There was a brief moment Sunday night when I lost it. Completely overcome by emotion, and completely surprised by that, I started to cry. In a room with 500 screaming coffee people (lots of jeans and boots and beards), I was standing in the very middle. There was pandemonium around me, a mix of deafening cheers and continuous applause, and it fell silent in my head for that brief moment — 3 seconds, 30 seconds, I’m not sure.
There was a brief moment Sunday night, in Nashville at the US Coffee Champs as Summit competed with the best coffee companies in the U.S., when it felt like 8 years of building a business received validation. Matt, our Director of Wholesale, took 1st Place in the Cup Tasters competition, which assesses who can identify nuances in coffee better than anyone else. And Evan, Summit’s ride-or-die Director of Coffee since 2014, took 10th in the Roasting Championship.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I put my head in my hands, looked down and caught my tears. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, as they say, and running Summit is tree after tree after tree. We’ve been on a mission from good to great, to take the Summit Coffee on Main Street that Davidson loves and adores, and share it with the coffee world. First, with more cafes, then with a roasting business, most recently with some new bags and colors, and surrounding it all is a brand we’ve been slowly building.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I thought of everything. I thought of my first day running Summit, in September 2011 as I bartended during our 13th anniversary celebration. I thought of Tim, and everything we built together. In 2013, Tim gave me a copy of Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman’s biography, and inscribed it: “Let’s build a business and write a book about it.” I think about that inscription a lot, and use it as a call to greatness. A call to make Summit something worth writing about, worth remembering, worth celebrating.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I thought of mistakes. We’ve made lots of them, and I am the chief engineer of bad decisions. We’ve failed more times than this blog has room for. And each time, even while I have been down and sad and pessimistic, I’ve put on a front of optimism because that’s what the staff needs. I’ve done that so much, in fact, I’ve taught myself to feel optimistic through failure, to dismiss the idea of fear, and that’s perhaps the most important skill I own.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I thought of perseverance. I thought of Evan, in his 5th competition, having never advanced to the national stage and yet still in Nashville putting himself out there for the world to see. It’s because of Evan, and of Matt, and of the Summit family cheering us on in Davidson and Asheville and so many other places, that success is possible. When Evan’s name got called as a national qualifier, as Evan was recognized and celebrated for his excellence, that’s probably when the tears started. It’s hard to wait for success, and we’ve been here together for 5 years fighting with patience and disappointment and frustration.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I thought to myself, “We’ve done it.” I don’t know why exactly this feels so important and so powerful, but walking around in a room of 500 people we’ve long admired and having them say, “Woah, Summit! Y’all crushed it” is important, it is powerful. We don’t take enough time to celebrate our victories — the little ones, the bigger ones, the big ones. But this moment must have been that. It’s lonely to run a company, sometimes, and be your own biggest champion. To tell people how great Summit is, and how it’s growing, and what we stand for. And to wait for external validation that what I’m saying isn’t fiction. That I’m not a fraud when I stand in front of our staff and tell them how special this company is.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I thought of being proud. I thought of how immediately I wanted to share the news with our Summit family, with my own family, with Tim. I’m fortunate to be carrying forth the vision Tim set in place long before I got my own business card. I thought of sharing it on social media, not for validating likes but so the Summit fans could exclaim in their homes on a Sunday night because what we’re doing means something.
There was a brief moment Sunday night when I lost it. And then I got it together, took a Lyft back to my hotel and wrote questions for Monday night’s trivia in Davidson. Because that’s what we do, and the work continues.
I will never forget that moment.