Ally Walsh is one half of coffee house Canyon Coffee, a business she started with her boyfriend in their Santa Monica apartment in 2016. As their relationship grew, so did their love for coffee. After growing up on Long Island in New York, Ally now calls Echo Park in Los Angeles home; they currently roast in Chinatown with their office nearby in Silver Lake, and when she isn’t working on the business she also works as a model. In this conversation, Ally shares how she’s landed in coffee, how she finds working alongside her partner and how they’ve managed to incorporate their love of travel into the business.
Was coffee always on the cards for you?
No, honestly I never thought I would be working in coffee! But I’m so happy that I am. I’m grateful to have a company that grew out of a genuine passion, and building something with my partner has been a very fun and rewarding path. Casey and I have always loved coffee. Some of our earliest shared memories were of making coffee for each other in the mornings, and walking to get a coffee and take it to the beach. When we first met, we were often apart for weeks at a time for work. When I would travel for modeling jobs, I would always make it a point to find a nice local coffee shop to enjoy a cup before the work day. When Casey was on tour, he’d send me beans from local roasters in the towns he played shows in.
Over time, our passion only grew. We started making pour overs at home. We started routing our travels based on which coffee shops we could visit. Casey started working as a barista, and we became friends with a talented roaster, James Klapp. In 2016 it all culminated, and it just felt like connecting the dots.
You’ve spoken about the ‘ritual of coffee’, talk us through this?
Making coffee is a great example of something that can easily feel like basic routine or rote to many people—put the coffee in the machine, turn it on. In talking about it as a ritual, we’re really talking about taking something we do on a daily basis and putting more intention and meaning into it. It’s often tempting to jump right into the day, but taking time and making space in the morning can make it a very meditative time of day. I enjoy the whole process of making coffee each morning, every part of it is something to appreciate. Turning on the stove, boiling the water, grinding the beans, and then taking my time to make a Chemex or V60.
I imagine starting a company with your partner can be all consuming at times. How have you learnt to balance work and life together?
It definitely was and continues to be a learning process! It’s challenging because it’s your baby, something we’re both building, and we’re likely to have ideas or feel passionate about different parts of the business at different times. We love what we do, so even at times when it’s work it doesn’t always feel like it! But you need to be able to turn it off and make time for each other outside of work. We keep it a regular habit to go hiking together and go on dates or to the movies. And it’s important to make alone time for ourselves to show up for each other as the best versions of ourselves.
What lessons have you learnt from starting your own business?
(1) Taking risks is part of starting and growing a business—take small risks until you feel more confident and assured in taking greater ones.
(2) Know all your costs and margins, and set up a cash flow as soon as you can!
(3) Saying No is as important, if not more important, than saying Yes!
Not wanting your business to inhibit you from travelling, you’ve turned travel into a focal point of Canyon by making coffee travel guides that include your favorite cafe finds from your travels?
Yes. When we started our company, we were wary of it affecting our love of travel—we didn’t want that part of our lives to end. Travel is what inspires us, immerses us in new places and exposing us to different perspectives. But, travel was actually a key part of how we fell in love with coffee. So we decided to share that part of our experience through our guides. For us, starting our morning while traveling in a nice coffee shop sets the whole day up, and brings us to neighborhoods we might not otherwise have visited.
Aside from good coffee, what lights you up?
Traveling, and exploring new places.
Is your home and the space around you important to you?
Yes, so important! It’s where we spend so much of our time, and our place to rest, relax, feel grounded, get inspired, and make food! I’m always engaged in a slow process of filling my home with things I love and collect from traveling. And I love keeping my home full with fresh produce and plants to give the house life and keep the air clean.
What is it about the future that excites you most?
The mystery of what it holds! We can have ideas and visions for what we want to bring into our lives, but I love the surprise of the paths life takes, the opportunities that arise, and the things that end up becoming a part of our worlds. It’s important to trust that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.