Some people are into craft beer. Some like to sample wines from around the world. But some people, like Chasidy Atchison and her husband Billy, are in it for the coffee. Specifically, the cold brew. Facing a crossroads in their life, Chasidy and Billy turned to their tastebuds, kicked their home coffee brew hobby into overdrive, and are now serving up cups of joe to the greater Atlanta area (and then some) with their cold brew coffee business, Banjo. Oh, and in the process of becoming business owners—with awesomely ethical policies and a head start on a major trend, at that—they’ve become parents to two little ones as well.
We caught up with Chasidy to hear all about starting a business, following your passions, being your own boss and the best advice for entrepreneurs:
Feather Magazine: Tell us a little about what you do, how you started doing it and where it all began.
Chasidy Atchison: We make cold brew coffee using only organic, fair-trade, specialty-grade beans that are roasted locally. We bottle for wholesale accounts, and you can also find us serving iced and nitro at farmers markets and events around Atlanta.
My husband, Billy, and I moved to Atlanta a couple years ago and found ourselves at a turning point in our career paths. It was time to decide if we were continuing down the same corporate paths or risk it all and start our own business. We had talked about different business ideas for years, but never had an idea that really clicked for us in timing, market or motivation until Banjo.
Billy was training for an ultra marathon and started experimenting with cold brew in our home kitchen as a way to provide a sustained caffeine boost with lower acidity, and Banjo was born. After that, we reached out to different roasters and started developing the signature Banjo formulas. Once we had decided to make a business out of it, I started working on the branding and marketing strategy. We also brought a long-time friend, Sebastian Kegel, into the mix to manage the financial side of the business.
We launched the company just last March (2015) at farmers markets around Atlanta.
Why coffee, cold brew, and Banjo?
Coffee became a hobby for Billy and me a long time ago. Instead of collecting wines or something, we started experiencing the world of coffee through our travels. We loved to try different origins, roasts, brews…you name it! We just loved good coffee.
Cold brew is a relatively new and up-and-coming category of coffee and brings out the smoothest, most complex flavors from the beans. Helping someone experience coffee in a different way for the first time is an amazing feeling!
The brand name Banjo speaks to our down-to-earth, Southern, fun-seeking nature. Also, the three owners are from Alabama …get it?
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve run into as a small business owner?
The financial challenges and demands on time are felt in a deeper way, that you can’t escape, like when you go home from a 9-5 job. They permeate every aspect of your life. Every decision becomes not only a business one, but a personal one too. This makes the stakes higher and calls for more motivation and passion that you could ever imagine mustering. It’s a true thrill for an entrepreneur.
What’s the greatest reward you reap from being your own boss and running your own company?
Creating something that is loved and that is sustainable. We are fortunate that folks who like the products really like them. When someone comes up to us at a market or event and says, “I love this stuff,” we know we’ve done something right.
Also, from a sustainability standpoint, we strive to have as little waste as possible and a small footprint. For example, our 32oz bottles are reusable and can be returned for a discount. We utilize reusable materials in our brewing system, as well as donate our grinds for farmers’ composts or beauty care products, which gives us little to no waste.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
Do what you love and don’t compromise. I can honestly say that sometimes the challenges are harder than ever anticipated, however I wouldn’t change it for the world. I enjoy our business every day.
Where do you see the next, say, five to ten years taking you—personally and professionally?
We will probably still be in Atlanta, raising our two girls and continuing to grow a company that our city will be proud of.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Save money. No, really. Continue to travel and have adventures, but for the love of God, sock something away!
Any other thoughts you think a budding entrepreneur should hear?
Go in knowing that you don’t know everything and learn from those who can teach you. Also—and this is the biggest one—follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, there is a reason.
Say hi to Chasidy on Facebook and Instagram @BanjoColdBrew, and make sure to visit banjocoldbrew.com to see what’s brewing.