Matt Delarosa | Small Business Owner

Matt Delarosa has built an incredible community surrounding his business, Ironsmith Coffee in Encinitas, CA. Founded in 2015, Ironsmith is the intersection of Matt’s passion and obsession with coffee. Over the past six years, Ironsmith has become a staple in the cozy beach community of Encinitas – operating an in-house roasting operation within their intimate space on S Coast Hwy 101, just blocks from the beach. Matt makes frequent trips to source beans for their roasting program, and focuses on telling the story and history behind the beans they work with. We’re excited to share an interview with Matt and highlight his craft of coffee roasting. You can shop Ironsmith Coffee online here. 

What originally drew you to your craft? Was there a particular experience or personal calling?

It was a combination of right time and place. It was 2012 and specialty coffee was gaining mass acceptance as people seemed to diverge and lean towards higher quality products and consumables. I was influenced heavily during this time, being in my late twenties, I was exploring what I wanted to do that provided me more meaning in life.

There were several experiences that come to mind, but one in particular that stands out was when I visited a coffee shop in Santa Barbara. The owner was roasting coffee and explaining the process to me. As he was doing so, he was greeting customers by name and they greeted him back by name, as if they were all childhood friends. I think that community feel was the ‘calling’ I was attracted to.  

To what do you most attribute the development of your craft? Did you have a mentor or formal education?

I come from a technical background with a curious mind, that’s what drives the development of my specific craft. I enjoy metrics that I can measure and compare with other results. The process of tasting coffee, recording its perceived quality, then changing how that coffee is made and measuring the difference. Do this over and over again, eventually you start to see patterns for the good and the bad.

I don’t have a specific mentor, rather many peers that I hold in high regard that all help guide me directly and indirectly. I actually never worked in my industry prior to starting Ironsmith Coffee, not even in hospitality or service. I was a U.S Marine for 5 years and studied business management during my undergrad. The combination of the two were my formal education and just good old, on the job training’ as I navigated entrepreneurial life. 

What kind of risks of challenges have you encountered over the years? And did the challenges (or a particular challenge) change your path in any way?

It seems like I have encountered just about every type of challenge during the past 6-7 years. Many personal challenges and of course business ones that are constant until today. Initial challenges were all the typical ones small businesses encounter: startup capital, misunderstanding of accounting practices, labor costs, cost of good analysis, brand development. In the beginning, the biggest risks I took were all financially related. Not knowing if we were going to succeed makes it difficult to take on debt. The challenges didn’t necessarily change our path, rather show us which paths were the better direction. 

When thinking about the future of your work, what are you most excited about?

In my industry, experience is definitely a plus. It takes time to build relationships with coffee producers in different countries. It takes time to build a brand reputation that regular customers trust. Having achieved all those, it is easier to move forward with that type of foundation. I’m actually curious myself as to what the future will hold as we move forward. The beauty of coffee is that it is evolving every year. Macro-economics, global weather patterns, international business relationships, all impact coffee quality. I’m most excited about the unknown, because it means there’s an evolving nature about this industry. 

Is there a television or film character that reflects your personality in real life? If so, who?

Great question! It’s a bit of a stretch, but Will Smith’s character in, “The Pursuit of Happiness” is easily one of the most relatable characters that reflects my personality. I think anyone embarking on creating their own path can relate to his character. The struggles and the pursuit of success is a common theme most of us probably have been through.

What piece of advice would you have loved to receive when first starting a brand?

Not to over-complicate things. I think when starting off, we’re so eager to try and do everything right and sometimes we get in our own way. So, the best piece of advice I would have loved to receive when first starting a brand, “Let the brand grow organically and get out of the way.”

Is there anyone whose eyewear style stands out to you?

Stanley Tucci! He’s got nice style and changes it up. 

When you’re not working, how do you recharge and stay inspired in San Diego?

Another great question! Recharging is different for everyone I would imagine. I have this condition where I “love” to work! I guess more so, I love to be doing something that involves progressing. Inspiration comes to me when I’m improving or learning. That can mean improving my 1 mile run time, or learning a new chord progression on my guitar, or learning when to place a financial trade in the stock market. Whenever I improve at anything, that inspires me across the board. 


Matt wears the Roman in Tiger Eye. Photos by Claire Reiner.

For more features, check out David Kind on Instagram.


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