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Monday’s “Live Your Story” Series- Shannon Neffendorf

February 21, 2011

Coffee is a passion for Shannon.  Maybe a more accurate statement is that creating something of quality is a passion for Shannon.  Shannon left a position working for Blockbuster corporate to begin the adventure of making great coffee.  In March of 2008,  Shannon and his wife, Jenni, started Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters and only a year later they found themselves winning “2009 Best cup of coffee in Dallas” by the Observer.  Its their intentionality, their drive to create a quality product that makes people take notice.  Its a visible love for their community that makes people take notice.  They took a risk on a dream and they got a mighty fine cup of joe to show for it.  Meet Shannon, founder of Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.


Shannon Neffendorf

Coffee Roaster and Entrepreneur

Oak Cliff, Texas




1.Name a person, book, and moment that served as a catalyst for the pursuit of your passion?
It would be hard to point to one moment, book or person that served as my catalyst.  Due to my non-committal nature a series of catalysts were required!  But I’ll try to pinpoint… At my prior corporate job, I was placed on some assignments in Milan, Italy.  I had liked coffee before this time, but I was blown away at not just the quality of the coffee, but the quantity as well.  Good coffee is everywhere in Milan.  And at many of the places a cup of espresso is prepared as if it’s the last one they might ever make.  I came back home on a search for good coffee in Dallas. It was an utterly unfruitful search, initially… until I discover home-roasting.  There was then this realization that the best coffee I could find in Dallas was in my kitchen.  I wanted to show Dallas there was great coffee to be enjoyed.  Then combine this with reading a lot of GK Chesterton (especially the “Outline of Sanity”) and moving to a community that is very supportive of local businesses.

2. What risks did you have to take along the way and how did they interact with your fears?
In my mind the biggest risk I’ve taken was putting a price tag on my product and selling it.  When you give something away to people, they are apt to receive it with gratitude, and praise the fruits of your labor.  But that changes when you put a price tag on it, especially when it’s a price fitting of ‘non-industrialized’ food (read “not cheap”).  People are then at full liberty to critique and that is a scary thing to me.  Another risk that I am confronted with continuously is being fiercely committed to the quality of my product.  America has created a business culture where growth and size are all that matters.  In my business that translates to making my coffee cheaper and more convenient.  There have been many temptations for a quick buck along the way if only I should just compromise a bit on the quality of the product.  And being a recovered Corporate American Capitalist there is something engrained in me that tells me to find my security by chasing the dollar, despite knowing in my heart that it’s a fool’s errand.  Another risk was the more obvious one, the jump from a comfy job with health insurance to running the business full time.  It has a times felt a little like swimming in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  You know where you want to end up, but you’re not sure which way to start off or if you’ll have the strength to get there.  There are two reasons that I’ve succeeded despite my anxieties.  One is a wife that has been steady and encouraging during this whole process and the second is knowing that I can’t undo what God has done and I’m just trying participate in His world.  

3. What was the biggest and most unexpected pain (a blind side moment) in your journey? How has it changed you and your process?
I can’t say it’s been a total blind side, but it was definitely unexpected in terms of severity… How personally and emotionally tied I am to the business.  The ups and downs of the business affect me personally to a very significant degree.  You can imagine that this is both a blessing and a curse.  I can no longer leave work at the office.  It’s always with me and most days that’s good, but often it’s not.  I wake up at 3 am and can’t go back to sleep because I’m thinking about coffee.
4. What is a question that you don’t get asked but wish you would?
“What is it about all of this that brings you joy?”

5. Answer your desired question.
I love the coffee and I love to roast.  I love being able to integrate my family and my work.  I love to be able to use my productive abilities to contribute to my community in a tangible way.  I love that my work makes other people happy. I love that the concept of honoring God with my work makes so much more sense to me now.  All of this is joy to me.

Visit Shannon’s website to order some of his fine coffee!
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