At the age of 51, entrepreneur and former Spyhouse Coffee Company Founder/CEO Christian Johnson shared his motivation to become a successful business owner and coffee entrepreneur.
From 2000 to 2021, Christian successfully grew one café into a successful group of five coffee houses located in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Recently, Christian sold his business and with the help of his legal team, including Avisen Legal Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer Lisa Holter Ankel, is now plotting the course for his next entrepreneurial venture. So how did Christian’s entrepreneurial spirit guide his continued growth and success?
It all began in college. As a student at the University of Minnesota, Christian lived in an off-campus apartment in Uptown that overall, lacked a bit of charm. But more importantly it lacked adequate heat. So, most evenings, Christian found himself tucked into a nice corner of a Minneapolis indie café a few blocks from home. It was his first experience with the coffee house culture – and it drew him in.
Soon he began managing the coffee house that kept him warm during college and realized he wanted to build community-based coffee houses where people could connect and build relationships and friendships over coffee. In 2000, Christian opened his first Spyhouse Coffee in Minneapolis. Before the successful sale of his business, Christian had over 50 employees in four departments. As a self-professed numbers guy, Christian successfully built his company by working closely with his team of professional advisors and exceeded his expectations when it came time to sell the business.
“Lisa did an impeccable job getting everything accomplished leading to the flawless sale of my company. While the sale involved other lawyers, it was Lisa who was steering the ship. It is imperative for a CEO to defer to their team of advisors, and I was able to find the best of the best. Lisa provided the guidance, leadership, and expertise we needed close the deal.”
Let’s Hear from Mergers and Acquisition Lawyer, Lisa Holter Ankel
We recently had an opportunity to talk with Lisa about the acquisition of Spyhouse Coffee Company by Missouri-based Fairwave Coffee Collective. Lisa worked closely with Christian and the Spyhouse team throughout the transaction.
Q. How were you referred to Spyhouse Coffee Company?
A. Lisa: A while back I spoke at an event about mergers and acquisitions and met Jeff Wright of Corporate Finance Associates. Jeff was the business broker working to find a buyer for the company, and Jeff introduced me to Christian at Spyhouse. Christian worked with Jeff for 3 years. He didn’t like some of the proposed deal structures and hired a President to run daily operations.
Q. How would you summarize your work with Spyhouse Coffee?
A. Lisa: The company was founded in 2000 as an exclusive coffee retailer focused on 3rd wave coffee, with a goal of delivering the highest quality coffee to its customers. Its aim was to be a destination café for the Twin Cities and to open the coffee community to all who wanted to be part of it. Over the years, Christian expanded the company to five locations and expanded into coffee roasting as well. By 2020, Christian was ready to sell, and at that time engaged business brokers, Corporate Finance Associates. To Christian’s credit, Spyhouse Coffee had zero lawsuits brought against it throughout its 21-year history.
Q. Tell us about the services Avisen Legal provided to Spyhouse Coffee Company.
A. Lisa: Christian needed a team to assist him through the intricacies of a successful sale to a private-equity-backed portfolio company. It’s like a sale to a competitor on steroids, as these types of sales typically involve equity rollovers, ongoing employment or consulting relationships and significant tax planning as a result. Private equity buyers tend to push hard on all points in the deal documents, both business and legal, and being able to advise my clients on what is a fair market price really adds value during the sale process. In this case, we helped Christian successfully sell his business because we are a great fit for any CEO interested in selling to private equity firms, or to other companies. My colleague Larry Fox also worked on the sale with me.