Matt Yarmey – From Bean Counter to Bean Roaster
DHG alumnus Matt Yarmey loves a good cup of coffee. But he’s no coffee snob: he thinks everyone deserves a really great cuppa joe – especially at work. So, four years ago, he left the security of a job he loved at DHG to start his own wholesale coffee business, Pure Intentions Coffee. His mission? To connect businesses and enthusiasts with high-quality, specialty coffees curated over a wide spectrum of flavors, while delivering a great customer experience as well. We caught up with Matt at his newly expanded coffee roasting facility near downtown Charlotte to get the scoop.
At DHG you were a Director in the firm’s Risk Advisory practice. In fact, at the time, you were the youngest Director in the firm’s history. What drew you from business advisor to barista?
It certainly didn’t happen all at once and it was, by far, the scariest decision of my life. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent. I love trying to solve problems I’ve never experienced before. In fact, that’s one of the things that drew me to DHG. I thoroughly enjoyed DHG and what I was doing there, but after 10 years in professional services, I was ready for a new challenge. I was in my early 30s and started reflecting on what I wanted to do with my life.
So I started looking around and asking myself, “what do people seem to really enjoy?” And, well, the idea of coffee just kind of came up. I got out my iPhone and started Googling for ways to get involved with coffee. That’s when I ran across the idea of home roasting. So, with no experience whatsoever, I bought a half-pound roaster online and I guess you could say I was suddenly in the coffee business.
You were still with DHG then?
Oh, yes. Although it’s ingrained in my DNA to strike out and do something most people think is totally crazy, my time at DHG gave me a healthy dose of risk aversion and mitigation. I was willing to take a chance, but not to the point of failure. So I started slow. At first, I was roasting just for myself, friends and family – including some of my DHG colleagues. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. At the time, I was living in an apartment complex and on more than one occasion my neighbors called the fire department because they thought I was burning the place down!
When did you realize that this would turn from a hobby to a full-time business?
After about six months, I had clearly fallen in love with the art and science of home roasting. People were now starting to buy my coffee. I was roasting beans at night, visiting specialty coffee shops on weekends, and spending my vacations attending roasting classes and seminars across the county.
Then, in March 2016, I felt the time was right to take the plunge. Roasting coffee was dominating my thoughts and brain space. I was single with no kids and Charlotte seemed ripe for craft culinary products. I was either going to have to make a full run of it or hand it off to someone else. So, I pulled my dad out of retirement as my sole employee, moved into an 800- square-foot rented garage, and Pure Intentions Coffee was born. It was the most stressful, nerve-wracking period of my life.
What’s it like having your father as your employee?
Well, there were a few road bumps at the beginning, but today I can’t imagine running the business without him.
As a coffee wholesaler, where is Pure Intentions Coffee today and where is it going?
We’re growing faster than I ever anticipated and have surpassed every goal we’ve ever set. We have some 200 accounts in the region. Last April, we moved into a new 10,000-square-foot facility and upsized from a 15-pound to a 70-pound roaster. We now have nine full-time employees and each of them works as hard as three people. In 2018, we surpassed the $1.5-million mark in revenues and continue on a steep growth trajectory. I envision we can sustainably grow the company to two-and-a-half times our current size over the next few years.
What is your greatest challenge?
Consistency. As a specialty coffee roaster, our goal is to deliver the freshest, highest quality coffee to our customers – whether that’s a single-owner bakery or a large, multi-location corporation. But doing this requires great consistency – and that’s not easy when you remember that coffee is an agricultural product whose flavor is impacted by any number of ever-changing soil conditions, the weather and other natural causes. The flavor can change bag by bag. I really don’t recommend getting into this business [laughing].
As a result, we’ve developed sophisticated methods for finding coffee producers and importers who find hidden gems of coffee for us that are still very price approachable. We strive to create an individual user experience. Everyone wants a coffee they love and not just “I can drink this.” We work with our customers to provide a coffee that speaks to their heart and soul without breaking the bank.
How does the coffee roasting business compare with the risk advisory business?
The same desire that led me to DHG led me to the coffee business. Selling wholesale coffee and professional services may seem completely different, but you’d be surprised at how similar they are. At DHG, we relied on our core values and strong work ethic to help clients solve complex business issues, and to do so with exceptional customer service. The values and skills I learned at DHG – problem solving, data analytics, exceptional customer care, figuring out best path forward – all translate to my new business venture.
How did you get to DHG in the first place?
In 2006 I graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in computer science in business, specializing in corporation finance. This was a brand-new degree created to meet the new regulatory requirements after Sarbanes-Oxley. I was among the first class to graduate with this designation.
Right out of college I joined KPMG in New York City. I worked there for four years and then transferred to Atlanta where I met Patrick Catton. He told me about this new risk advisory practice that DHG was putting together. He connected me with Rodney Murray in Charlotte who then introduced me to Karen Furstenberg, who was spearheading the risk advisory effort.
The prospect of helping to form this new practice – from bringing in the right people, to selecting clients where we knew we could be successful, to building a book of business –appealed to the entrepreneur in me. So, in April 2011, when Karen offered me a job, I jumped at the chance.
Who are some of the DHG people who were influential in your life and career?
Well, for sure Karen (Furstenberg). She was an incredibly effective leader who taught me how to manage people and to manage time when it didn’t exist. She took the fledgling Risk Advisory practice from zero to sixty. I just can’t imagine being part of that experience with anyone else. We still stay in touch.
There’s also my good friend Matt Agostinelli. We worked at KPMG and DHG together. He spent many nights and weekends helping me to get the coffee business off the ground. He understood my focus and passion, but also was a great voice of reason. He also encouraged me to keep going even when others didn’t.
What does it mean to you to be a DHG alum?
DHG taught me so much in such a short time and allowed me to experience such incredible career growth consistent with my skill set. DHG is focused on providing the best possible service and giving employees everything they needed to be successful. It was a time of amazing learning and growth. For clients looking to go beyond classic accounting, and for people with a strong work ethic looking for a career, I wouldn’t recommend anywhere else.
More about Matt:
– Newlywed: married his wife Rita on November 10, 2018
– Isabella Santos Foundation Board Member
– Certified Specialty Coffee Association Trainer