Avi Katz was originally attracted to the coffee industry because of its casual vibe. One day, a "16-ounce café mocha, no whipped cream" customer made him an offer to operate his small coffee company, and Katz was off and running in the wholesale roasting business.
"If it wasn't for the frequency and the ability for us to communicate over something simple like the café mocha, I would have never been in the roasting wholesale business," said Katz, who today owns Katz Coffee in Houston.
He has built his coffee roasting business on the foundation of strong partnerships. From the growers who produce the coffee beans around the world to local grocers, restaurant clients and even his bank, Katz attributes his success to established partnerships.
Those relationships served him well during the incredibly stressful early months of the global pandemic.
"Some significant pivots in response to the pandemic and strong partnerships were very large contributors to the reason why we're still viable at the end of COVID," he said.
"I've always told people, specifically my employees, that failure and success live in my yin and yang almost equally because without failure, there's no success, and without success, there's no failure," he said. "2020 felt like a massive failure for me personally, but potentially provided the most education I've had in a long time around how to be successful."
Katz and his team are tremendously focused on the local growers they work with. He personally travels to the rural sites around the world where coffee is grown to get to know his suppliers.
"We really like to follow coffee that has stories and we like to buy coffee directly from farmers; we love to work with the men and women that work their land," he said.
While you might expect the international supply chain from those local growers to have been severely interrupted during the pandemic, that was not the case.
"I think due to the overall economic climates, some of those countries [Africa, Mexico, Central America] were essentially not affected the same way with COVID that we were," he said. "Coffee is a hyper-rural commodity and crop, so it is not really growing anywhere where people are. And because of the isolation that coffee requires, I think a lot of our farmers were relatively unaffected by it."
Although the growers were less affected in rural settings, the pandemic forced Katz Coffee into some new directions. While on-premise dining was limited for the past year, the coffee roaster's grocery and online business has grown.
"I think ultimately, opportunity is always what you make it," Katz said. "I think people would have seen this roadblock as a total failure in their ability to traverse, and in reality, if you're not creative enough to pivot, if you don't understand how to be successful in your industry in a new channel, maybe it's game over for you.
"We're looking for opportunity everywhere. If you walk through life in business like that, you will find success everywhere."
Watch the video for more of Katz's thoughts on always seeking new opportunities as he chats with BOK Financial's® Cashin White.
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