Imagine the following scenario: you're out in the woods with some of your favourite people, and you need to make a fire. You begin to gather wood; first some small twigs, some larger branches, and even some logs from fallen trees. You look for good pieces as you walk a little deeper into the woods, spreading out from your friends. Your hands get a bit dirty; your arms tire from the bundle under one arm; maybe you end up with a small scrape or two. But as you're gathering, you notice the smell of the air; you feel the chill from the breeze, and your body warming with from your effort. You are comforted hearing the sound of crackling sticks and rustling leaves made by your friends around you. After a while, maybe ten minutes, you return to your campsite. You find the driest pieces, take the time arrange them carefully, and grab a pack of matches. You light a piece of kindling, and it goes out. You try it again, this time the match burns your fingers. Eventually you're able to keep the twig lit. You place it at the base of the fire, and blow to ignite the wood around it. You repeat this process three or four more times. Your friends are gathered around getting cold, but they chat and laugh and rub their hands together while waiting for the fire to come to life. A few minutes later, you hear the loud snaps of the larger logs burning steadily. You grab a chair and a blanket and settle in.
Here's another scenario. You're out in the woods with some of your favourite people, and you need to make a fire. You brought a fire log and some lighter fluid. You throw both in a fire pit, and snap the trigger on a barbecue lighter. Your fire is up in seconds. You've saved some time. But did you save time? What are you going to do with the extra minutes that you've found?
What is that time worth?
There are times when making a fire as quickly as possible is really important — when health or safety are on the line - but most of the time, building a fire can be an enjoyable experience in itself. We can derive satisfaction and pride out of the act; the warmth of the flames is a side- benefit.
Our time is limited. Simply deciding to be less busy is not necessarily an option, but we can control how we look at and frame each moment within those busy periods. At Matchstick, the task we have set for ourselves is to take an ordinary, commonplace moment, like getting your morning coffee, and a turn it into something that feels like more than just an errand. Sounds great, but it raises the question "How exactly do we do that?"
Honestly, we're still trying to figure it out, but we believe that the answer lies somewhere in the broad understanding of our company and how we fit into our community. Practically speaking, the questions that are spawned from this conversation are things like, "how much should we charge for a latte?" If we charge too much, our community suffers, we drive away people we wish we could be including. If we charge too little, we limit our ability to proactively engage and support our community, because we have limited our resources to provide a well-cared-for-space, well-paid employees, and high caliber products made from amazing ingredients which are sourced from great people. The reality is that we could almost always find a way to make our products cheaper, but cheaper products require cheaper ingredients and cheaper labour, and these in turn tend to produce cheap relationships. If we pursue this route, we end up somewhere very different than where we intended to.
These types of questions and their corresponding answers rarely present a clear dichotomy of choice A or B. It's always messier, cloudy, and ridden with the tension of wanting to be efficient and fastidious as an operator, and yet human and empathetic at the same time. Yes, we must show up to work hard, but we believe that to run our company well, we also have to focus on investing in the most important element of our company, our people. Quality ingredients only come from people. Quality food, drink, and spaces only come from people. And our business only receives patronage from people. We want to find the most symbiotic space for ourselves in this delicate ecosystem, and ensure that we're spending our time well.
For us, using a match to light a fire is a symbol for what we want to create, how we want to go about it, and an anticipation of the challenges that we know we will face as we attempt to do so. Pursuing the level of quality that we aspire to in each area of our operations has inevitably meant becoming intimately involved. In this, we roast our own coffee; we bake our own bread; we travel to meet the people who grow green coffee; we pull up weeds in our backyards and support agriculture in the yards of our neighbourhoods. We work early mornings, and long days. We serve.
Our company exists because we see purpose in getting our hands dirty, and because we believe that one minute longer doesn't have to mean one minute wasted.
Thanks for being a part of this.