Sometimes, when looking for business inspiration and great business models, it can be easy to look no further than your own industry. But I think it’s worthwhile to compare a giant like Apple Computer to Portland’s own Stumptown Coffee Roasters. There are two primary aspects worth comparing: vertical integration and the personality of leadership.

First of all, let’s talk about vertical integration. This is one of the most obvious aspects of Apple Computer, in the way that they make their own hardware, software, operating system, and peripheral devices such as the iPod.

Which is a lot like Stumptown. Everyone who roasts coffee for them personally visits most of the estates from which he they the coffee. They roast it all in-house, on equipment they own (and soon, in a building which they own as well). They wholesale their coffee on their own website, as well as in four of their own Portland locations. All this has been built in a market that was considered uninteresting just five years ago.

Now let’s talk about personality of leadership. I am often struck, when reading about Steve Jobs, with how much he has in common with Duane Sorenson, founder and primary owner of Stumptown Coffee. They are both very charismatic personalities. They are both extreme perfectionists – ask anybody who has worked with Duane! Both have a reputation for being extremely driven, and have visionary qualities. And if you’ve worked with him, you know that Duane has a keen eye for design, as well. I suspect he still reads more design magazines than I do.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with Duane since before he opened his first shop. Working with Stumptown from the start has taught me that you can be successful in business by being absolutely uncompromising in your ideals, and that is the foundation for the business I run today.

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