In this series, TalentEgg will be exploring the lives of young professionals who have gone off the beaten career path to find success. From artists to entrepreneurs, their stories illustrate the importance of pursuing your passion.
When you have a really good meal or an exceptionally good drink, it’s hard to forget about it.
You savour every moment, not wanting it to end. And by the time you’re finished, you’re probably already thinking about the next time you can have it again. For Steve Ballantyne, this experience happened three years ago on a trip to New York, when he tried cold brew coffee for the first time.
“I was really blown away by the experience and the quality of the product,” says Steve. “It was one of the best cups of coffee I ever had. I was floored.”
In fact, this cup of coffee was so good, it inspired him to start his own company to bring the product north of the border. He started researching the Canadian market and became excited about the opportunity to bring wholesale cold brew coffee to offices, grocery stores, and restaurants.
A little under a year later, his company, Station Cold Brew, shipped their first order. Today, they are the biggest cold brew company in the country and recently launched Canada’s first coffee brewery.
Steve and his small team at Station have made incredible strides in only a few short years. But it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that this was Steve’s first ever foray into the food and beverage business.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” says Steve, “but there were a lot of signals from the universe that this was the right direction to go on.”
As a serial entrepreneur, Steve had an idea of the steps he needed to take to get his business off the ground. First, he assembled a team of talented professionals. Mike Roy, the company’s brewmaster, developed and fine-tuned their all-natural cold brew recipe, while Mitchell Stern, Station’s Marketing Manager, helped establish the branding and logo.
Steve also focused on keeping his costs as low as possible, in order to invest as much time and resources into the burgeoning business. From renting kitchen space by the hour, to using car-sharing services, to getting his fellow residents at co-working space CSI to act as taste testers, “everything was shared,” says Steve. The early days of Station Cold Brew were certainly challenging, but Steve finds he works better under pressure.
“The secret is to be uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re probably not doing what you should be doing.” – Steve Ballantyne
And though they make work in completely different industries, Steve also looks to tech innovator Elon Musk as a big source of inspiration.
“[He] has tackled the biggest challenges that humanity is facing, and does things that thousands of very smart people would say is not possible,” says Steve about his role model. “It gives me the courage to be bolder, to be the biggest, and to be the best.”
He channels that same resolve into his business. Station Cold Brew is now available in major retailers and restaurants like Whole Foods and Kupfert and Kim, and they will soon be launching in Sobey’s Urban Fresh stores. They’re also innovating in the coffee space by launching an organic nitro cold brew in a can in the next few months.
It’s been a whirlwind ride to the top for Steve and Station. While in some ways his success seems almost serendipitous, it’s his passion for the business and determination that have truly helped take the brand to where it is today.
“I feel really lucky,” says Steve. “I feel like I’m stepping more and more into my own dream every day.”
Steve’s career advice
- Take baby steps. If you’re unsure if you’re on the right path, there are plenty of ways to dip your toes into the water. “If you think you have a great idea, you could set up a webpage, buy a couple pay-per-click ads, and see if anyone cares,” says Steve. “There are lots of ways to tap into online traffic and different markets.”
- Create value. This was Steve’s father’s advice to him as a teen, and to this day, it’s his biggest priority for anything he does. With Station Cold Brew, this meant conducting multiple tastings and focus groups to garner valuable feedback from the community to improve the product. Simply put, as an entrepreneur, you always need to keep your customers’ needs at the forefront of your mind.
All photos by Jasmine Williams.