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Exploring Life & Business with Nathaniel Peete of Cafe Coco

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathaniel Peete.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My father was an entrepreneur having his hands in many different things from tax advisory, real estate investments, insurance agencies, mortgage company, etc.. all at the same time. He taught and trained me to be an entrepreneur my entire life. I started working with him more closely at 12 and with an actual job throughout high school. Unfortunately, he died during my second year in college and my mother was not able to keep the business up. He had an amazing business career and was a very prominent figure in the East Nashville community without a college degree but made me promise to finish college even at his death.

My mother was a Ph.D. school teacher that started a program for at-risk kids in the 1990s, helping them to get the credits to graduate on time. It was unprecedented at that time in Tennessee to have anything like that and the state board allowed her the opportunity to not only head the program in her school in Metro Nashville but take the program all over the state. She retained ownership of the program and led the program until she retired in 1999 after 32 years of service. The program won lots of awards and articles and happened to be what she did her dissertation on.

Personally, the business has always been a form of expression and a way to express myself. I was an only child and I never fell in love with any particular business, industry, or profession. I loved learning more and more about business and found that I was good at it. I started small businesses young in my career, and began to buy mom and pop businesses from car lots, cleaning services, gas stations, various franchises, etc… fix them up, improve operations and processes, fine-tune their business plans, improve cash flow, and creditworthiness, and find extremely capable and passionate people to run and operate the business, and late sale the business at a fair profitable rate. I’ve been doing that for the past 15 years.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I can say I have failed miserably and dehabilating twice. I know and have seen what it means and how it feels to hit rock bottom. The first time the bounce back took a relatively short time and the second one took about a year or more to recover. Both challenged my marriage, my friendships, and relationships, and challenged at times faith in myself. I think the last time I failed, I really learned about who I really am and how important wisdom and trust with people you do business with means on every level. Dealing with both failures, it made me realize how important the start of my career was as well.

When I first started doing business full time was when my wife was pregnant with my first child. She had to go on bed rest for 6 months and leave her job as a child therapist. This also meant her income was soon going to be non-existent. I was starting a career as a full-time financial advisor and since that income was commission-based, I started a janitorial service working at night. I used to joke and say, I wore a suit during the day and cleaned toilets at night. The duality taught me a lot about character and people. My days started at 5 AM cleaning a bar, went in the restroom putting on a suit to work, come home to check on things, then start the cleaning accounts with a team until 1 AM. I was so proud of myself and determined to make my child’s life something special on this earth. Proud to say, my wife has been a stay-at-home mom for 12 years now.

As you know, we’re big fans of Cafe Coco LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
We are a cafe, bar, live music venue, recording studio, and staple to the Nashville community for over 26 years. We were founded by my partner Chuck Cinelli and I acquired a majority stake in October 2020 during the pandemic to save and revive the restaurant.

This cafe has meant so much to Nashville and represents the place creativity and creatives live of all backgrounds. To say our customers can be eclectic is an understatement. I am proud to have a team of people lead my Lilly Franklin and Roberto Martinez that not only wants to be there but makes a lot of the same sacrificed I do every day to make that place be what it is today. Historically we are known for having breakfast all day and our breakfast bowls and our famous lunch menu. We also have been voted #1 open mic for decades in the region. We have a stage that many stars perform before they make it big and a place where artists may not have the opportunity to perform anywhere else. That’s something we are very proud of.

How do you define success?
Success in this business is measured by how many people choose us for their first visit to Nashville, their first dates, to perform, and to pick us as the cool place to hang out. I personally am honored and still shocked every day I see so many people coming in. Its so appreciated and makes me realize, there is no owner to this place. It belongs to the community.

Personal success is directly coorelated to the people that matter to me most. My wife and daughters. Giving them time, experiences, and love.

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