From Corporate to Startup: Craig’s Founder Story
April 13, 2018 / Share:
Craig Margolius is a graduate of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s PreFlight program, a 14-week course that helps people like you take their idea and build a business around it. Interested in learning more? Fill out this form and we’ll reach out plus send you a PDF overview of the program.
Pivoting is an essential part to every entrepreneur’s journey, but for Craig Margolius, pivoting was actually the beginning.
Craig Margolius is the founder of SYPCOFFEE (‘SYP’ an acronym for ‘Savor. Your. Planet.’), a new gift coffee business that helps people recognize those special people in their lives with personalized, stunningly packaged, fresh roasted, single-origin coffee gifts.
But Margolius didn’t start out in coffee.
The Charleston, South Carolina native grew up a car enthusiast, and graduated from college with his “dream job”: working for Nissan North America in Los Angeles, ultimately helping market the car maker’s luxury Infiniti division. In various positions, he said he often felt like “an entrepreneur in a corporate setting,” charged with finding new and creative ways to make more people aware of a stellar product and experience, all while leveraging his passion for automotive.
While working in California and attending business school, Margolius stumbled upon an idea that felt somewhat out of sync with the rest of his career: What if he started a coffee company?
“…I had written a business plan and thought about a coffee company since that time. It was just one of those endeavors that I decided ‘Hey, it’s just completely irrational. You didn’t grow up on a farm, you’ve never been a barista, you love cars. Hey, that sounds fun but not realistic,’” he said. “So I really never pursued the business. It was just sort of in the back of my mind.”
It wasn’t until Margolius lost both of his parents in relative short succession that the idea came up again, as he finally realized what the adage ‘life is short’ really meant. Working in a corporate setting in which you love your job can mean that you don’t necessarily recognize that you’re thinking a lot more about work than about relationships or spending time with family, he said.
Traveling back and forth between home in Nashville and family obligations in Charleston, Margolius discovered the Nashville Entrepreneur Center almost by accident in January 2015— he was a frequent customer of Pinewood Social, but had never explored the restaurant’s neighbors— and registered for their Preflight program only days later, he said.
“I’ve looked upon the journey to date with SYPCOFFEE—the past 18 months—as one long journey of…being open to learning a great many things from all sorts of sources,” he said. “Going into that course, I knew I needed to have an open mind, be an open book. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
He was excited to join in with like-minded early-stage entrepreneurs with different experiences, backgrounds and passions, and only three weeks into the 14-week course, he found his idea evolving beyond his initial business plan.
Margolius initially thought about a coffee-premised social enterprise, however, after receiving advice from EC CPO/COO John Murdock (who teaches the PreFlight classes), Margolius realized that— before he could join all of the other people looking to change the world by selling a product— he needed to focus on the product first.
“The entire concept is based on helping you recognize the people in your life that matter,” he said. “And ultimately it could have been any product or service. I just happened to love coffee. I wanted coffee to be the mechanism by which you potentially convey very intimate emotions in order to recognize and place gratitude on the people in your life who you love.”
Thus, SYPCOFFEE was born which offers a beautiful, personalized alternative to sending flowers, fruit or even wine to those special people in your life. Hallmarks include a new, single-origin specialty bean and uniquely paired sugars and spices each quarter, handwritten transcription of personal messaging on premium stationery and always complimentary priority shipping.
While most Nashville residents know that there is no shortage of coffee sources in the area, Margolius looks to set his company apart through meticulous attention to the details – from the design of the purchase experience, to the way each handcrafted gift is packaged and shipped, to the stunning, fresh roasted taste empowering every cup.
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And already, Margolius says that customer feedback has been a great tool in helping him better understand and expand the business, whether that feedback is informally gathered through social media comments or gained through customer survey requests.
In one example he was excited to share, he said that a customer shared a cup of the coffee they had gifted and loved the taste so much that they requested bulk beans without the gifting accoutrements. And so it happened.
“I sort of knew going in that you can be— in your mind— 100 percent prepared when you start investing, in my case, your own money, in your business. And you have your formal business plan and you’re prepared. But really, entrepreneurship is about being not prepared and organized in how you react to feedback and input and being open to pivoting.”
Bonus: Did you know Craig is an alumni of our PreFlight program? PreFlight is a 14 week program that equips you with the tools to turn your idea into reality. You’ll get unlimited access to EC advisors, business curriculum, and dedicated workspace. Interested in learning more? Download the full program overview below and someone from our team will personally reach out to discuss how to best help you.