Inside thoughts — Ernest on starting a coffee shop

Happy birthday Ernest! We’re so thankful you guys have been following along in our process of starting a coffee shop. You’ve gotten to see A LOT of things through my eyes this past year, but you haven’t really gotten to know Ernest (or Pop!). So in today’s celebration of his birthday, we decided to do a little interview so you can get to know him a little better.

Ernest– on starting a coffee shop

San Diego & LA Mini-Vacay Dream|a|Latte

A few things about Ernest: he’s a man of few words. People think he’s always super serious, but underneath he’s half teddybear half goof-ball. He’s serious with what matters though, very thoughtful, disciplined, ambitious, and sees the world through different eyes. He’s bold, direct, adventurous, fun… and the best husband ever. Anyway, before I get too gushy, here is Ernest– in starting a coffee shop:

Did you think you’d be opening up a coffee shop at 26? 
“No. I never thought I’d be in the hospitality industry. It was just a thought in the back of my mind to start a coffee shop, just because I love having people over. But I never thought I’d be executing it, that I’d be learning about coffee, jumping into the craft industry, to say “yes, we’re going to start a coffee shop.”

What was going through your mind when you decided to jump into SONDER all in?
“I didn’t know if I was making the right decision. It’s a big risk; I could either continue making money through my existing business, or start something new and put my time into something else.”

What are you most excited for in having a shop?
“Making quality coffee and educating people on discovering better coffee, and meeting other people and being able to serve them.”

What are you not excited for?
“Build out and inspections for now. Otherwise, not knowing the unknown, especially whether or not you’ll succeed. You hear so many horror stories… There’s also a fear of not representing our brand well enough, or the best that we can.”

What was the coolest thing to watch unfold in regards to developing SONDER?
“Slowly getting into the coffee community and seeing the relationships we’ve build with other people. Learning more and more about coffee, equipment, tools; I love learning the hands on stuff — as opposed to paperwork. And then definitely the brand– how SONDER came together– you didn’t have to think a lot about it, it just kind of unfolded.”

What’s been the hardest challenge this past year in starting a coffee shop?
“Time– waiting for things to happen, with a location, the lease… I’m not really a patient person. Then I was going into a totally unknown industry, since it’s completely different than what I was doing before [computers].”

Ernest at Kaffiene, London

What’s your biggest personal accomplishment this past year that you’re proud of? 

“Build out, actually getting the shop going. Then everything I’ve learned, about negotiations and business planning. Having people, [like our landlord investing in leasing us the space] believe in what you’re doing and see your vision is amazing. Being able to communicate your business plan to others and have them believe in it is really empowering.

And then I love doing what people say you can’t. They say you need to have $x amount to open up a coffee shop, but I knew with our vision we could do it for less by managing our money well, doing things ourselves and knowing what we want. Not taking out a loan is huge for us, and it feels good to reach goals by doing things differently and efficiently to find a better price.”

What part of the coffee industry are you most interested to explore once the shop is up? 

“Networking with others and continuing to learn about coffee. It’s something you never fully learn about, and it’s exciting. Coffee is always changing, new technologies are now coming out simply to make a better cup of coffee. Marketing is also interesting, and then in a few years once we start making money it would be cool to expand.”

What’s your favorite coffee drink right now?
“Because it’s summer, cold brews, black always. I haven’t been in the mood for milk lately, but I do like cortado’s for the balance between espresso and milk.”

What is your birthday wish for this year?
“Starting this darn thing already.”

What would you say to someone else starting a coffee shop right now?
“Don’t do it. Jk. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Visit as many coffee shops as you can, talk to owners, gain knowledge from other people’s mistakes, get to know people in the industry, and build a network around what you’re seeking to do.”

Well there you have it, hope you enjoyed these questions into Ernest’s mind. If you have a question for our birthday boy, go ahead and ask below!

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  1. Thanks for this Julia. Since he really is a man of few words this is really a treat…so many words in this interview, I loved it.

    Yay Ernest!!!

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