Back in February, we launched a new series, “Words of Wisdom,” bringing career development stories and top-notch advice from industry leaders right to your inbox! For this second edition of “Words of Wisdom,” Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty, spoke with Jonathan White (White Coffee Corporation), John DeMuria (Volcafe USA LLC), and Michael Gaviña (F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.). White, DeMuria, and Gaviña are all current NCA Board Members and long-time leaders of both the National Coffee Association and the industry overall.
Executive Vice President / White Coffee Corporation
An attorney by trade and lifelong New York resident, Jonathan White, Executive Vice President of White Coffee Corporation, was born into the coffee business. White Coffee Corporation was founded by Jonathan’s grandfather in 1939, and his father carried on the legacy, spending over 40 years in the business, advocating for and developing the specialty coffee trade long before there were a plethora of chain and microroasters.
Jonathan explains, “I grew up with the smell of coffee in my father’s station wagon; there was never a time he would not help a customer with their emergency needs and he would be sure to not only meet but to exceed their expectations. After practicing law and gaining experience in helping to run a variety of organizations, I joined the company in 1990. It is very rewarding to see our company’s growth and to serve our customers for many years – multi-generational in many cases – and to have many of our team members with White Coffee for 10, 15, and 20 years or more. “
“Our business has continued to evolve and grow, from the independent local stores and delis to national chains of club stores, supermarkets, hotel chains, and online retailers. We also have worked with many licensors and private label retailers to develop proprietary brands.” In his role, Jonathan is involved in many aspects of the business, including oversight on commodity purchases, major account sales, financial oversight, team management/building, strategic direction, and day-to-day management.
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry:
- Diversify both your business channels and your skill sets.
- Embrace change and flexibility as the world will continue to evolve. Expect the unexpected!
- Ask lots of questions, and don’t always accept the first answer you get – assume nothing.
- Think ahead and consider various scenarios and how you would best respond.
- Always be selling! Create a unique selling proposition (for either yourself or for your product).
- Develop lifetime relationships. Appreciate varying perspectives.
- Aim for constant learning, improvement, and giving back to your community.
Favorite pastimes: Jonathan loves baseball (especially the NY Mets!), all kinds of music, travel, and reading all kinds of non-fiction books (especially those about current events/politics).
Managing Partner / Volcafe USA LLC
Prior to joining the coffee industry, John DeMuria (JD), worked in banking on Wall Street, with a focus on coffee, cocoa, sugar, and grains. Volcafe, formerly known as Volkart Brothers, recruited JD, initially to work in finance, but he later transitioned into trading. In his first two years trading, JD worked to learn and absorb as much information as possible; at this time, differential prices were gaining prominence and the futures contract was evolving. From there, JD went on to manage the Colombia and Central America books.
Reflecting back on the start of his time trading, it brings to light just how much trading has evolved over time. Back when JD started in the business, trading was done by a telex machine and all documentation was done by hand. JD explains, “You had your telephone, telex, and a calculator. The telex operator was probably the best trader on the floor; every offer, every bid, went through their hands!”
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be determined & dedicated. Hard work always pays off. Live your dream and have a passion for what you do. Getting involved in Next Gen is a great opportunity to engage at an earlier age and early stage in your career.”
Favorite past NCA memory: “Being invited by your boss to the NCA Convention was the highest achievement; you said to yourself, ‘I made the inner circle.’” JD has served on the NCA board since 2007.
Managing Director of Financing and Accounting / F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.
Michael was born into the business, meeting and networking with others across the coffee industry since an early age. Previously serving as the Purchasing Director at F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc., his current role is now that of Managing Director of Finance and Accounting. Michael explains that despite the formal titles, in a family business, you wear many hats; his experience ranges from sales to sustainability to equipment servicing.
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be of service.” [Publisher’s note: As you will observe through his favorite past NCA memory below, Michael certainly exemplifies the phrase, “practice what you preach,” and we are very appreciative of the role that Michael had in the development of the NCA Next Gen Council!]
Favorite past NCA memory: Michael played an integral role in the creation and development of the NCA Next Gen Council with the mission of nurturing, building, and developing the next generation of industry leaders.
Recommended reading: “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
Many thanks to Jonathan, JD, and Michael for sharing their stories and advice for this edition of “Words of Wisdom!” Their leadership and service to the NCA is admirable and tremendously appreciated!