Marcelo Kertesz turned 40 and was ready for something new.
So he, his wife and two young girls moved from Sao Paulo to Encinitas.
“I lived in Brazil for 40 years and Sao Paulo for 20 years,” Kertesz said. “I turned 40 and wanted to have a different experience in life. We decided to try a different lifestyle and come to a small town. Encinitas was a good size and close enough to San Diego.”
A few years after moving to the U.S., he came up with an idea to start a business selling coffee just from Brazil where he had lived almost all of his life. This past June, about a year after Kertesz came up with the plan, he and a local coffee expert launched Encinitas-based Mesteeso, which imports high-end coffee beans from Brazil that are roasted in San Diego.
His products, including a $3.50 espresso and a $16 12-ounce bag of Cafézinho beans, sell online and out of a cart at Del Mar’s Viewpoint Brewing Co.
For his new coffee business, Kertesz applies his background in advertising, an industry the 44-year-old has worked in his entire professional career and still does.
“I always wanted to put my skills to the test,” he said. “The ultimate test is when you do the branding” for your own company. “Everything I did for my clients for all those years, I now have a chance to do for myself.”
Below, Kertesz talks about why it’s important to create a business that uses skills from previous jobs, why he settled on a coffee business and advice to folks thinking about going down a new professional path.
The interview was edited and condensed.
Q. How long have you worked in advertising?
A. I’ve worked in advertising my whole professional career. For the past few years, I’ve been working for myself. But before that, I was working for companies. My clients have included Fiat, Nokia, Budweiser, Honda, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Suzuki. Even in my advertising career, I ended up doing a lot of different things. I (owned) a branding company (with clients like a) public water service company, magazines, newspapers and websites. (I did) advertising and graphic design for presidential election campaigns. I owned a production company where I produced and directed commercials and small documentaries.
Q. Why did you start a coffee business?
A. We were always discussing new ideas, possibilities, ventures and because I came from Brazil, doing something with Brazil was always in the back of my mind. It’s a country that’s under celebrated.
The thing is Brazil is the No. 1 producer of coffee in the world. But Brazil for most coffee companies in the U.S. is just one of many sources of coffee. I’m proposing something different. (Mesteeso coffee is just from Brazil.) You can find extremely good coffee in Brazil. We have over 300,000 coffee farms in Brazil.
Q. Many people have business ideas but don’t act on them immediately, if at all. Why did you?
A. In December 2014, I moved to the U.S., specifically Encinitas. I came here to study product design to expand my skills and take a break from my line of work in Brazil. At that time, I was open to new ideas, initiatives, things I could do. What made me move rather fast was that I was in a new country with no pre-established conditions that prevented me from trying this new venture. The further we discussed the idea, the stronger we felt about it and the more momentum we had.
Q. Do you think one day, you’ll focus on just the coffee business?
A. I think it’s very possible. As this coffee brand grows, I look forward to that day where I can dedicate 100 percent of my time to that. Everything you’ve learned working for clients for 20 some years, you suddenly have the chance to do it for yourself. It’s a cool and scary situation at the same time. It’s easy to recommend something to a client, but when you are the client and have to put money on what you’re recommending, it puts it to the test. You really have to believe in what you’re doing. It’s a super interesting situation.
Q. What’s your advice to someone thinking about starting a new business?
A. If you love to learn new things, then it’s not a problem. If you have difficulty learning, then you have to rethink starting a new business.
Also, it’s a lot easier to start a new business where your skills are relevant and important to the success of that business. Your skills are 50 percent of that new venture. My skills (for the coffee business) include branding, advertising, graphic design; and website and film (creation). Things that I knew how to do before helped me a lot in this new venture. And I found a partner that knows a lot about coffee, such as roasting and coffee pricing. The combination of our skills make us a strong viable company. If I was doing something that had nothing to do with what I did before, I think it would be much harder.
And, I have the benefit of having family and friends as investors. Family and friends trust you and support you and don’t demand the same feedback as a professional investor that can be hard for a startup to achieve.