dani cone

Fabulous People: Dani Cone

Dani Cone is the founder and CEO of Cone & Steiner, a modern take on the classic general store carrying specialty, local and basic goods in Seattle. “C&S is based on my great-grandfather Sam Cone’s original store of the same name, established in Seattle in 1915 shortly after he came to this country.” Learn about Dani Cone…

Hometown: Seattle, WA

First job: At 13, I was so excited to get an actual job with an actual paycheck and worked at a local hair salon cleaning out all the hair from the sinks and being in charge of getting lunch and snacks for the clients and staff across the street at the grocery store.

Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: Hmm, not sure I’m familiar with this “free time” phrase….is that a thing? Honestly, my time outside of work looks a lot like my time at work. I really love just going to other specialty food/grocery stores and coffee shops! I do always love a walk around Volunteer Park though too, any season. It’s just a beautiful and favorite spot.

Your biggest accomplishment and why: Accomplishments are definitely a more ongoing process than events. For me, it all comes back to the people I get to work with and the ones we get to serve each day or meet along the way, and this is truly what keeps me going. I have been enormously lucky to be able to create a career (business ownership) out of a job (barista!) that I loved. I fell in love with being a barista decades ago for so many reasons. Of course, I love coffee, but what I really fell in love with was the people. All sorts of people from all walks of life, on all sides of the counter. It has been a true honor to get to work with some of the most talented and dedicated individuals I’ve ever known, folks who share this vision of building community through everyday places with good things to eat and drink. From our place behind the counter, we’ve gotten to see folks through good times and tough times, watch kids grow up, see couples get engaged, extend a hand or a shoulder to cry on through life transitions, give someone a first job or their first “yes” for shelf space for their new product, build lifelong friendships and more. I am deeply humbled by and grateful for each time I get to see someone enjoying our shop. And, when I think about it, honestly, I know that all the while that I’ve focused on creating these places for people to enjoy coming to and working at, it is these folks who have really been the ones who have created that for me.

Cone & Steiner

The biggest obstacle you overcame: Good grief…many things! And the list definitely got longer during the past couple years of the pandemic! Finances are, of course, a most difficult part of business ownership…that just comes with the territory. Besides that, one piece that has been particularly tough in the past couple of years is trying to find the right balance between keeping up motivation (among the team and personally) and making sure our team feels supported while still being human and experiencing the tough times alongside them too. I feel it’s important to be honest, realistic and humanly vulnerable. But, at the same time, it’s imperative to be strong and consistently supportive, focused on the path forward. I believe so completely in what we are building. Yet, there have of course been dark days and many sleepless nights as we navigated the pandemic and now build a new path forward through changing landscapes of consumer behavior and more. But, the lights are on and the doors are open, and we’re coming out of this as an even better company and team…so onward we go!

Someone who inspires you and why: This goes hand in hand with the above “accomplishment” section. As mentioned there, for me, it all comes back to the people I get to work with and the ones we get to serve each day or meet along the way, and this is truly what keeps me going.

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: 

  1. Take yourself (and your ideas) seriously. It’s easy to fall into the traps of thinking an idea isn’t new/different/good enough, but what if it is? How could you make it so? Or, many people think that only “those” types of people can start a business…rich people, tech people, people with all sorts of degrees, etc., etc. But, YOU can too. There isn’t a certain type of person who can or should start a business. You just have to love something enough to work on it more hours than you ever thought possible because you just can’t not do it.
  2. Talk to people! Share your ideas, ask questions, reach out for help! Chances are, no matter what business you’re starting or running or growing, there are people out there who have done it or at least something similar. Ask for help or information or advice! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel…or, if you really want to do just that, then at least don’t feel you have to do it alone.
  3. Don’t install the refrigerator door backward (yep, that’s possible). And, if you do, definitely don’t stubbornly keep it that way for 15 years.

Favorite quote: “Be good. Do well.” My Grandma Molly used to always say this. I’d hear it all throughout growing up and it stayed with me as her words of wisdom, simple and pure advice that will always steer you in the right direction. To note, it wasn’t until more recent years (no kidding) that I learned that this phrase I heard so often was actually what Grandma Molly, a successful career author for over 60 years, was saying to herself as a grammar reminder…but I think it makes pretty perfect quote and words to live by.

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I can’t get enough “Real Housewives.”

What makes someone fabulous:  I think I’ve got to throw this one back to Grammy again and lean on the all of the truth and genuineness of just be good, do well. And have a good handshake.

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