Many Yalies dream of consulting jobs and the financial sector — McKinsey & Company, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan. But Yale graduate Duncan Goodall has rejected the world of consulting and turned instead to a less likely career: coffee.

Duncan Goodall ’95 was invited by the Yale Entrepreneurial Society to participate in a roundtable talk at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking on Tuesday night. At the talk, Goodall, the owner of the popular coffee shop Koffee? on Audubon Street, touched on his previous career in consulting, his decision to change paths and, of course, coffee.

Goodall started his career the way many Yale graduates do: as a consultant. After graduation, he jumped directly into a job at Nielsen Holdings PLC, a New York City consulting firm. However, at the roundtable, Goodall said the jump into consulting soon turned into a miserable fall.

“Consulting firms can work you to death, and they know that,” Goodall said.

Rather than submit to that dismal existence, Goodall moved to New Haven with his wife, Melissa Goodall, the current associate director of Yale’s Office of Sustainability. At the time, Koffee? was already a cafe in New Haven, owned and run by Lee and Tracy Jackson. Goodall proceeded to buy the cafe, flee the world of consulting and pursue an entrepreneurial path.

Goodall’s change in careers, from consulting to entrepreneurialism, was one of the main reasons the Yale Entrepreneurial Society asked him to speak on Tuesday, said Tiana Wang ’19, co-president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society.

“This year, we are trying to place an emphasis on local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who have taken a bit of an unconventional path,” Wang said. “Duncan had a background in consulting, and since so many Yalies go into consulting, we thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who went through the process and is now doing something totally different.”

In addition to discussing his background in consulting, Goodall spoke about his successes and failures in the cafe business, as well as some of his general business practices. Goodall used to own Moka, another cafe with the particular niche of selling assorted chocolate-based drinks and foods, as well as coffee. However, Goodall was not able to sustain both Koffee? and Moka after the 2008 economic recession. Goodall also lamented other financial woes faced by cafe owners, particularly the difficulties he has faced leasing buildings.

Goodall also stressed that personal relationships are a foundation on which he runs his business. He asks customers what they think about products and engages with them on Facebook. For the past few years, police officers have received their coffee for free. And at Koffee?, employees take on managerial roles, so they can learn new skills and become more employable.

“I wanted to contact some successful businesses within the NH area, and because Koffee? is such a successful business venture, I wanted to contact a place where a lot of students frequent,” said Allison Chen ’21, Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s director of speakers and a staff reporter for the News.

Affectionately called “coffee with a K” by students, Koffee? also serves as a stage for both Yale and New Haven musicians and bands, as well as a hub for undergraduates, professors and other affiliates of the University.

In the coming months, Goodall hopes to modernize and renovate Koffee?’s website and restructure the cafe’s catering department, which he hopes to transform from a mom-and-pop company to a major corporation.

But despite his success, Goodall maintains that the best part of the his job as an entrepreneur is the joy the company provides him.

“So many people equate happiness, money and power,” Goodall said. “It’s not. Happiness is freedom.”

Koffee? is located on 104 Audubon St. in the New Haven Arts District.

Nick Tabio |