Philosophy alumnus becomes roastmaster, explores the deeper mysteries of coffee

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Philosophy alumnus Micah Svejda found the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee to be his calling in life. (Photos courtesy of Micah Svejda)

Minnesota native Micah Svejda used to take sips of his father’s coffee, and rather than being put off by the bitter taste, he found himself captivated.

“I think the transformation of water and roasted beans into something delicious has always been a bit of a mystery to me,” said the University of Missouri–St. Louis philosophy alumnus. “How coffee tastes, how it makes you feel and how it becomes part of your day-to-day life is intriguing.”

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Bootstrap Coffee Roasters relies on the San Franciscan Roaster Model SF–25 to meet demand.

Long before becoming the owner of Bootstrap Coffee Roasters, Svejda would ponder life’s biggest questions: “Why do we exist?” and “What is man’s purpose in life?”

His natural sense of curiosity only intensified as Svejda set off to study history at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul with the goal of becoming a professor. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, Svejda turned his attention to theology and attended the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Finally, he came to UMSL in 2008 where he began to shape answers to his existential questions.

“I had always been interested in learning and in discovering what makes the world tick. After talking with numerous college professors and other trusted people, I decided that philosophy was the area I wanted to get into,”Svejda said. “During my time at UMSL, I was also working in coffee. As I dove deeper into my studies, I was also diving deeper into the specialty coffee industry through working with Kaldi’s Coffee’s roasting company. I rediscovered not only a passion for coffee, but I also saw a viable career path.”

Upon completing his graduate degree in philosophy at UMSL in 2010, Svejda moved back home to the Twin Cities area to further study the coffee-roasting industry. Once he felt ready to make the leap into his own venture, he quit his day job, and two days later, he was on a trip down to Iowa to buy his first coffee-roasting machine. With the aid of savings, a credit card and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Bootstrap Coffee Roasters officially launched in May 2014.

The business sells high-quality, seasonal coffees in an approachable roasting style through wholesale markets and an online store. They also appear at events and farmers markets where they serve coffee and have bags available for sale.

Though Svejda had found his life’s purpose in building his own company, there were still struggles at hand.

“When I came back home with that roasting machine in my van, I didn’t quite have a place to set up shop just yet, so I temporarily installed it in my parents’ garage,” he said. “And at first, I was the only employee of the company. I did everything – paperwork, marketing and promotion. I remember more than a few times roasting coffee with our son, Winston, sleeping in the baby pack on my back.”

While undergoing years of liberal arts studies to ultimately open a business might seem like a detour, Svejda believes this to be the perfect application of the communication and critical thinking skills he learned and refined throughout his education.

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The end product of the roasting process is bags of coffee beans ready to be ground and used for cappuccinos, lattes and more.

At first, when Svejda shared his interests in owning a business, friends and family eschewed theoretical questions of purpose and focused on the practical. Out of love and concern they asked him, “Don’t you think the coffee business is pretty competitive?” and “Do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?”

Now that Bootstrap Coffee Roasters has entered its second year of steady growth, Svejda is happy to report that friends and family continue to support him and enjoy his coffee.

And for all those seeking to fulfill their lives by opening a business, Svejda offers a few words of encouragement.

“Be disciplined and determined to go ahead and make it happen. But don’t get impatient. Sometimes, growth comes slowly,” he said. “There will be a lot of sacrifices – a lot of late nights and early mornings, but it should all feel like it’s worth it along the way. I know it’s not for everyone, but I wake up every day and know that I have the privilege and responsibility of steering this ship in the right direction. It’s incredibly challenging but incredibly rewarding.”

The UMSL Experience

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