As PR Manager at Nav, I regularly get asked what exactly it is that I do for the company. Depending on who I’m talking to, the answer slightly varies, but there’s one part of my job that I never fail to mention – overseeing Nav’s Small Business Grant.
Since it launched in 2018, I’ve had the honor of reviewing hundreds of applications and surprising nearly 20 passionate business owners with news that they’ve been selected as a winner. Earlier this month, I traveled to Georgia to surprise our newest grand prize winner – Philip Klayman, Founder of Three Tree Coffee Roasters.
The Nav team worked with another small business – Two Fly Guys Media — to shoot the video above.
Three Tree Coffee, a mission-driven coffee shop that opened in Statesboro in 2015, had humble beginnings with two: a husband and wife team roasting coffee beans in their backyard. Eventually, the operation grew to a brick-and-mortar establishment with an on-site roasting room and 19 employees. Naturally, as the business grew, so did other elements of the business — inventory, machinery needs, overhead, and customer requests — causing Philip to struggle with cash flow and forcing him to focus on day-to-day tasks endlessly rather than the bigger, strategic plan and needs for the business.
Over artfully-crafted drinks, Philip shared with me more about his business and the Nav Grant.
Why did you start Three Tree?
Straight out of college, I got a job in a coffee shop. At the time, I didn’t really love coffee, but I loved working in the shop and learning about coffee from the owners. Over time, I became intimately familiar with coffee and the roasting process and I saw the magic that coffee has and what the coffee shop was able to do — bring different groups of people together. Regardless of your political affiliation, religious beliefs, or where you’re from, coffee can bring together people.
What inspired your business’s name?
For us, a tree symbolizes life-giving sacrifice. A tree does not take much from its surroundings but gives so much: oxygen to breathe, a home for animals, food to eat, etc. Therefore, we are called Three Tree Coffee because we want to ‘give life’ with our threefold mission: Empower our Farmers, End Human Trafficking, and Engage the Community.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were first starting out?
I knew that as the business grew, I wasn’t going to have the capacity to be everywhere and do everything, so a great deal of time and resources were invested into delegating and training other leaders.
What’s been the biggest challenge you faced starting out?
Our biggest mistake when we first started our business was not financing enough money and only taking out short-term loans. That created lots of cash flow problems. Cash flow continues to be an issue for us as we have to buy large quantities of inventory upfront.
What challenges are you facing now?
Time. About 70 percent of our labor on the roasting side is spent hand weighing, bagging, and labeling. The burden of spending so much time on these elements limits the volume we can produce and the packaging options for our customers.
How will you use the $10,000 from Nav? How will this change your business?
We plan to use the prize money to buy a new weigh and fill machine. I actually plan to purchase the equipment using my business credit card and then paying off the balance off immediately with the Grant money. I like using my credit card when I know I’m going to have the cash to pay it off quickly as it helps me build business credit and get rewards.
The new weigh and fill machine will automate nearly 100 percent of this component of our business and dramatically increase our production levels. The machine will also allow us to offer new products that are not feasible to hand weigh/fill, such as frac packs and wedding favors.
What’s next for your business?
>We hope to grow the roasting wholesale side of the business by acquiring new bakery, coffee shop, and restaurant accounts. Most importantly, we want the mission to always grow proportionately, if not more, with our revenue.
When we wrapped up the interview, Philip let me know that he and the Three Tree crew want to put their new weigh and fill machine to good use right away and they plan to host a fundraiser to help raise $10,000 for a local charity that is near to their hearts. Once the details of the fundraiser are announced, the Nav team will share all the details on our social page so you all can join in to support the business and good cause!
The entire Nav team is excited to see how the weigh and fill machine changes the trajectory of Three Tree Coffee.
Think you could be our next winner? Apply today! I’d love to come and surprise YOU with a $10,000 check!
This article was originally written on February 24, 2020.