Michael Potters: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Parachute Coffee Founder and CEO Michael Potters, who does everything from sourcing new suppliers to public relations and managing orders for Canada’s small-batch coffee of the month club. Here’s what inspired him to start his business and what advice he has for other young professionals…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am the Founder and CEO of parachutecoffee.com, Canada’s small-batch coffee of the month club. Like many small business owners, I wear multiple hats – from managing supplier relations to sourcing new suppliers, hustlin’ PR, managing customer relations and orders, developing and executing social media, web and product strategies. It’s about never-ending to-do lists, learning from mistakes, finding efficiencies, and pivoting (the ability to pivot is key). And, of course, drinking awesome coffee with awesome people. 

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I was writing my Major Research Paper for my MA at UofT. I really didn’t want to write another word. I craved a new challenge. I challenged myself to start and grow a business, so I began writing the business plan for Parachute Coffee. It was the most excited I had been in a long time working on a new project. I couldn’t sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with a notepad writing down business names, website ideas, to-do items. I finished my Major Research Paper, handed it in, and went to the bank for a business loan.  

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Best: Hearing positive feedback from our subscribers. It’s validating, and makes all of the hard work so worth it.

Most challenging: Reminding myself of the value of my offering so that it remains a profitable business. When you love your product as much as I do, you sometimes want to give it away if it means someone else will get the same joy in it. But that isn’t sustainable.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When you wake up in the morning with pure adrenaline seven days a week for months and you get your first grey hair at 24 years old. That’s scary, and totally unproductive. Work/life balance is so important.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Exiting to Google for a zillion dollars and becoming a full-time rock star. Okay, okay. In five years, our goal is be to become a franchised local play in mature coffee markets across North America. A tight supply chain with local shipping is so important in the fresh grocery business. Imagine a local Parachute Coffee subscription in Portland, or Austin, or Vancouver sourcing local small-batch coffee roasters. But really, the first option sounds pretty great too.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Learning how to 9-5. Most entrepreneurs can relate that the traditional 9-5 doesn’t apply when you own your own business. You don’t go home and stop thinking about work. Home is work, and work comes home, and it’s hard to shift your focus from it. It can have an affect on your relationships and your health unless you can learn to take time for yourself and share it with the people that are important to you.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success is a fishing boat and a cottage, and the time to share and enjoy both with the people I love. As long as I have those things, and good food (and coffee), I don’t need much else.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Well, it’s a bit of a secret at the moment. There’s some really exciting news coming down the pipe for parachutecoffee.com. Keep your ear on the ground!

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Buy Parachute Coffee.

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Coach House Restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto. It’s a classic old-time greasy spoon with newspapers and diner mugs, and a total hidden gem. Their bacon cheeseburger and fries is worth travelling across the city for. Ask for your mustard and relish on the side. If you’re hungry right now, drop what you’re doing and go.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
In the summer, bass fishing on the Toronto Islands; and in the winter, cooking at home for friends and dominating in my fantasy hockey league.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why
My hometown of London, Ontario. Time slows down. It’s always refreshing to escape from the big city, speed down a long country road with the windows down, and actually hear your footsteps on the ground. My nieces are really fun too. And mom makes a mean apple crisp. 

Europe – The Final Countdown. Get’s me jazzed up.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If it weren’t the challenge of starting a business, it would have been another challenge that inspired me. Owning a small hobby farm would be at the top of my list.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I’m a proud supporter of Movember. Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.

What to you is notable?
Gratefulness. If you’re successful, and you recognize and are sincerely appreciative of everyone and everything who helped you get there, that’s really notable.

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