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Interview with First Press co-founder Jimmy Elias

  • 5 min read


Today we’re chatting to one half of the First Press founder duo - Jimmy Elias. For someone who didn’t consider himself entrepreneurial and initially dreaded pitching First Press to potential stockists, Jimmy has done a big and very inspiring journey. Today he thrives on growing the business, loves the sales process and passionately shares his business knowledge with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Grab yourself a little kicker and get ready to read about Jimmy’s slightly unusual way of co-founding First Press, his learnings from five years in the business, and his top three tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Hey Jimmy! So we heard that you came up with the idea for First Press in a pretty unexpected way?

Yes before First Press I actually didn’t see myself as entrepreneurial at all. I was interested in personal development and anything that would help me reach my potential, and I always considered myself to have a big ambition. I felt like starting a business was one of the ways for me to reach this ambition and to give me the freedom to achieve what I want in this life, so I was just waiting for the right idea to come to me. At the time, I was backpacking through the U.S and came across cold brew coffee at Whole Foods. I tried it and was amazed by how tasty it was, that I could have it without any milk or sugar and it made me feel dramatically different to other coffee - really alert with no caffeine crash! I was also drinking it before I went for a run and it was definitely a powerful pre-workout. I had set the intention that I would find a business idea, and the seed was planted. Although it took some time and a push from the universe to actually make this happen.

Was it a straight path from there?

Not at all. I wasn’t sure how to go about starting the business, but luckily I was really bad at the advertising gig I was working, I was at the bottom of the ladder and extremely bored. They decided to not renew my contract which was an absolute blessing, as this gave me the push I needed to make this happen. I also had no money after traveling, so I wasn’t leaving a comfortable income or lifestyle, so I was hungry to make this happen.

I also met a business coach called Grant who was instrumental in helping me take those first steps and is still apart of the business today. From there I tried getting Hamish on board (First Press’ other co-founder) which wasn’t an easy sell at first. It took a few meetings and wines to sell the vision of scaling our very own business. When he saw the numbers and potential, he was in. When looking back at these events I can definitely see that there were some forces outside of human intention that were making this happen.

What’s been your main motivation or vision since you started the business? Has it changed or stayed the same?
In the beginning I had this blind belief that everyone would love cold drip coffee once they tried it. I thought we would be a million dollar business within six months haha. That’s not exactly how it works, but I think you need a bit of that kind of irrational belief at the beginning to get you started.

We’re still very driven by wanting to share the wonders of cold drip with the world and offer a great tasting, healthy and high performing alternative to normal coffee and energy drinks. But today we also see First Press as an engine for change for things we’re really passionate about, such as moving towards sustainable and fair trade coffee production, improving people’s health and sharing business advice and tips with new startups and the community. Community is everything to us and a core value of our business. We wouldn’t be here today without all of the support and guidance from our family, friends, customers and suppliers.

Speaking of sharing business tips - what’s your best advice that you've learnt along the way, for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Three things stand out that are helping me to this day:

  • Find your area of discomfort and dive into the things that scare you. I was terrified of going into stores to sell First Press, but once I started seeing it as a way for me to grow, not necessarily to get a yes, it got easier and the more I did it the more comfortable I became. The discomfort never ceases, you just find different situations where it exists and you physiologically get used to doing things that you fear. You have have let the body and brain know that many of your fears are completely irrational. This requires action. Figure out what the main things are that make you nervous but will help grow your business, and just start doing them. Get used to sitting in discomfort and practice detaching from the actual result, and see it more as a task to grow as an individual instead.
  • There are times when action needs to precede belief. Sometimes when starting out you just have to get out there and act as if you can do something, even if you don’t believe in yourself at first. Once you’ve put yourself out there enough times, you’ll eventually start seeing results and that reinforces your belief in yourself. So you’re essentially building the evidence for you to believe in yourself and your idea. It can be challenging at first but it does get easier, and you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment and experience a lot of growth once you dive in. Action moves energy and creates momentum.
  • Surround yourself with the right people. By the right people I mean people who support, inspire and challenge you. Having a support system for me has been invaluable; there have been many times when I have wanted to quit or run away, but having Hamish and our team, our mentors, friends and family have kept me going. You are only as strong as your network around you. Just picking up the phone and talking to someone who has faced the same thing, and get a few words of encouragement, some tough love or advice, that’s an incredibly powerful thing in helping to keep you going. It’s not an easy journey, but having someone put some perspective into your worries or anxieties can dramatically reduce the time and distraction that they can create. 

 Any final advice you want to share?

It’s a long game and the sooner we start to believe in the journey itself and not the destination, we can begin to open the doors for transformation and success. We can always find other people to compare ourselves to give us signs that we should be doing or achieving more. Use your own progress as the measuring tool and that everyone’s journey is unique and beautiful in its own way. The other advice (which I am still learning) is to not attach your identity to your work or business. This ties your self worth to the performance of your profession which inevitably ebbs and flows.

Thanks Jimmy!