We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephen Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephen, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I have always had the burning desire to call my own shots when it comes to my work. I worked for a long time, for great companies and leaders, under their plans, their influences, and their agendas. This never ultimately sat well with me when I would think about the future. I did not want to be accountable, from a business perspective, to someone who could die, retire, or shift their mindset about how they ran their business. I did not want to be put in a situation where I would be miserable for the rest of my working life, or be forced to find new job after new job where I could provide for my family and still be engaged with my work. I came to the conclusion that the only way to have ultimate fulfillment and ultimate control out of and over my work was to find a way to be my own boss. After discussing this with my wife, we decided together to take the next steps. This desire grew in me and ultimately provided the fuel to overcome the many challenges and pressures of starting a business from scratch and growing it into a profitable one. Of course, there were many unanswered questions and a lot of research and meeting with people who know more about this than I did before I ultimately took the leap into business ownership. This is seldom easy, and challenges are constantly changing as we grow, but my burning desire to be in business for myself is still there. This makes it possible to face the daily challenges which come with living out our dream.
What should our readers know about your business?
After my wife and I were committed to starting a business, it did not take long to come up with some things were are passionate enough about to make a business centering around those. I am passionate about serving people. I have a great deal of experience in the hospitality/foodservice industry with Chick-fil-A, arguably the best in the business. These two facts pulled me in the foodservice direction. My wife, Stacy, and I are passionate about great coffee and great homemade food. Sourdough Cuppa Joe was born out of a love of serving people and serving great coffee and great food. Our tag-line on our signage and website proclaims: Great Coffee, Great Bread, Great Community. We strive to fulfill our mission statement with each guest that comes our way. Our mission statement is: To bring glory to God by providing high-quality coffee, baked goods, and frozen custard to all who entrust their experience with us – AND – to show faithful stewardship by serving our guests while demonstrating a balance of urgency, quality, and genuine connection. This is anything but easy. It is actually impossible without the help of a team of leaders and team members we have gathered around us to help us carry it out. The best part of our business is also the most difficult part of our business. People make this worth doing, and people are also a source of challenges in business. Those who rise to the challenge of leading people with the heart of a servant take on a messy, beautiful, challenging, rewarding thing, and there is nothing I would rather do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Chattanooga has a great local coffee culture, and since I am passionate about great coffee, I would arrange a tour of various coffee stops around the city. This is, of course, assuming they share my love for great coffee. In addition to great coffee, Chattanooga has some really great local food spots as well. As a local restaurant owner, I try to support local establishments as much as possible, and I have found some real gems. I would organize a tour of some of my favorites while my friend was visiting. Another stop would be a fishing outing on Lake Chickamauga. My favorite hobby is bass fishing, and Lake Chickamauga is a famous spot for fishing in the south.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The most influential person in my life is Jesus Christ. Jesus is responsible for any so-called success I have had in my life. He has orchestrated many people to be on my path along this journey. Marshall Wilkins of Chick-fiil-A in Knoxville, TN, is my earthly business hero. I began working in his restaurant in 1994 as a high-school sophomore. I owe much of the way I lead our team at Sourdough Cuppa Joe to Marshall. Even today, he is a trusted mentor and friend.