An interview with Got Your Six Coffee founder and owner, Eric Hadley
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa
For a sea dog who has spent quite a bit of time repairing gas turbines on warships, Eric Hadley sure knows a hell of a lot about the finer tastes of coffee. The owner and founder of Got Your Six Coffee, Hadley has come a long way from sailor to entrepreneur. When he returned stateside and discovered his passion for coffee, Hadley made sure to bring his fellow vets along for the ride. Founded in 2016 and dedicated to helping vets, Got Your Six is here to build up communities and families any way they can.
For the latest Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with Hadley about seeing the world with the Navy, his love for coffee, and following your passions.
Growing up in Paris, Texas, Hadley always had an adventurous spirit. By the time he had graduated from Maine Maritime College he had already been to 19 different countries. Hadley likens travel to something that has opened his eyes to different perspectives. It’s also made him fortunate for his life back in the States. During his time in the Navy, he had spent time in Liberia, Singapore, Iceland, Tokyo, and countless other places.
After his stint in the military, Hadley went to work on an off shore oil rig until a sudden layoff left him high and dry in landlocked Springfield, Missouri. Burning through his retirement fund and trying to keep the lights on, Hadley had to find something else to do so he enrolled in small business classes at Missouri State. It was here that Hadley was asked an important question that would steer the course of his career: “If you were to start a business what would it be?”
Pondering long and hard on the task, Hadley looked at the mug of coffee in his hand and got a sudden idea. After doing some research, he learned that over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed in the U.S. every day. The light bulb went off in Hadley’s head. He envisioned the sheer profit, opportunity to help others with that profit, and accessibility of coffee. I mean, who doesn’t drink coffee these days?
“People ask me all the time that I must love coffee,” Hadley says, “For me, coffee was a tool. In the Navy, if I’m on a ship and the main turbine breaks and I’m doing 20 hour shifts for the next five, six days repairing it, then hell yeah. I was drinking coffee!”
But even as a grizzled sailor, Hadley knows a good cup of coffee when he tastes it! And don’t let appearances fool you, this dude is a connoisseur. He calls coffee an art form, likening it to a beer or wine; it has nuances, chemistry, flavor profiles, and so much more. Hadley explains how there’s so much that your average person doesn’t know about coffee. On average most coffee on the shelf has been in that container for about seven to nine months; far from fresh.
But like a good wine or steak, he explains, you must let coffee rest before tasting it. After about the three-day to 16-week mark is coffee considered to be the freshest it’s going to be. It’s this sweet spot that Hadley says most people are missing out on.
For Hadley, coffee is how he indulges his creative self. From pour overs, French presses, cold brews, and nitro brews, there are so many ways to prepare coffee and change their palates.
“You can tweak this or that. You can go with every origin, every style,” he shares. “It’s just so artistic. I have the best job I’ve ever had in my life, man. I love the philanthropic side of being able to help vets, first responders, families, and healthcare professionals, but also jus the ambiance of coffee.”
Touching on the service side of his job, Hadley finds great pride in helping others. In one instance, Got Your Six raised $10,000 to build a tiny home for a veteran. The company is also involved with a program that puts the children of fallen heroes through a summer camp in Aurora, Missouri.
Even the company’s logo, a fierce looking octopus, has service in its design. Hadley explains how each of the octopus’s eight arms represents a different branch or service Got Your Six is lending a hand in: “We’re helping the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, EMT, law enforcement, and firefighters,” he says.
But on top of caring about the plight of homeless vets and improving his community, Hadley is happy to encourage folks to follow their passions. He took a chance on Got Your Six Coffee and it’s been a wild ride that he says has certainly paid off.
“One piece of advice that took me 38 years to figure out is no matter what you do, don’t chase money… Don’t follow money. Look internally, find what your passion is then make that your career,” he says.
From breathing in turbine fumes on a warship somewhere in the Atlantic to brewing delicious coffee for people he cares about, Hadley is certainly living proof of his own advice. You can follow money all day but it won’t always lead you to your passion.
“Life is about joy and happiness. It’s not about the dollar,” he continues, “I’ve definitely found my peace, my joy. I’ve found my calling.”
To learn more about Got Your Six Coffee and its mission, check out their website as well as their socials on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. For more life advice, coffee facts, and stories, you can listen to Eric Hadley’s full interview on the Life in Motion Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.