Saxbys’ Nick Bayer on Putting Millennials in Charge and Starting Without a Business Plan

As the coffee brand makes its way into the Certified B Corps club, its founder is ready to prove you can do well while doing good.

nick bayer saxbys

Nick Bayer at Saxbys headquarters in Center City. Photograph by Colin Lenton.

Age: 41
Title: Founder and CEO
Workplace: Saxbys
Trained as: Sales manager

On what inspires him: We’re at a real tipping point in capitalism. On the macro level, we see organizations like the Business Roundtable trying to redefine capitalism. I’m also hearing young entrepreneurs talk about making real change and how that’s more important than making money. So when the people who control the money and the people who are just starting out are speaking the same language, that’s really damn inspiring.

On Saxbys now vs. Saxbys then: I started Saxbys without a business plan and without capitalization. I just started swiping my credit card. And pre-2008, you could do that. It makes for a fun story, but it’s the stupidest way to build a business. We didn’t have a mission statement or core values. We didn’t have a defined difference-making culture. I was too naive to realize how important that actually was. But now, we’ve got an authentic mission and core values in a real company culture. That has attracted talent and built culture.

On putting millennials in charge at the many Saxbys campus locations: Our Experiential Learning Program has proven a lot of people wrong. There were a lot of doubters, though very few who would say to my face initially that they thought millennials were uninspired and lazy. There were a lot of people who said I was out of my mind to spend that money and put keys exclusively into the hands of millennials. But our program has proven that young people are capable of running their own business at a high level.

On “corporate social responsibility”: I’m not fond of the term. It’s incredibly outdated and harks back to the days when companies needed to donate money to lessen their tax burden. Young people side-eye it, like, that’s big-company talk with no action behind it.

On hiring the formerly homeless and incarcerated: Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. There are so many people in our company who have all the talent in the world but aren’t given the same opportunity as someone who maybe grew up in Lower Merion. As a business, our responsibility is to create equity.

On a key lesson he’s learned in the past few years: The world happens for you, not to you. The quicker you can realize the world is for you and not against you, the quicker you can embrace it and move forward.

nick bayer saxbys

Photograph by Colin Lenton.

On his desk: A journal. I don’t have an office. I work at a table in the middle of our space. One thing I keep close to me is my journal. I flow between journaling and writing notes in meetings on the same piece of paper. Being able to think things through by writing whenever I’m in the moment is cathartic. I feel more patient, pensive and present.

Hear more from Bayer at a live Secrets From the C-Suite event on March 4th. Get tickets here.

Published as “Impact Moves” in the March 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.