With his passion and vision for creating with joy, entrepreneurial Jared DeMeester has found his own success


Putting his creative energies and business talents to use, in an effort to entertain himself and others, young Jared DeMeester started selling logs with his sister on the side of the road, claiming that the worm trails in them were ancient carvings by Native Americans.

While his logic may have been off at that point in time, this initial introduction to the business world foreshadowed that his knack for business would come in handy many years later.

“Well, I was fairly entrepreneurial growing up; I was that weird kid that sold [stuff],” said Jared, an FHC graduate and the son of teacher Robbin DeMeester. “I just have always liked to make a thing that somebody else thinks is valuable, I guess.”

While his interest in business and selling products could’ve ended right then and there, those countless childhood adventures were only the beginning for him. However, it wasn’t until he was nearing the end of his senior year of high school that his entrepreneurship would kick back in, this time with a new partner in crime: his best friend Alex Bolen.

“We won senior assassination, and I think we got somewhere around $2,000 from that,” Jared said, with a laugh. “We bought a screen printing press so we could print and make our own tee shirts, which was my first entry-point into starting and running small businesses.”

Once he got hooked onto the idea of start-up companies and creating businesses at 19-years-old, the rest was history. Over the next years of his life, he would continue that trend of starting and building businesses, going on to create seven businesses in total, a combination of both failures and successes.

Despite the distress that might be inherent to being the owner of a “failed business,” the idea of failure was never something Jared feared or stressed about.

“I have had now really six what I called failed businesses until it led to the seventh business, which is this coffee roasting company that I’m running,” Jared said succinctly. “I think that often times, a lot of what I learn in high school is that successes are awesome and are something we celebrate, but [we should] equally celebrate failing because if you learn to fail forward, you’re never really ‘failing’ because you’re learning something from it.”

This conviction that Jared adopted and made his own over the years actually stems from his parents, specifically his mom and teacher Robbin DeMeester, who emphasized to him the importance of branching and not getting hung up on one activity or even on one failure.

Sticking to the idea of not sweating too much over failures, Jared continued to work on starting businesses with each not living up to its potential, until he began to work on starting a coffee roaster and cafe.

At Hope College, Jared was approached by a close friend who wanted him to be a partner in this coffee company, and while he was excited by the offer, Jared was at first a bit apprehensive.

“At that point in time, I had kind of run and started my fair share of things that maybe had some success for some amount of time but had kind of petered off,” Jared said. “So I was really oscillating in terms of whether this was the right decision, with lots and lots of prayer, but I ended up leaving graduate school [to start on the roastery].”

Through all of his endeavors, Jared continued to have faith that his newest project would come to fruition, although the odds may have felt unlikely or not in his favor.

“That was kind of my entry in because, in a nutshell, it was a chance,” Jared said. “It was like me standing at the edge of a cliff and jumping, and most often, I think we jump and [later] realize it wasn’t really a big jump [and that we won’t regret that we did it].”

Because of his leap of faith, Jared is reaping the rewards now; in a sense, this company he helped to create symbolizes new hope and success, for both Jared and the rest of the team.

“As I’ve gotten older, what I would tell Jared from ten years ago is to be willing to see projects through, like commit your energy to finish things,” Jared said. “Stovetop [Roasters] for me feels like the culmination of me growing up a little bit because I have committed to it now for three-and-a-half years from infant stages to it growing up, which is really cool.”

In September 2015, the company was in its earliest stages, developing and gaining steam as they sold their products and eventually settled the roots of the cafe in Grand Rapids, giving the company a home-base on Fulton St. under the name Stovetop Roasters.

Aside from the budding success of the coffee roasters business, Jared’s other business start was one based around reimagining longboarding, again with his best friend Alex.

“The longboard wheel company was kind of born out of the boarding industry, which focuses mainly on skulls and crossbones [for designs], so we— Alex Bolen and I—decided to start this longboard company that was primarily focused on joyful things,” Jared said passionately. “The wheels were called ‘Milk Surfers’ because everyone was ‘surfing the mooski-moo’ out there, which is what we called it. This brand was built on a foundation of joy and goodness, and I think people sensed that. And I hope that people sensed that when the walked into our shop on Fulton St.”

From simple beginnings, Jared and Alex pursued the company, getting the initial kickstart to get the ball rolling by entering a GR business incubator called Start Garden, which financially supported their dreams to continue spreading good vibes across the longboard community. Although financial aid and their creative talents were both vital for the creation of this company, the core of the business itself was essentially based upon bravery: bravery to challenge the status quo with a redesign of the sport and bravery to take a chance despite the possibility of failure.

And throughout all aspects of his life, Jared believes that everyone should be willing to try new things, not worrying about success or failure but simply seeing where it could take you. This mindset also ultimately fed his passion for art and drawing.

“The other thing I’ll comment on: I think art is sacred,” Jared said. “I think there was a period of time where I was really sensitive; I think art is an extension of our souls, in some way, which may be a little dramatic. I still take a lot of time to make for myself, like by playing music to enjoy the art of making music rather than trying to sell everything that I make.”

This belief has centered Jared’s art around joy, something he highly values. The center and hub of that unfiltered happiness that he infuses into his work is his other passion project called I Tried My Best, a series of off-kilter drawings made by Jared. The drawings themselves simultaneously harness Jared’s goofy and relaxed nature.

“I think life is not be taken always too seriously,” Jared said about his work. “I think life is to be taken by the day.”

This life motto has also taken on a new life in the form of his music, as he has worked with different bands over the years. His most recent musical endeavor has been playing with the band MERTLE who, with the help of the band The Shins, has produced a four-song EP. As something he is passionate about, music will always be part of his life, in various forms and settings.

With authenticity as his inspiration and his widespread talents, Jared has achieved all that he envisioned for his future and more, adapting to his surroundings to continue working diligently and humbly.

“My [word of] encouragement is that strong, big oak trees do form from an acorn and that the daily process of watering and giving sunlight to that acorn is real,” Jared said. “There’s no ‘get rich’ scheme, in terms of doing anything in life. Everything requires daily effort.”

From his extensive list of accomplishments, one might think that what Jared has achieved is near impossible, but what Jared would say to those people is that nothing is impossible if hard work and passion are the centers of your work.

“My thing is that I’m literally no different than any other kid at FHC, and I actually really mean that,” Jared said. “I was just a punk kid who liked to try lots of things. Be willing to try things because the reality is that all the tools we need are at our fingertips; we’ve never been at more of an accessible time for entrepreneurs and for young people to make, market, and sell things. Sometimes, I think people in this world think that this is untouchable, but I was literally just a kid who made some mistakes, tried a lot of things, and had a lot of successes and failures.”