Why did you become a full-time entrepreneur, and what led you to this point?
I became an entrepreneur when I started my first business at nine, Cakes by Zach. After college, I began a nearly decade-long career in software sales. But, I believe that being an entrepreneur is my life's calling. I'm the best version of myself when I'm creating. So I've always worked toward this goal. I finally got to launch my perfect vision of Wildland Coffee in March 2021.
Launching during a pandemic was interesting. In many ways, I did not truly feel the effect because, at the time, my company was so small and just getting started. Most of Wildland’s materials are sourced from within the U.S., so I don’t have to worry about overseas supply chain issues.
That said, the pandemic did hamper my ability to walk into a retailer, ask for the buyer and have a conversation with them about my brand. Pre-pandemic, that process was much easier.
Why Zach started Wildland Coffee
How did you feel about leaving your prior position and becoming a full-time entrepreneur and business owner?
I am blessed to have a wife who emotionally and financially supports me to the fullest extent. Leaving my last job felt very exciting and liberating. There is a level of fear and anxiety, but it centers around my fear of messing up this opportunity. I know there is a significant problem Wildland is solving, so I don't want to fumble it!
I have an abundance mindset, meaning I know there's enough to go around. If, for some reason, Wildland doesn't become the business I envision for some reason, I know I can get another job. I'm not worried about my future career.
Why create a coffee company? Was there a gap in the market you were trying to fill?
I'm a lifelong camper, and on one camping trip in 2018, I got sick of using my french press. I wondered why there wasn’t a better solution. I could drink instant coffee, but I was never a fan of the taste or quality. It seems obvious that coffee should go in a “tea bag,” but I had never seen anything like it. At that moment, I thought I was the smartest person in the world! To my disappointment, when I got home and googled it, I was not the only person thinking this same thing.
I bought competitors' products but was not impressed by the quality of the coffee or the branding. I felt strongly that the outdoor community was the best fit for this product, but they were an underserved market. With an idea and a target market in mind, I decided I would create my own company.
Since launching Wildland, what have you learned about yourself and starting a business?
Since launching Wildland, I’ve learned three important lessons about myself:
I am capable of both much more than I thought and much less. The key is understanding what your strengths are and admitting your weaknesses.
Hard work pays off, but you must direct it to the right areas.
Building a business is just a series of steps. Each step is easy, but the accumulation of the steps is complex. Mastering business is about mastering your mind.
When it comes to launching a business:
Niching down is one of the most effective business strategies there is.
Asking for help is okay. I always ask for help from friends, mentors, LinkedIn connections, and even famous YouTubers. And most of the time, people say yes, so get comfortable asking for free help.
Unless you have millions of dollars or funding from venture capital firms, you need to balance profitability and growth carefully.
What advice would you share with someone thinking of starting their own business?
Just take the first step to start getting feedback on your idea. For example, if you have an app idea, you can create a sketch of the app in Figma. If it’s a good product, you can make it in a commercial kitchen, a great inexpensive option, and sell it at farmer's markets. If it’s a service-based business, use your social media networks to acquire clients and start getting feedback.
Taking the first step is the most challenging, but it doesn’t have to be scary or expensive.
What resources, tech, or tools are you using to manage and grow your business?
My most significant resource is my LinkedIn community which is full of founders and entrepreneurs. I also have a board of directors that acts as mentors. Regarding technology, I am relatively low-tech. I stick to using simple tools like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google calendar. I intentionally keep my business as simple as possible so I don’t get too overwhelmed, and it’s relatively easy to manage.
What are you most looking forward to?
Recently I have shifted my focus from the destination to the journey. I have a long life ahead of me that I know will be full of highs and lows, both personally and professionally. I am excited to continue to learn how to grow and run a business. I am excited about the people I will meet and the relationships I’ll form.
I am looking forward to all the customers that Wildland will make happy.