Name: Pati Carlson

Age: 65

Title: Owner

Company: Shipwreck Coffee Co., Farmingdale

About: A coffee micro-roaster who is creating a passion for coffee.


What’s your biggest challenge right now?

My biggest challenge is time, because I am a one-woman show. My biggest challenge is getting everything done, between the book work, the advertising, the website, the roasting, the bagging, talking to customers, going to three farmers markets (Gardiner, Hallowell and Belgrade Lakes) and keeping up with the wholesale accounts. I am working seven days a week. I retired from my real job in December, after 25 years of nursing. For the past six years, up until December, I was doing this part time.

Whatever is most crucial is what gets done first. Whatever can get put on the back burner gets put on the back burner. The priorities change day to day.

I obtain green beans from all over the world. I roast in my roaster, which is propane-driven. Every time I get a bean I am not familiar with, I will roast it blond, light, medium and dark and see what notes we get of the different coffees. I have customers taste it, and that helps me determine if I will have single-bean coffee or I will blend it with something else. The beans all have different notes, like grapes with wine. Understand what notes they carry you can accentuate with the roast. Sometimes, a darker roast will mask some of the notes and a light roast will bring out the light, citrusy notes.

I have wholesale customers who call me and I roast it for them. And I have a retail clientele who come here or they can catch me at the farmer’s market.

I am working on a new website, so the website is inactive, and I am working on a new logo.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

The vice president of OPI nail polish has a sign over her desk that says, “It’s only nail polish.” So, that being said, “It’s only coffee.” However, I feel that when you are in a small business, “no” is not an option. That is actually something I learned from my daughter and her husband, who own three businesses. That’s my philosophy that I try to follow when working with customers. My daughter and her husband have had a business for many years, and I have watched them break their backs to please their customers. And so, in my own business model, I kind of went to that same type of a philosophy and developed “‘No’ is not an option.” If it’s within my power to do and I have the resources to do it or the product, we can get it done.

How do you foster creativity in yourself?

A lot of time, it’s customer-driven. If a customer says to me, “Do you know what the caffeine level in your coffee is?” that will cause me to start doing some research on the internet and figure out what I can do to my product to market it to this particular customer base, because it’s not going to be one person, because it’s going to be multiple people.

Last week, a mother of one of my customers came in and wanted to know about my straws. So now all of a sudden, straws are a big thing. So today I got on the internet and ordered my straws so that I can keep up with the times. They are biodegradable straws, so we can help to save our planet.

So a lot of my ideas are customer-driven. I don’t have a white office where I can sit around and think about things.

What’s your biggest fear?

I just want to make sure my product is safe. Probably, making sure I am treating every customer I am in contact with with respect and consideration, because they can always go someplace else. There’s a million places to go to. I want to keep my product the best it can be and be the best business person I can be, because I am the face of the business. I’m it. So if anything goes wrong, it’s my fault.

Where will your business be in five years?

Maybe it would be in someone else’s hands that decided they wanted to buy it. I’m 65 years old. Maybe it would be in my daughter’s and son-in-law’s hands. Or maybe it would be managed by someone with employees, and I would still have control over it. There’s a lot of different scenarios. I am not thinking too much right now. I think, what’s my energy level, how do I feel, and take it year by year and I assess every year. When it’s not fun anymore, then that’s when it’s time to turn it over. I don’t really want to shut it down. I would like to pass it down or sell it to someone.

I probably won’t be doing this when I am 80, but I am hoping someone will, whether it’s a family member or someone else. I may want to move to Florida.

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