yeah, right. Yeah. And as far as the beans go with that, but that was probably you could come about the beans, right?

Chase Damiano 14:33

Yeah, we had great importer and direct relationships with to supply all the beans, although volume was very, very high. And so we had to secure long lat long term contracts to make sure our pipeline of product was secure at this point that we could afford. And then we also roasted it ourselves too. So imagining that we imported we have Uh, we roasted, then we ground it down. And then we brewed it and then we kicked it and then we delivered it and shipped it and then installed it when customer all the way. Wow.

John Corcoran 15:12

And then you have to explain to the customer how to maintain it or how to swap out a keg right Was that was that a challenge explaining them how to do all that. Um,

Chase Damiano 15:21

surprisingly not as much of an of course, some of this is logistically challenging. And of course, our company had an incentive so that the office manager, let’s say that was running, it was the one to do all of the maintenance, we really built everything to be a turn key service service. If you have any challenge if your keg was out, if your line was clogged, if your line was dirty, if you had any issue with anything whatsoever, we would always send someone out. We never wanted it to be a challenge or a task for our end customer is the office manager who so graciously allowed us to come into the door and serve their whole office. So everything was always built off service.

John Corcoran 16:04

And another challenge you had was last mile distribution. So actually getting it to the endpoint. Talk about that

Chase Damiano 16:10

challenge. Yeah, so when we were when we were building this, although office distribution had been around forever since offices have existed, but a lot of those companies, they would either be delivering in large box trucks that were unrefrigerated or smaller vehicles or bands like a little bit more nimble that gets the office but also unrefrigerated. And we had a spoil spoil a bowl. Product. Yeah. And so you then think the second one Oh, can we try maybe beer distributors when they have, you know, some easy, more easy way to do it. But a lot of their trucks were on refrigerated as well, plus the number of kegs that would be required of them to drop off to make that stop profitable and worth it was also pretty high. And some of these offices we were serving, were only going through one to two kegs a week. And so we ended up building our own last mile distribution service in house to start especially, which means that we had Commonwealth Joe and we still do to this day Commonwealth show delivery drivers who shoes that are driving Commonwealth vehicles. And they have installed their own refrigeration capacity to keep the product fresh. Yeah,

John Corcoran 17:23

there’s a lot more expense involved when you have to do all that yourself. Now, along the way, you had some major challenges. One was just you’re close to closing an a round. And one of your venture investors, the primary venture investor pulled out of the last minute but also just burnout overwhelm you had some physical issues that are going on. Tell us a little bit about what you went through during this time.

Chase Damiano 17:50

Yeah, I think the you know, going to from startup to scale up is is never easy. But I think myself I it was a defining moment around what type of leader was I about to be through this venture. And especially in the early days, there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of just number of hours that we’re putting into the business. But the one of the challenges that I experienced a little bit later, in the business cycle, when we had plenty of resources, we had lots of team members, lots of employees is that I had a very difficult time getting out of my own way. I essentially created a organization, especially within the operations side, that even though I had, you know, for upwards of 40 people working on my team, I had always felt like really, really stuck, like really stuck in the day to day, working inordinate number of hours, and that never really recovering from this constant feeling of drowning and overwhelming. And you know how I experienced burnout. And it all hit ahead when one of my senior operations employees put in his notice me thinking that finally there’ll be something to like help me. Help me get on my own way helped me sort of gasp get a better breath of air. Now felt it was going is being Oh, I’m being re consumed. I’m like going back in, in a very in a very negative way. And it was it was very taxing on my mental health is very taxing on my body to go through this experience. But ultimately it led to me actually asking for help in a genuine way.

John Corcoran 19:37

And you ended up getting a coach actually right? I did.

Chase Damiano 19:41

That was one of the many things I did in this vein of asking for help. I ended up getting myself a coach to like please help please help me figure out how I can lead this team better but also help myself in the same way.

John Corcoran 19:55

What else did you do at the same time?

Chase Damiano 19:59

At the same same time, I explored therapy, I explored other modalities to speak with people, I also explored that having better connections and the entrepreneurial community. So many times, some of us will self justify, oh, I’m too busy to like go to an event or build relationships, because I’m working on my startup. And it’s almost counterintuitive thinking to a degree. And so that was a real Breaking Point is like, I have to find other people that I can better relate to. So I can share my experiences. But also, here’s some of them in the name of helping each other. Yeah.

John Corcoran 20:37

And through this process, through working with the coach, you actually figured out that you liked this process so much that it was something that you wanted to step aside from coaching Joe, sorry, from Commonwealth Joe and devote yourself to coaching.

Chase Damiano 20:53

I did a part of the part of the training and coaching that I received is learning how to myself become a coach inside my own company, essentially, instead of creating a business that was that had chase in the very center, that every everything had to go through Chase Chase was involved in every piece every step. That is what a bottleneck really being defined as No wonder I was working so many hours, really, I learned how to develop the people that I brought on, build the right systems and putting the right processes in place, and build the right relationships with the team so that they can they were empowered to go about fulfilling their responsibilities, but also 10 times better than I ever would have imagined.

John Corcoran 21:38

And what are some ways that you deliberately pulled yourself away? What were you thinking, give me some examples of ways in which you kind of like, took yourself out of that center and put others in place? Yeah, so

Chase Damiano 21:52

during during this period of time, I remember that I was subscribed to every single Slack channel, I was a part of almost every recurring meeting that was happening on the calendar, just because I felt that as CFO and the company, not only did I have to pay attention to the bigger picture, that CEO is working on, for instance, funding, fundraising, Investor Relations and growth and industry related change, but also everything down to the nitty gritty of the internal operation of the organization, from the product quality to the level of distribution level service that we’re doing. And so I had to make a decision on where where do I want to be spending my time? And how is that boat? How is that best used. And so it led to me essentially, removing myself from almost every Slack channel and empowering someone else, as a way to like, take more responsibility for what was happening. And that which then led to promotions. And then it also led to a coaching cycle. So I put, I worked with each of my team members, we had weekly one on ones for 60 minutes each, every single week, it was non negotiable. And always an invitation to the person on the other side of that, but people loved it People loved me sitting in a position, not of me doing things for others, but guiding them serving others guide into them.

John Corcoran 23:18

How many did how many were you doing one on 160 minute coaching sessions with

Chase Damiano 23:24

5, 6, 7, 7.

John Corcoran 23:27

So pretty, is not a small commitment. So you must have really carved yourself out of these other recurring meetings in order to create the space and the time for you to be able to do that.

Chase Damiano 23:36

Right. And that was the trade off, it was really one of having to let go of a piece of response, some responsibility is somehow got stuck, I got stuck doing and consciously delegating it consciously building commitment around it. And then creating an environment where people could fail that people can make mistakes. And people can ask questions, without fear of reprisal, or any blame whatsoever. So in the name of their growth, because they’re growing and the business is growing. And me as as a team leader, I also don’t get bogged down in all the details. It’s really a trouble when

John Corcoran 24:15

you have a specific approach to when you go into one of these coaching sessions, how you kind of connect with the person that you’re going to be working with. Get yourself into a flow state, how you support the clients that you work with. I thought that was really interesting. Can you kind of go through what your approach is? Yeah. So

Chase Damiano 24:39

I think one, the way I see my role as a coach is it’s really my ability to hold space, but also be present and aware to a client’s experience that they’re having through whatever that experience is, as a way to be a mirror and reflect back to them. And what that experience is, so that they leave with some sort of insight. And for me, so beyond the basics of me, getting great sleep every night, eating really well, being able to exercise and just sort of meditate every day, the fundamentals of the just the fun fundamentals I find of living well. I also in preparation for every client call and rereading the my clients goals, getting a better understanding and connecting is like, where are they really trying to be, and then have Phil passing them a intake questionnaire that they take, every time before we have a conversation so that they themselves also are prepared for our call, I find the coaching space, but to be really sacred, it is a place that people can feel vulnerable or open around whatever it is their experience or challenge is. And if I if I’m showing up in a way that is highly regulated and able to bear witness to what the client what the client is going through, then that’s going to that’s going to reflect on them. But if I’m coming in dysregulated, or if I’m you know, got 100 other things going on, or if I even look physically distraught, then that is going to have an impact on the client experience that might not be in the best interest of them. It’s funny

John Corcoran 26:25

because my wife is a counselor at a community college. And so she similarly similar to a coach needs to sit in presence with someone give her give them her full attention. And sometimes I’m not sure how she does it in to me like it to me, it seems just that being present, that being focused that giving someone 100% of your attention not being distracted, maybe me have a bit of add in me like I don’t know how I would manage to do that. But it’s funny when you mentioned all these different things, like just getting good night’s sleep, getting good feed, getting good food to eat for breakfast, working out, can put you into that state so that you’re able to, to to be that presence for the clients. Yeah,

Chase Damiano 27:17

I am 100% with you. And even as a ADHD person, myself, it has also been a process to support me to support me in my own journey around mental health, that these practices I helped put in for myself, I encourage my clients do the same, to help them through their experiences as well. And I will say the one, I do have a single cheat code if you want to hear

John Corcoran 27:47

  1. Sure. Is it Nitro Cold Brew coffee.

Chase Damiano 27:52

No, unfortunately, that I want everyone to know about that cheat code. But here’s here’s here’s what I’ve done as a coach is in order to help build my muscle around presence and and bearing witness against my client is a lot of note taking. And so for me, where I to where I just sit here and just have had this conversation and you know, right away as I was becoming a coach, I would have been, I might have dissociated a lot or mind wandered a lot, and not really being able to listen and pay attention to like what a client is saying. And so might the trick for me was to just continue to take notes to write things down as the client was saying it as I was responding to it to write, and learn and learn how to write, while listening. That always helped me pay attention, all my attention to my clients, but also leaves an artifact for our session. And I know now these days you can have a I transcriptions and whatnot. But there there’s a simple act of writing that has helped me stay focused and presence while a client is speaking in a way that also helps them feel the most hard.

John Corcoran 29:09

You mentioned earlier that you’re a builder. What has it been hard for you going from the scenario where you have a startup and you’re building this big startup together, and you’re building teams and everything to this different scenario where you have clients and you’re coaching all these different clients that are all with different entities, but it’s not everyone rowing together, building the same entity together emotionally has that been a shift for you? Um,

Chase Damiano 29:39

I would say yes, but in a positive way. I get the I get the privilege of working with lots of different businesses and many different stages, all in different industries and business models, which has helped grow my awareness towards how other entrepreneurs are doing things, but also satisfies because I feel like I’m building right along with them, I create a connection that is like I’m really a part of their team. Although I don’t have any authority on the team, it’s all based on permission, I’m really here to help a CEO or founder, COO, CTO, seize seize more power, so that they can give it away to their team, really tackling the either anxiety, sometimes self doubt, or low confidence that they’re experiencing within their startup. Or, perhaps it is, they have so much energy that they don’t know what to do with. And so like helping them organize and set a process and channel some of their wisdom into something creative for them, that works for them, gives me the feeling of being a builder.

John Corcoran 30:49

That’s great. You know, I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude publicly to those who’ve helped you along the way. A lot of times I find people are or they kind of default to mentioning family or friends or team members. But I’d love to hear stories of peers and contemporaries, maybe even mentors that have been there for you key turning points in your journey. So who would you want to shut up?

Chase Damiano 31:15

Yeah, so for versus to Jacob Garlic. Jacob, you. You were really there for us at Commonwealth Joe, when we were in a position where we didn’t know what else to do. We were very low on cash, our investor just pulled out and you your support and your wisdom helped us through such an incredibly challenging time for both of us. So I want to share my gratitude first to you. And then second is re Perez, re re we met back maybe in 2019 or so and become long, we’ve become long friends since. But you personally really supported me during a very challenging mental health period of my life. That was much more recently. Not only not only are you are so gifted in everything, branding, marketing, and just living a better life. You also were there for me personally. And so for that I thank you.

John Corcoran 32:15

That’s awesome. Chase has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you and learn more about Human At Scale, your company?

Chase Damiano 32:22

So, find me on LinkedIn, I’m very active comm give me a follow at Chase Damiano. As well as check out And you can see a lot of the products services resources, I have case studies as well. And you can sign up for a free strategy session with me in which I’d love to share with you a little bit about how you might be able to run your business more effectively.

John Corcoran 32:48

That sounds awesome. Alright, Chase, thanks so much. 

Chase Damiano 32:51

Thank you, John.

Outro 32:56

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