LISBON Timothy G. Gardner began roasting coffee in a popcorn popper as a hobby.
Three years later, hes running a $100,000-a-year business and is the recipient of the Clarkson University Reh Center for Entrepreneurships Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
After seeing a magazine article on how to roast coffee in a popcorn maker, Mr. Gardner decided to try it.
I was a caffeine addict when I started and knew if I started brewing I could find a way to make my coffee better and wanted to find out how to make it myself, he said Wednesday. I started researching and discovering different blends that I liked.
That same year, Mr. Gardner went to a weeklong seminar in Waterbury, Vt., where he learned about roasting specialty coffee. He also obtained a $10,000 grant through the St. Lawrence County Local Development Corp. to help expand his business.
Mr. Gardner purchased a 25-pound capacity drum roaster, constructed additional space in his garage and began providing premium roasted coffee to wholesale customers in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Franklin counties under the name St. Lawrence Valley Roasters, 290 Bank Road. In 2011, the county Industrial Development Agency recognized him as entrepreneur of the year.
Mr. Gardner makes a variety of more than 32 coffee and espresso blends. His online sales have carried his coffee to places as far as Hawaii, California and Georgia. In 2011, Mr. Gardner produced 15,000 pounds of roasted coffee and garnered sales of more than $100,000.
He also partnered with the Reh Center to roast blends for Entrepreneur Coffee and Big Tupper Brewing Co. The Reh Center educates and trains entrepreneurs to secure and manage startup funding and develop their companies.
Mr. Gardner will be honored at the Reh Centers second annual Entrepreneur Recognition dinner at 5 p.m. today at Clarksons Cheel Campus Center.
He loves what he does, and thats exciting, Reh Center Director Marc S. Compeau said. Its something we really want our students to take away from him.
The awards follow the dinner. The cost of the event is $30 per person, which includes dinner, drinks and dessert. Reservations may be made by calling the Reh Center at 268-3995.
Dale A. Rice, director of the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center, will receive the Entrepreneurs Hero Award.
Susan E. Powers, Spence professor in sustainable environmental systems and associate director for sustainability at Clarkson, will receive the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. Alumni David D. Reh, founder of Raytec Inc., Victor, and Robert Kerr, founder of Swish Data, Warwick, will be inducted into the Clarkson Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.