by Cat Johnson
When Jared Truby, Chris Baca and Charles Jack started brainstorming plans to create a coffee business, they figured they’d launch it in a year or two. The three were all living in different areas of California and they had other jobs and responsibilities. When Baca unexpectedly left a business partnership where “none of the things that [he] cared about or valued were being seen,” however, opportunity came calling.
“My business partner at the time saw everyone as potential competitors and thought it was a liability to be sharing information,” says Baca. “That’s just not where my head is at, at all. It’s all about sharing. That’s how we all feel—the more we share, the more everyone wins.”
Baca reached out to Truby and Jack to see if they wanted to start the business immediately. Two weeks later the three had a lease and Cat & Cloud was born.
With a stellar collective resume in the coffee world, including numerous regional and national barista championships, coffee art awards, industry organizing at a national level, starting and running coffee businesses, working with small coffee farmers around the world, a coffee blog, and a coffee podcast that gets 3,000-5,000 listens per week, the three friends knew that, despite the obvious challenges, they could make their dream business happen.
A specialty coffee roaster and soon-to-be coffee shop at 3600 Portola Drive, Cat & Cloud is rooted in a deep appreciation of the coffee experience and and love of cafe culture. Aside from their varied coffee backgrounds, the founders all worked for Verve Coffee Roasters at one point and Truby was part of the team that launched it. They’re all three encouraged by the growth of the local specialty coffee scene and are opening the first Cat & Cloud roastery and coffee shop in September.
“We all just love coffee shops and cafe culture,” says Baca. “There’s a lot of coffee in Santa Cruz, but not a lot of high-end, specialty coffee…but that’s starting to happen.”
Plans for the 1300 square foot Cat & Cloud building include 900 feet of cafe space, a wraparound deck with plenty of outdoor seating, and a parking lot. In the runup to the opening of their own space, the Cat & Cloud team will be serving their specialty coffee at Companion Bakeshop at 2341 Mission Street every Monday from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
The Cat & Cloud founders have turned away investors because they want to maintain total control of their business and creative expression. They recently ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and surpassed their goal of $30,000, raising $34,423 from 325 backers. The three embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of creating work, and a life, that they love and they look forward to manifesting their own vision with a project of their own.
“You can’t be afraid to roll the dice on some ideas,” says Truby. “When you have little failures along the way, those are growth opportunities. If nothing else, you’re moving forward and you’re adapting to the next best iteration of your business.” He adds, “We had never had the opportunity to roll like that in the past. Now we can do this, and I know fun things are going to come out of it.”
For Jack, who counts himself lucky to have traveled and worked in numerous countries, this work further enables him to collaborate with people around the world. Cat & Cloud will work directly with coffee farmers in Central America, South America and Africa, as well as with “trusted importers.”
The name Cat & Cloud was inspired by a simple drawing that Julia Mayer, an artist friend of theirs, did of Baca and Truby as a cat and a cloud. The simple, playful nature of the design stuck and, after puzzling over what to call their business, the name Cat & Cloud immediately felt right to all three of the founders.
“Naming your company is like naming your child,” says Jack. “You want it to encompass all the different aspects of you as the owners and what you want the company to be. I was really pushing for us to find a name that meant something to us and embodied what we were trying to do.”
When asked about the actual process of roasting coffee, the three lean forward and talk excitedly about how every coffee bean has something locked inside of it; how beans are like grape varieties and wine; how the slope of a hill or the day a bean is harvested can affect its taste; how there’s a fine line between under roasting beans and charring them; and how you can give the same coffee to six different roasters and every one will taste different.
Their energy is palpable and their collective knowledge is extraordinary. Baca, Truby and Jack take coffee very seriously and are committed to creating, not just interesting coffee, but delicious coffee.
“A lot of people in the specialty game are roasting coffee that is interesting,” says Baca. “That’s nice, but we think coffee needs to be interesting and delicious at the same time. You can take a little drink of a mug of coffee and think, ‘That’s interesting,’ but you don’t want to finish it. We want empty mugs all around.”
Don’t miss our next event happening July 20, 2016. Event Santa Cruz: THe Great Outdoors.