According to a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation the average age for a first new business owner is 39 years old. Tomas Aminnie, 25, is a dramatic exception to that norm – and then some. Aminnie, is one of Whatcom County’s newest business owners, having co-founded Downtime Taps in Ferndale with Coconut Kenny’s owner, Chay Tan. What’s more astonishing than his age, is the fact that fourteen years ago, Aminnie was an orphan in Ethiopia and didn’t speak a word of English.
Aminnie was 10 years old when his mother passed away and he was placed in orphanage. A year later, however he was on a plane headed to Sedro Wooley, Washington. A local family, with three children, decided to adopt eight children from Ethiopia- all at the same time.
“It was not the easiest transition in the world because at that age I was just figuring out who I was,” Aminnie said. “I was becoming a teenager, which is the time you need the most guidance. Because my adoptive family had 11 children, they couldn’t provide that. There was a lot of competition for attention.”
Eventually the stress of having such a large family became too much for his adoptive parents and they split up. Aminnie decide to finish school at Sedro Wooley High School and he lived with one of his friend’s families. His senior year he started working for Coconut Kenny’s as a dish washer, which is when he met Chay Tan for the first time.
“At that stage in my life I was figuring out who I wanted to become,” Aminnie said. “I was very close to joining the Air Force but while I was working at Coconut Kenny’s, Chay started mentoring me. He started showing me how the world works, how America works, how the business world works, and I was fascinated. That connection with him influenced who I wanted to become and what I would pursue with my future career.”
He decided to forego the military to begin school. After a couple years at Skagit Valley Community College he enrolled at Western and began pursuing a degree in Management Information Systems. That’s when he started working at the Ferndale location of Coconut Kenny’s where he was eventually promoted to Store Manager.
During his senior year at WWU, and while Aminnie was visiting his girlfriend who was attending school in Rhode Island, he was introduced to the concept that would shape his future.
“We went to this bar and at first, I didn’t know what was going on. We walked in and it felt like we were checking into a hotel. We gave the employee our ID’s and she gave us a wrist band, then she took us over to the beer wall and showed us how it worked. We started pouring our own beverages and I was just shocked. My mind was blown. I fell in love with the concept and technology instantly,” Aminnie said.
After experiencing the new system, he couldn’t stop thinking about the self-pour technology and decided to pursue the idea. Much to his surprise, Tan offered to partner with him on the new business concept. Tomas didn’t hesitate, and quickly accepted.
In August, Downtime Taps was opened, and since then it has received a very warm welcome from the local community. Aminnie says that many days he can hardly believe he’s a business owner.
“I walk into the taproom sometimes and reflect on how awesome it is that I’m part of this,” Aminnie said. “It’s definitely surreal. I love that I have been involved in every little piece of building the business from staining the floor to nailing up the boards in the bathroom. Everything in the taproom is personal and that’s really special.”