active CEO Podcast #47 Sasa Sestic A World Beyond Coffee

A World Beyond Coffee
Sasa Sestic ONA Coffee
World Barista Champion
Project Origin
2000 Sydney Olympics
Sasa Sestic – Founder & Director ONA Coffee

On this episode of the active CEO Podcast, Craig Johns speaks with Sasa Sestic about escaping three wars, transitioning from 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Handball player to entrepreneur, creating ONA Coffee, the powerful impact of Project Origin, winning the 2015 Barista World Championships and a world beyond coffee. We take a deep dive into building a team of innovators, creating a competitive environment, chasing excellence, collaborating with winemaker Tim Kirk from Clonakilla, The Coffee Man movie and book, and the realization that coffee was much more than a social drink.

Sasa Sestic – Podcast Interview Brief

Sasa Sestic is a World Barista Champion, Olympian, philanthropist and remarkable entrepreneur, who immigrated to Australia in 1997, from humble beginnings in war-torn Bosnia. He is considered inspiring, authentically raw and a fun entrepreneur to work with, who authored the award-winning book The Coffee Man. His outstanding sporting ability allowed him to represent Australia in European Handball at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

While working in a Canberra bakery he found his true passion and an obsession for not only perfecting the ultimate cup of coffee, but also finding and roasting the world’s best coffee beans. He has a heart of gold and his devotion to donate thousands of dollars to the farmers who produce the coffee beans in places like India, Honduras and Nicaragua. His love of coffee has led to two Australian and the 2015 World Barista Championships, as well as owning a range of café’s including The Cupping room, ONA Coffee House, ONA Manuka and High Road.

Sasa talks about:

  • His dad surviving -15 degree nights to put food on the table.
  • Playing European Handball for Australian at the Sydney Olympics
  • Transitioning from athlete in 2013 to Barista entrepreneur.
  • Working in 3rd world countries to help them develop great coffee, grow there amazing coffees and see that we are doing something good for these communities.
  • The DNA of ONA Coffee which is community driven and family owned
  • A lot of failures; every time we failed it help bring us closer together.
  • People who love coffee, obsess with coffee and want to innovate.
  • Developing innovative coffee processes that are used globally.
  • Collaborating with winemakers Tim Kirk from Clonakilla.
  • O.C.D – ONA Coffee Distribution Tool
  • His first trip to India in 2011 changed the way he approached coffee.
  • Going deep into the Amazon Forest to search for the coffee bean DNA.
  • The story behind The Coffee Man movie.
  • Introducing consuming countries with the farming countries.
  • The future expansion of ONA Coffee.
  • Flying to Switzerland to understand the science of coffee.
  • Wanting to change the way coffees are sold.

Active CEO Wellness Tip

Talent Is Not Enough – Discipline, hard work and really putting that time into achieving your goals. Talent will only take you so far. What is the plan you are putting into place and implementing to ensure you achieve that performance that you desire?


“Very competitive environment, very high paced, all high achievers, we all love competition and the competition gets the best out of us.” Sasa Sestic explains the ONA Coffee environment, on the active CEO Podcast.

“One of the issues we have is that when we reach these high goals, we don’t spend enough time celebrating. We just set another higher goal. Trying to be the best we can be. We want to compete with ourselves.” Wanting to spend more time celebrating with Sasa Sestic, on the active CEO Podcast.

“2007 is when I realised that coffee can be so much more than a social drink. So much more than something that tastes reasonably nice. A lot deeper purpose to being able to serve a great cup of coffee. We can make the world a little bit better.” Sasa Sestic’s approach to a world beyond coffee, on the active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Sasa Sestic
Sasa Sestic Instagram
ONA Coffee
ONA Coffee Instagram
Project Origin
Craig Johns
Craig Johns LinkedIn

Recommended Reading:

The Coffee Man Book
The Coffee Man Film

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