For love of country & coffee: How this U.S. Army Special Forces vet combined his two passions to create a successful business

black rifle coffee

Evan Hafer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, pulls a shot of espresso. (Photo courtesy Black Rifle Coffee Company)

By Eric Dehm and Jake Hughes

Former U.S. Army Special Forces operator Evan Hafer knows what he’s good at.

He knows he’s good at roasting coffee beans and he knows he’s good at taking out the bad guys and according to Hafer, that’s about all he’s good at.

“Frankly I don’t have any other skills,” Hafer, a former Green Beret who founded and serves as CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, told CBS Radio’s Connecting Vets.

“Outside of carrying a rifle for a living overseas, I’m not fit to actually have another job unless it’s running my own business.”

And that’s why, after completing nearly 40 tours overseas, Hafer’s next step would be to go to work for himself.

He decided to marry the two things he carried when he was in the military: black rifles and coffee.

black rifle company

Some of the coffee products Hafer’s Black Rifle Coffee Company offers. (Photo courtesy Black Rifle Coffee Company)

For the first year of the business, which is based in Salt Lake City, Hafer was the only employee and therefore working “a lot of long nights.”

“Most of those nights turned into the following day,” Hafer said. “I slept on the floor of my office where my roaster was three nights a week … I was roughly working 20 hours a day.”

Hafer said he drew on his military training, specifically the path he traveled to become becoming a Green Beret, to get through the tough times.

“I knew I had the will,” Hafer said.

“The way that I looked at it was if I can go through Special Forces assessment and selection and then the “Q” course and graduate one of the 3% who complete that type of training … then I should be able to run my own business and I just needed to dedicate the same amount of time and energy into running my business that I did trying to serve my country at the highest capacity.”

While he needed similar willpower to get through both special forces training and starting a business Hafer said the difficulties between being an operator and a business owner are different but wouldn’t say one is harder than the other.

screen shot 2017 06 12 at 1 24 16 pm For love of country & coffee: How this U.S. Army Special Forces vet combined his two passions to create a successful business

(Photo courtesy Black Rifle Coffee Company)

“It’s just different,” Hafer said. “The stress [of being a business owner] is the kind of stress that will keep you up at night and put ulcers in your gut, I suppose. Versus the stress of working in Mosul, Iraq is extreme but it’s not a consistent layer of stress, you get breaks from it.”

Despite the consistent layer of stress, Hafer will open Black Rifle franchises around the country later this year all the while continuing his mission of supporting soldiers, law enforcement, and veterans.

“When I say our company is more altruistic, I mean it. We have the mindset that as long as we aim to give back to the community more than we take, we’ll be okay.”

Now, Hafer’s team at Black Rifle has grown to 88 employees and more than half are veterans.

He notes that veterans are uniquely equipped to succeed whether they go into business for themselves or become part of a team.

Why? Their leadership skills.

“Most veterans have leadership and management experience,” Hafer said.

“At a very young age, they are leading men and that typically doesn’t happen on the civilian side. I tell guys, if you can lead a patrol, you can manage a small business.”

To learn more about Black Rifle Coffee Company’s mission and products, please visit their website.

Listen Live