Turning Your Love for Coffee into a Business
The age of entrepreneurs is getting younger. At just 21-years-old, Kylie Jenner became the youngest self-made billionaire ever, according to Forbes.
And many are following in her footsteps.
On a much smaller scale, Reid Burford is a 17-year-old entrepreneur from Benicia, California who has been running his coffee business out of his parents’ home since middle school.
Burford started his coffee roasting company, Howling Hounds Coffee Roasters in 2016. But his coffee interest started much younger than that. “It all really started when I was 12 years old,” he said. “I would purchase coffee and I’d watch the baristas make various coffees…that’s when I started to become intrigued by the process of making it.”
YR Media’s Chris Weldon visited Burford at his home, where his shop is located, to talk about the process of owning a business while being a high school student, his achievements so far and coffee roasting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Chris Weldon: What motivated you to open your business?
Reid Burford: I had thoughts about how cool it would be to open a coffee shop someday. Then one Christmas, I got a coffee roaster. A very small one that didn’t have a lot of capacity but it made me realize, “Why wait? I really enjoy roasting my own coffee, I could start a small business now.” It’s named after my two basset hounds. I love them and their fun attitude; their howls are especially unique. I thought it would be a perfect name for my business because it’s distinctive and different, just like my hounds.
CW: What does Howling Hounds Coffee Roasters aim to provide its customers?
RB: Howling Hounds is currently a fully online business. My customers can go online and pick out the type of coffee they’d like shipped to them. Once they order, I roast, package and ship. One day I do hope to open a storefront.
CW: Where do you get your coffee from?
RB: I have a few different sources. There’s a distributor down in Orange County that I order a lot from. Port of Oakland gets a ton of coffee and so I have outlets there and I also get some from a company out of Vallejo, California, as well. Right now I have 10 different kinds available to order on my website all ranging from different origins, a couple of which are decaf options.
CW: What kinds of support do you have?
RB: Most of the operation is done completely by me. I receive and fulfill all of the orders from the website. I order coffee and manage the money. I get assistance from my parents on financial stuff and getting licenses because you need to be 18 to have legal rights in a company. I have support from them whenever I need it.
CW: How has owning your own company changed your life?
RB: It definitely has kept me busy and out of trouble. I do have a very busy schedule because of it. There will be days where I get three orders and I’ll rush to fulfill those and deliver them. So it’s kept me busy; it’s kept me with a clear path and showed me what I want to do in the future. I enjoy running the company so much, that’s probably what I’m going to end up doing.
CW: What kinds of challenges do you face as a young entrepreneur?
RB: A lot of people don’t expect a coffee roasting company to be completely run by a 17-year-old. Sometimes I’ll get phone calls in the middle of the school day from interested customers who have questions and sometimes I’ll have to step out of class to take the call. There’s also definitely a limit to running a business out of high school. You don’t have a ton of money like larger businesses do and so you’re more limited to how big you can grow.
CW: Where do you see yourself and your company over the next 10 years?
RB: I plan on going to college in the Pacific Northwest. My top choice is Oregon State University. I plan to study business management and probably finance as well. I hope to settle down in Oregon. I could really see myself living there and bringing my company to that area.
CW: What advice would you give to young people interested in starting their own entrepreneurial journey?
RB: You know, they definitely have to be committed to it. It takes a lot of time to start up. It took me about six to eight months before actually launching my website. There’s a lot of preparation that had to go into it. I had to get a lot of equipment. I had to get business licenses and approval. So there’s definitely a lot of work and a lot of consideration they have to do.