Army veteran Carl Churchill had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was a kid. He took on odd jobs, even throughout his time in the military, allowing him to flex his leadership skills. After retirement, he transitioned into a career that suffered as a result of the financial crisis hitting the country. Churchill and his wife Lori made the decision to start their own business – all in the name of a love of coffee and a desire to continue helping his brothers in arms.
Lock N Load Java – an online retailer of premium coffee selling directly to consumers, was launched on September 11, 2010 with a philosophy of “no compromise.” Churchill explains the phrase means the company won’t give up “quality to make a quick buck.”
“It means not compromising customer service – we offer 100 percent customer satisfaction, period,” he said. “It means not compromising our mission to support the troops and the military community. And it means not compromising our integrity – we ALWAYS do the right thing.”
Churchill said being a veteran-owned and military spouse-owned company means using some of the skills he and Lori were taught in his more than two decades in the Army, to include discipline and a sense of service. One of the couple’s leading business rules is to focus on the customer and their needs. Because of Lock N Load Java’s small marketing budget, they use word-of-mouth advertising and social media to recruit and maintain customer relationships. The coffee speaks for itself and keeps the customers coming back, Churchill says. But in developing relationships to grow the new customer base, communication has to be key.
“I think the hardest part is effectively communicating. We get messages through our web page, tweets, Facebook messages and posts, Instagram messages, and emails all coming in asking questions or requesting things of us. Monitoring all these communication channels and responding quickly is tough,” he said. “And people can be less than effectively descriptive in some of these communications, so where in a face-to-face situation you can have a quick back and forth, online you might have hours or days delays between questions and responses for clarification.”
Churchill describes owning a small business as a labor of love. He would tell other aspiring entrepreneurs to not be fooled by the overnight success stories, as they are rare. Overall, it is the companies that stay at it, work really hard, and never quit that ultimately achieve success.
“My advice is to get a plan and then start to execute it before you are completely comfortable with it. It is too easy to spend a ton of time planning and never get to launch.”
Some of the resources Lori and Carl Churchill used to get started were SCORE – a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the United States and its territories, the Inc. Military Entrepreneur Program, and Techstar’s Patriot Bootcamp, useful for those entering the technology sector. Aside from seeking external support, the retired soldier emphasizes that plunging into small business ownership requires a belief in what you are doing and a commitment to who you are doing it for.
“I like to say we buy the best coffee beans we can find from all around the world, roast them to perfection, donate some to deployed troops, drink our share, and sell the rest,” the Army veteran of 21-plus years said. “We’ve seen it all, but in the end we just keep waking up, working hard, doing the right thing, and smiling as much as possible as we drink our awesome coffee. We know that in the long run, all this hard work will pay off.”
Lock N Load Java offers a 10 percent discount to all veterans and their spouses. Enter code word VETERAN in the coupon box upon checkout. To learn more about the company and its products, visit http://www.locknloadjava.com/.