Welcome to the Darkside! Starbucks newest competition, Darkside Coffee, is the trending topic on the Northside. Owner Mark Whitehead originally wanted a career as an engineer but slowly made his way into entrepreneurship, “It was after getting laid off from a big company, that I was like, if I’m going to do this I have to rely on myself,” says Whitehead.
Darkside has been around for three years now, starting in farmers markets, progressing to a trailer, and now existing in two locations on JFK and next expanding to Maumelle. One of the two Darkside Coffees is located right across from Starbucks, driving competition. One of the differences between the two coffee companies is that Starbucks uses only 100 percent arabica beans while Darkside uses a variety of three different beans: Brazilian, Colombia, and Espresso blend. “Starbucks is told you have to buy this blend, you have to roast this way, you have to do things like this, where we have the advantage because we started with nothing and found our three beans that give us our signature flavor,” says Whitehead.
When starting a business there are many challenging obstacles. For Whitehead it was things like starting costs and materials needed to get going. However, there are many perks to being an entrepreneur, such as making your own schedule, building a network, and basically being your own boss. Whitehead also really enjoys seeing his employees grow. “The biggest perk is seeing my employees go from getting overwhelmed by that first order that comes in to being able to run a store by themselves.”
When Whitehead is not managing his business, he is managing a family, “I get the kids up, get ’em’ to school then immediately after that I come here [The Darkside].” Half of Whitehead’s day is spent at Darkside making sure everything runs smoothly, while the other half is spent with his family, working from home.
In regard to anyone wanting to start a business, Whitehead has simple advice, “Get whatever you want to do, write out where you want to be a year from now, and then start working like you are already at that point a year from now.”