They're Baaaaaaack!

Healthy Java

Mark Overly, Kaladi Brothers coffee

Then & Now
No. of employees
1995: 88
2001: 5
1995: $4.2 million
2000: $600,000
Biggest change
"The conquests are more satisfying," says Overly. "Now I'm back to a full entrepreneurial role, and it's a lot more fun."

While We Were Away
The buzz in 1995
Coffee pundits eulogized instant coffee.
The buzz in 2001
Organic coffee (or green coffee) is the fastest-growing niche among specialty coffees.

Happiness is found in starting something new, says Mark Overly, who founded Kaladi Brothers Coffee back in 1987. "There is a difference between entrepreneurship and managing," he says. "When you get big, you can have lots of toys, but it's empty if you're not doing what you love."

Overly opened his first store in Anchorage, Alaska, and added five more in the state over the next 10 years. When we caught up with him in 1995, the company was reaping $4.2 million per year. But as the business grew, Overly felt increasingly less like the adventurous entrepreneur he'd started out as. "I felt constrained," he says. "I became more identified with employee and management meetings. And I missed the freedom of a small organization."

In 1999, Overly sold his Alaskan outlets and moved to Den-ver, where he opened a new Kaladi Brothers store. "I had 88 employees in 1995; I have five now," he says. "It would have been safer to stay in Alaska, but I wanted a small, guerrilla-type business [again]."

The Denver store expects sales to be around $600,000 for fiscal 2000-2001. Better still, Overly is doing what he wants.

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: They're Baaaaaaack!.

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