Since Perfect Coffee at Home #4: From the Ground Up

This is part four of a four part series on what we’ve learned and what we’ve been up to since publishing Perfect Coffee at Home. Previous articles are listed here:

We haven’t talked much yet in this series about the company we founded. This post will cover that.

The company is called Compass Coffee. We call ourselves that for two reasons:

First, the name comes from our time in the Marines. We became friends, and really started drinking coffee, while learning how to navigate with a map and compass. To us, that’s what coffee does for people — it brings them together. It creates community. It touches millions of lives around the world.

Second, we call ourselves Compass Coffee because a compass is a simple object with two essential functions: it helps you get your bearings and it points you in the right direction. We think about good coffee the same way, and we took our name to honor this profound simplicity and utility.

Compass Coffee

One of the cool things about the start of Compass Coffee is that Maura Judkis, of The Washington Post, is going to be following along throughout our journey. Here’s how that came about.

After the publication of Perfect Coffee at Home and our efforts at getting the word out, we decided it was best to keep quiet about the founding of Compass Coffee. Starting a new company is incredibly difficult and risky, with many setbacks and shortcomings along the way, and in addition to avoiding any news about failures we might have, we didn’t want to get press before our doors were open. It just didn’t seem like a good idea, so for the past six months, we’ve done our best to hide.

When Maura first reached out to us, our reaction can best be described as “oh fuck.” Our time in the Marines inculcated us with a pretty healthy skepticism toward all things media, we’re both working pretty hard to avoid the narcissism typical in our generation, and just like anyone, we aren’t perfect. The prospect of having this time of our lives captured indelibly in a very public way was more than a little concerning.

And it still is. But here’s why we agreed to have Maura along.

First and foremost, we hope it’s going to help small businesses learn from our journey, our successes, and our failures. America was founded on small business, it’s the real engine of job creation and growth, but as a country we often seem to forget that. Instead, we tend to focus on entrenched companies spending millions on lobbyists to buy politicians and create unfair advantages. It makes sense—outrage makes for a good story—but small business and large business are entirely different.

Second, with all the growth happening in the Washington, D.C., it can often seem like new companies just sprout from nowhere. Every week seems to feature a new restaurant, bar, café, or food truck, and people seem to take these openings for granted, without seeing all the work, all the risk, and all the people who come together to make a small business possible. We know this because we used to be those guys until embarking on this process ourselves.

The final reason is because we have a lot of faith in Maura. She calls it like she sees it. One of the first things she said to us was that this wasn’t going to be a puff piece, that if there’s negative aspects she’ll run them, that she has a responsibility to her readership.

We wrote once about taking note of things as they happen, how we were “doing it live.” Well, this isn’t what we expected. But that’s kind of the fun of it.

If you want to follow along, the series is called “From the Ground Up.” Here are the first three installments:

And if you missed the first parts from the backstory in our own words, those are here: