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Movers & Shakers Interview with Nick Selman



Nick Selman

Tell us your name and a little about yourself.

I’m Nick Selman, an entrepreneur based in Chicago. A year ago I co-founded Javaya, an online marketplace for the best craft coffee in the country. I’ve also started writing about business lessons I’ve learned (and coffee I’ve tasted) while building Javaya in a newsletter I call Coarse Grind.

Craft coffee is a fairly new obsession of mine. When I met my co-founder in business school in 2016, we bonded over a mutual love for the craft coffee scene in Chicago.

At the time I was still working full-time selling & managing multi-million dollar strategic change initiatives for Fortune 500 & Global 1000 financial services firms. But I was also itching to do something more meaningful with my career, so in 2017 I decided to take the plunge and become a full-time entrepreneur. I now serve as Javaya’s CEO full-time.

What exactly does your company do?

With high-end coffee, the most important determinant of flavor is how fresh it is. This is measured by days “post-roast” with coffee reaching peak freshness three days after roasting. My co-founder and I found ourselves driving all over the city trying to get our favorite coffee beans fresh, and we decided there was a business opportunity to create a one-stop-shop for great coffee that focuses on Freshness.

Javaya’s business is pretty simple. We sell your coffee beans from the best artisan roasters across the country that are roasted-to-order and shipped directly to your doorstep. Our innovative Future Fresh® model, which allows you to select the specific date your beans are roasted, guarantees that you’ll receive your coffee just as it’s hitting peak freshness (i.e. peak flavor).

What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, every day brings a brand new set of challenges and learning experiences. Building any business in the digital world requires learning the intricacies of that space. The same goes for e-commerce, marketing, coffee – the list goes on. I draw on my background in engineering to guide me. I work to understand the mechanics of both the problem and the solution so that regardless of success or failure I know *why* we reached a particular outcome.

I heard somewhere that if you aren’t embarrassed by your first release or first product, then you aren’t moving fast enough. Based on that, growing Javaya has just been a rapid series of embarrassments, and each one makes us better.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

Don’t Listen To People. Let me explain: A startup founder receives a seemingly endless stream of advice. Unsolicited advice. Advice from self-described experts. Advice from our biggest fans. Advice from our worst critics. The problem with this advice is that (1) there aren’t enough hours in 50 people’s days to implement all of it, and (2) there’s so much contradiction.

At the same time, entrepreneurs cannot grow their businesses in a vacuum, and there is a lot of good advice out there. So, how do you figure out what’s good advice and what’s bad advice? I’ll tell you that I learned the hard way, most of the time.

Here’s one tip I wish I received a long time ago: examine end-goals. If the person is trying to sell you something, their advice should be colored with that lens. If you’re unsure what they want, take their advice with a grain of salt. If they’re personally invested in you, treat their advice as a gift from the heavens. This is why mentors, investors, and teammates are so important.

Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?

I listen to a lot of startup podcasts because I like to learn from other people’s experiences. The great thing about entrepreneurs is that they tend not to sugarcoat things, so you really get the realness of the grind from these podcasts.

I’m particularly inspired by entrepreneurs who had to overcome significant obstacles in building their businesses, like Sarah Blakely (of SPANX) being told “no” by male after male in response to her brilliant business idea.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

In my opinion, the top 3 places where entrepreneurs struggle are (1) life balance, (2) emotional well-being, and (3) financial stability. There’s nobody more important in my journey than my wife, Lauren. Lauren has been our family’s emotional and financial rock for the entirety of my entrepreneurial journey. She is also great if unofficial, business partner because she’s a superstar innovator in her own right and always has nuggets of wisdom for Javaya to capitalize on. In her day job, she helps the biggest brands in the world create innovation platforms that drive true competitive advantages. Lauren Selman slays, seriously!

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

See the previous question. I somehow convinced this woman to marry me while I was flying multiple red-eyes per week just to balance work and business school. And then I quit to follow my passion to become an entrepreneur, and it’s been a crazy, rewarding adventure.

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Founder & Editor-In-Chief of Kivo Daily Magazine