CEO Elisabeth Cardiello on Overcoming Complex Challenges Over Coffee


Cardiello joined the N6A team remotely for the August 2020 edition of our Outcomes & Omelettes thought leadership series.

Our Outcomes & Omelettes thought leadership series returned in August with a jolt of equal parts caffeine and kindness. Oh, and don’t forget our beloved make-your-own-omelette-station was still delivered to N6A-ers via a Seamless credit!

We typically love to host our guests on the #EmbracethePace stage in our NYC HQ, but in the era of social distancing, N6A CEO Matt Rizzetta was joined on our very first livestream event by Elisabeth Cardiello, founder and CEO of Caffe Unimatic and the creator of B.R.A.V.E. Conversations Over Coffee. This latter initiative brings a wide range of people and audiences together in an attempt to overcome complex challenges through coffee conversations. 

Cardiello, who is featured in the Netflix documentary Coffee for All and is a two-time TEDx speaker, recounted her beginnings on Wall Street, and how her relationship with her late father inspired her to go into business and how that entrepreneurial spirit inspired her to create B.R.A.V.E.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from our livestreamed O&O session, which is also available to watch above. 

Counting Beans

After graduating with an MBA and heading to a Wall Street hedge fund, Cardiello’s world was turned upside down with the tragic passing of her father. Instead of toiling away at a job her heart wasn’t in, she decided her true path was to honor him and his old-world Italian entrepreneurial spirit to continue his cookware business. There was only one problem, she didn’t know how. 

A chance experience cleaning his office led to her discovery of a rare, 5,000-unit inventory of original Unimatic coffee pots, the only percolator in the world that uses a gravity-defying perking technique invented in 1962 to make particularly smooth cups of coffee. She realized this was both the perfect throwback to her memories of sitting around the breakfast table with family, and a way to kickstart that entrepreneurial spirit. 

“If you have the opportunity to give 5,000 families that same opportunity,” Cardiello said, “that’s what you’re going to do.”

Later, she reflected on how this fortuitous discovery led her on the right path. “I essentially landed in the coffee industry, not because I chose it — it very clearly chose me,” she said. “I always felt like I was put here to do something more with this.”

The Right Mindset

It was this feeling of wanting to do more that led her to reconcile her desire to be innovative with legacy in mind. She wanted her endeavour to be something more than just a morning caffeine fix. She wanted to bring the coffee experience together to help people listen in a way that can truly empower others to be seen and valued.

“I needed to find something that anchored me in my own values, and then take it on the journey of what you want to build in the world,” she said. “Build a version of what you need, but also do something that’s you.”

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Having Brave Conversations

The way that she deployed that initiative — growing a company while realizing just how much she could take from those times of her Dad sitting around the family table drinking coffee in the morning — was to establish B.R.A.V.E. Conversations Over Coffee. 

“Us sitting at the table over that coffee pot — those conversations are what made me me, and what got me through,” She said. “They gave me my confidence, my resilience, and my curiosity.”

The initiative uses this cherished morning ritual as a tool to inspire transformational communication to build trust, engagement, connection, inclusion, creativity, and mental health across companies, colleges, and communities. 

“Just hearing perspectives in a very controlled space, opens up so much for people,” she said. “Because in the conversations you’re sharing brave listening, but then you’re also listening to people sharing — you’re giving and receiving at the same time — you can start putting it into practice.” 

Cardiello ended by noting her mantra throughout this journey to inspire transformational bravery: “What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.”

Each Outcomes & Omelettes session is an educational and interactive discussion on each guest’s background and career journey to engage and inspire the N6A team. Check back soon for our next guest! You don’t know who will show up from the worlds of business, media, philanthropy, and beyond.

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