Turning your passion into a bustling business is possible. Just ask Jeff Duggan, owner of Portola Coffee in Costa Mesa, whose unquenchable thirst for coffee led him to start his own business in 2011. Duggan regularly travels to Africa, South America and Central America to meet with farmers who share his passion for quality coffee beans and engage in socially responsible practices.
Duggan’s continued commitment to his craft was well-received, and as a result, the business opened five additional locations in the Orange County area. However, the beginning wasn’t easy for Portola Coffee. Duggan said acquiring financing in the initial stages was a hurdle as the business had no credit history.
“CB&T was the first bank that offered us a commercial loan and led to our longer-term banking relationship,” Duggan said. “Even though we had some significant challenges early on, CB&T stuck by us and we’re super grateful.”
A lot of what sets Portola apart from competitors is the brand’s refusal to compromise on the product it serves.
“If we decided to alter the input on our products, it would certainly be noticeable,” Duggan said. “And it’s not just the beans. We buy high-quality milk to make our product taste even better. Sacrificing profit to deliver a quality product to our customers is what’s important to us.”
Like many other small businesses, the recent COVID-19 environment has also cut down Portola’s sales by 85 percent from March through May as the company had to scale back on production.
“It’s very challenging, and we want to put our people back to work. More importantly, we want to prevent employees from being in close quarters for their health and safety,” Duggan said.
Luckily, the Paycheck Protection Program loan helped the mom and pop shop get back on its feet by keeping the lights on and its team employed. Duggan is looking at this slower period as an opportunity for new ideas and future innovation, such as coffee training for staff, wholesale distribution and more.
“Coffee is a fantastic industry to be in, and each business will have its unique challenge,” he said. “It does help to be passionate about the business you’re in, and for a small business running on a shoe-string budget, things can be a lot more challenging. However, the love for what you do and working toward something you believe in will help you get through the tougher times.” [cite::171::cite] [cite::172::cite]