Kickass entrepreneur: The Swell Cafe
Sometimes it just takes a piece of paper to remind you what you should be doing with your life.
A few years back, John Vallas had just gotten out of the Navy and was in the process of interviewing for new jobs. Ultimately, he was unhappy with his options and wanted more.
As he was going through his job files, he came across a paper he had written earlier that summed up everything he was passionate about. It included good food, coffee, friends, family and the beach. That’s when he decided to set his sights on owning a business that included all those things.
In November 2011 he found a failed cafe in Mission Beach and decided to open The Swell Cafe. It serves everything he is passionate about, including artisan-roasted fair-trade coffee, fresh and healthy breakfast and lunch options, and specialty cold-brewed coffee, including the company’s latest innovation, the Hopped Toddy.
Q: Favorite dish you love to eat and make for friends?
A: Fish tacos and seafood campechana after a surf ... never gets old! At our house when we have people over we either grill steaks or make Laos-style pho.
Q: What makes your coffee so different?
A: I don’t know about “different” but we spend a lot of time cultivating relationships at the farm and processor level at origin. For example, we are currently working with IP Coffees in Mexico to develop and assist with better processing for small family farmers, which increases the quality of the green coffee beans we are importing. It costs more, but in the long run everyone wins, we get better green coffee to roast, which helps us deliver a better cup, and the farmers get a higher price for their crop. Plus, we train with our baristas obsessively.
Q: If someone were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why?
A: Morgan Freeman. Sometimes in meetings I like to pretend my voice sounds like his. And his voice is awesome.
Q: What would you tell your 10-year-old self if you could?
A: Move to the West Coast and start surfing now ... You’ll appreciate your 34-year-old self for telling you this.
Q: Best part about doing business in San Diego?
A: This city is so amazing. Best parts are the opportunities to work with great people and in such a beautiful place.
Q: CEO or company that you admire and why?
A: Elon Musk comes to mind, specifically his ability to inspire others, people perhaps smarter than he is, with vision and ideas that most people think are outlandish ... only to discover through hard work, effort and commitment that anything is possible.
Q: Three things you would take to a deserted island?
A: My daughter Shyla, coffee tree (gotta have coffee!) and LifeStraw Go (have you seen these things?!)
Amber Mesker is an entertainment and lifestyle reporter for DiscoverSD. She loves providing readers updates on Hollywood gossip, San Diego fashion and cool weekend events. You can follow Amber and laugh at her fun, crazy life at @ambermesker