By Elizabeth Davies
He’s come a long way from the 16 year-old making coffee at BP after school. Jonny McKessar, 28, is the director of Three Beans, a successful boutique coffee roasting company based in Auckland’s hot new development, the Cityworks depot on Wellesley St.
Jonny worked his way through high school behind a coffee machine, however when it came time to head off to uni he chose to study film and media at Otago. He dreamed of being a director, a dream which he jokingly says he fulfilled, just not in the way he originally expected. He now directs a successful business rather than films.
While his degree may seem a little irrelevant these days Jonny has no regrets. University was a hugely positive experience for him and was as much about being taught how to think as what to think about.
Jonny quickly tired of the demanding hospitality hours and took his passion for coffee further by first becoming a barista trainer and later a roaster. His skills served him well, working his way across Australia and throughout his travels.
In 2009 Jonny travelled around Central and South America for three months, taking a particular interest in the lives of coffee farmers and the industry itself. When he arrived home in 2010 Jonny set about launching Three Beans, hoping to provide a killer cup of coffee and give his customers a new understanding of its origins.
Starting up the business has presented a huge number of challenges for Jonny but his gung ho attitude and willingness to try anything has been a recipe for success. He admits to a number of speed bumps early on including being a touch over eager when it came to stock. However there have been no absolute disasters yet and he strikes me as the kind of guy who is willing to roll with the punches when they hit.
While Three Beans was Jonny’s first and main business venture, about eighteen months ago he took on a new business partner and together they have been working on a number of other projects. Three or so months ago they launched Scullery, a zero-waste café on Karangahape Rd which aims to compost and recycle everything it uses.
Their latest is a joint venture between Brother Beer, Augusto and Three beans where Augusto have designed a beer that’s infused with Three Beans coffee. The project is still in a testing phase but it’s sure to be a success, combining the two favourite things of any young professional.
Jonny looks thoughtful when asked for words of advice for fellow young start-ups. You just have to be willing to jump in and give it a go, he says. He remembers reading early on that it’s incredibly important to launch as quickly as possible, even if your product is unfinished as feedback is invaluable and will push you to grow.
He also emphasises that time is of the essence, and reiterates as so many have said before, ‘time is money’, you can’t afford to waste it.
Jonny is one of a new breed of twenty somethings. He, like an increasing number of young people believes everyone has the ability to take something they are passionate about and find a way to make money from it. There’s a growing sense of willingness to get out and do things on one’s own, to take risks and therefore reap rewards. A theory of which he is a living, breathing example.
*Elizabeth Davies is a 23 year old post-graduate journalism student at Auckland University of Technology. She lives with her partner in Epsom and spends her free time refurbishing vintage furniture and attempting to bake while fighting a daily battle against her bank balance. She's also starting her own business. This article is the first in a new series about small businesses. Elizabeth separately writes a weekly article for interest.co.nz on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.