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Mark cupping

FROM BRICKS TO BREWS – Local coffee entrepreneur talks beans and business.

Mark Hayward claims his recent transition from civil engineer to full-time coffee business owner was the easiest thing in the world. Not to say that he didn’t enjoy his previous job – in fact, quite the opposite. He loved his job as a project manager. “Every project was like climbing up a mountain. It was difficult getting up there, but once you reached the other side, you got to look back and appreciate all the hard work you had done.” He claims that running a business is essentially the same thing, but on a larger scale. When asked how he became nterested in the coffee business, he said “Interested? I’m a fanatic, I’m a raving lunatic about coffee!” He recollected his first encounter with homeroasted coffee beans quite fondly. A woman had been roasting coffee near one of his sites downtown, and the smell was so potent that his curiosity was piqued. Turns out, her boyfriend was a green coffee merchant, a person who specializes in sourcing and importing green coffee beans. He started buying green beans from them, and from then on, he could be found roasting coffee under the exhaust hood every Saturday morning. It wasn’t until twelve years later that he decided to start his own business, Velvet Sunrise. “The difference in taste between freshly roasted coffee and the stuff that’s been sitting on a shelf for months was so dramatic that I thought everyone should get a chance to try it,” he said. A small town like Stouffville seemed like the perfect place to start a family-owned, coffee roasting business.

For three years, the business has grown and flourished. Small shops and cafes, all the way from Port Perry to Hamilton, now serve and sell Velvet Sunrise coffee, including The Village Grocer and The Mad Bean. Currently, Mark is roasting just over 1,000 pounds of coffee every week. Despite the financial hurdles that every small business faces, things are looking up – they are now working on branding their coffee for national retail distribution – and after that, who knows?

Velvet Sunrise opens to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Although it’s mainly a wholesale business, the inside of the store is warm and welcoming, the walls decorated with a few pieces of art that complement the orange, green, and brown walls. The big roaster hums away in the background, and the air constantly smells of freshly roasted coffee. “I love what I do, and I love the relationships we’ve developed with our customers. It doesn’t even feel like work.”

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE VELVET PRESS – Natasha Hayward 29/11/13