This week welcome Dave Ratzer to the podcast to talk about his journey to working for Death Wish Coffee. Dave went to school for music business and eventually ended up working for Live Nation in their sales department. Sales weren't something he ever thought he would do, but he excelled at it, and that career path led to applying for the new sales department job here. Since Dave joined the team, The World's Strongest Coffee has went from being on the shelves of a handful of stores to almost 10,000 at the time of recording this episode, thanks to the tireless efforts of Dave Ratzer and Eric Donovan.
Jeff: Hey, Dave.
Dave: Oh, Jeff. Hi.
Jeff: I kind of want to start this off by putting you on the spot and asking you if you really do like Eric Donovan or not.
Dave: The public answer is absolutely yes. He's great.
Jeff: Okay. And I'm going to shut the camera off and I'm going to shut this off.
Dave: I got to get out.
Jeff: You got to get out?
Dave: I got to get out.
Jeff: Dude, you share an office with him.
Dave: He has this façade of being this wonderful, loving-
Dave: Positive guy, but when you share an office with him, these little psychological torture devices come out, which I'm sure we'll discuss. So it's tough, it's very tough.
Jeff: That's what I figured, that's what I figured. And we'll unpack that in a second, but I do want to start off, you've been working for Death Wish Coffee now for the better part of a year?
Dave: Yeah, going on 10 months now.
Jeff: 10 months. So you've got a little bit of perspective and you were hired on specifically to be part of our literal brand new wholesale division. Let's kind of start off with day one. You get the job and you walk in here. How was the job from what you expected it to be to what it was day one when you walked in?
Dave: Well, internally, everyone is surprised when I say this, but the way they laid out the job responsibilities for me and the way it turned out to actually be was spot on accurate. I really had a good idea of what the job was going to be, what my responsibilities were, how I was going to succeed. So kudos to Mike and Eric and Kane and putting that together for me.
Dave: I did have a preconceived notion of what the work environment would be like. I kind of thought everyone would be the same here, have the same kind of attitudes, same kind of vibe about them, kind of embody the Death Wish Coffee feel. Be like a badass, no bullshit kind of person, which is true to an effect or to a degree, but I was really surprised to find out how vastly different everyone is. No one is the same here.
Jeff: This is the truth.
Dave: We all have our very unique personalities and I think that's such a cool thing, I think that's why we're doing so well.
Jeff: That's awesome, and that's an interesting perspective too, because I never thought of it like that because, personally speaking, I've seen this company grow through the eyes of some of my closest friends. Again, Eric Donovan was one of the first employees of the company.
Dave: I love that guy.
Jeff: So I've kind of seen it through all of its stages even as an outsider before I started working here, but I never had that perspective of from the outside thinking ... and I totally get it because I've heard fans and customers say the same thing that, "Oh yeah, we're probably all just a bunch of bearded dudes who are like 'Coffee!' and listen to metal and that's it."
Dave: There's a lot of that.
Jeff: There is a lot of that, but it's not a cookie-cutter person in every single role and that's really interesting. I do bring that up because, again, before you started working here and right before you started working here, we weren't even thinking about wholesale or retail or anything. We weren't doing any of that as a company. When Mike started, he was like, "Let's do e-commerce, let's really knock that out of the park as much as we can and retail will be down the road."
Jeff: And Super Bowl changed a lot of that, that whole ideal, but even then we were still pushing back. "I don't know if this is going to be a thing. I don't know if this is going to be a thing." Eric Donovan himself was a big champion of, "Let's get on shelves", of doing that. Now being here for 10 months, can you talk a little bit about what your role is here at the company and kind of like what you do?
Dave: Yeah, definitely. It's really a team effort between Eric and myself. We do a lot of the same things. Our goal is to have our products on the shelves of as many grocery stores and retail locations as we can. However people want to buy coffee, we want to make sure it's available to them.
Dave: If you prefer to buy online, awesome. If you prefer to buy it when you're buying your groceries, that's what we're working on. So, Eric and I are a really good team. I love working with him. He's a great leader. Very motivating guy. He handles the big picture, decision-making, negotiating kind of stuff.
Dave: If there's an administrative duty, that usually falls to me. I handle the systems that we use for selling, the overall kind of operation of it. These are words that usually apply to a much larger sales force and it's just the two of us.
Jeff: Just the two of you, and that's crazy to think about too. So many people think, company-wide, when they see the success that Death Wish has had, think that we're 500 people strong and we have never even hit that 50 people mark yet. And when you talk about wholesale, it's just you and Eric.
Dave: Yeah. I lack a certain perspective on what comparable companies have as far as staff, but the few trade shows I've done where a competing coffee company will come up and just talk to us and they're usually really cool and they ask, "What's your sales team comprised of?"
Dave: And we're like, "You're looking at it. It's me and Eric." And they're like, "How is that possible?" And the reason that it's possible is that the whole company started and grew so much before we even considered doing retail.
Dave: And I say this all the time, that Eric and I are just managing this growth we're experiencing. We're riding the wave of everyone's work before. Eric is one of them, of course, but all the production guys, all the people in logistics, I mean, they're working their ass off to get product out.
Dave: We're just making sure everything goes smoothly as possible. So it really is a team effort. What the company did before I got here is why this little division of ours is succeeding so much.
Jeff: When you started in the wholesale division ... We create this wholesale division, we put Eric in charge of it and we hire you on and now we got two killers in this division. At that moment, we probably were in locally a handful of stores, a couple small wholesale things that we've set up with various people that had contacted us in the past and so maybe-
Dave: Yeah. Beginning of 2018, we were in 500 stores.
Jeff: 500. I was going to say 4 or 500 stores and now that number is approaching 10,000.
Dave: Yeah, buddy.
Jeff: Again, you said you don't have really the perspective to do that, but you've been there throughout that entire growth. Is it scary at all to you? In it, I mean.
Dave: I don't know, man. That's a tough question. I never thought about it.
Dave: I haven't been scared yet.
Dave: Because the support staff is so strong here, like our marketing team is made up of geniuses. And I know if we need help in any way, like if a store is struggling, they're going to jump in and put all their resources into making sure we succeed. I think our product is so good and our staff is so smart, there's nothing to worry about. There really isn't.
Jeff: That's awesome. And you're dealing with so many different types of stuff now, because not only are we ballooning into retail, we have a bunch of new products that are also ballooning into retail. Before, it was actually just K-cups and ground and whole bean, but now we've got the cold brew to deal with. As we're recording this, our instant coffee is poised to be put out into the market as well.
Jeff: So you're not only dealing with all these new types of products, but you're also dealing with all different types and levels of stores. Whereas we're in so many Wal-Marts now, which is conglomerate at the upper echelon of the conglomerate. And then you guys deal with the Mom and Pop store, too, and then everything in between that too.
Dave: That's true.
Jeff: Is it hard to navigate that space? Because I'm sure you probably don't deal with everybody the same. You're not dealing with Wal-Mart corporate the same way you're dealing with Mom and Pop grocery store or whatever. Is it hard to figure out how to fit into each area?
Dave: Not really. It kind of is the same, whether you're talking to someone who owns their own store, or someone who's responsible for 1000 stores. Their ass is on the line either way. If your product fails, then they lose out. They could have sold something else and gotten more money for it.
Dave: So it's all the same thing. You want to have a quality product. You want to have a strong marketing foundation so that people are interested in it and people are going to the stores. So, yeah. It really kind of is the same. It just scales up when you're talking to the big stores, like a Wal-Mart.
Jeff: Wow. See, that was a question I've been really wanting to ask you, because I have no idea about that.
Dave: There's a lot more paperwork, the bigger the company gets.
Jeff: Of course.
Dave: And that's a lot of what I do.
Dave: With a Mom and Pop shop, they'll just be like, "Yes, give me a case of coffee."
Jeff: And you're like, "Here you go."
Dave: With Wal-Mart, there's all these levels of management and decision makers, and processes. That's the only difference.
Jeff: Wow, that's incredible. So, you've talked about how this has a lot of the power of what you do relies on the back of the brand itself and the power of the brand and the power of what we have, and that kind of ... I'm always curious about this, is from everybody in this company except for the handful that started with Mike. You're local. How did you hear about Death Wish? You obviously knew of the company before applying, correct?
Dave: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I was a big fan.
Jeff: So when did you become a fan? Do you remember when you first maybe heard of the company?
Dave: I remember the day, but I don't remember the date.
Dave: Do you ever that? Like you just have a ...
Jeff: Yeah, of course. Of course.
Dave: So I actually remember the day. I worked in Saratoga for 12 years. I wasn't a coffee drinker, and after a few years of working at a corporate job, I started drinking coffee. Fell in love right away. I was always just like, "Give me your house blend. I don't give a shit about dark roast, light roast, I don't care. It's just like a caffeine fix, you know?"
Jeff: Right, yeah. Just give me my caffeine and I'll be okay.
Dave: Yeah. And I went to a competing store in Saratoga because it was closer to my office, to Coffee Traders. And I was always just, "Yeah, give me the house blend." And I think one day they were out of it. And so I was like, "All right, give me something else."
Dave: And it was a single origin coffee from Brazil or something, and I tried it and I'm like, "Holy shit. This tastes really cool. I didn't know you could do this with coffee. I thought it was just coffee."
Dave: And I had known about Death Wish and I wanted to try it, and I remember this one weekend day. It was a Saturday or Sunday, really nice out. My wife and I were walking around Saratoga on that side of Broadway, and Coffee Traders had a sign on the sidewalk for Death Wish Coffee.
Dave: And I'm like, "Oh, today's the day. I want to try this stuff." I think this was pre-Super Bowl. It must have been. So I went in and got my first cup of Death Wish, and I remember being very aware of everything that was going on as I was drinking this coffee. It really was an experience. So strong, both in flavor and caffeine content. I knew right away it was something really different and special, and I was hooked from then.
Jeff: That's so cool. So when you saw that there was a position open at Death Wish, were you already transitioning from your previous job, or ... Basically, were you looking for a job or was it like, "Oh, Death Wish is hiring. I got to apply"?
Dave: Yeah, more of the latter. I wasn't actively looking, but I always kind of had Death Wish in my mind. You probably know this. There's this vibe around this area that Death Wish is succeeding and growing, and it seemed like such a cool place to work. So I always kind of had my eye on it.
Dave: And this is another case of remembering the day. I'll never forget the day ... I don't remember the date, but I remember that day, I was on LinkedIn and I saw the Death Wish logo, and I saw the word "sales."
Dave: And I said, "Holy shit. Maybe I can do that." I remember that thought and I always will, and I did the thing. Put my cover letter together and resume together and sent it in. I should not have even been asked for an interview.
Dave: I had no experience in the grocery world. No experience with coffee. No experience with a consumer packaged good. But I was lucky enough to get called in for an interview with Kane and Eric. I was super nervous. I almost didn't get called for an interview because of my phone number.
Dave: So my phone number, the last four digits of my phone number is DAVE.
Jeff: Oh, that's right. I remember hearing this story.
Dave: Yeah. So my last four digits is 3283. DAVE. So my number, it's like, 555-DAVE is my phone number. So I put that on resume. I was like, "Here's my name, my email, and my address, phone number." You know, 555-DAVE. It's not 555-
Jeff: Of course, of course.
Dave: So after I was hired, months later, Kane was like, "You know, you got a really douchey phone number." I'm like, "What are you talking about?" He's like, "We almost didn't you bring you in for an interview. I didn't want to interview you because of that phone number. I figured, this guy must be the biggest douche in the world." But yeah, I guess I convinced them otherwise.
Jeff: That is so fricking funny. So let's talk about, before working at Death Wish, what you were doing because I think it's really interesting. You worked for Live Nation for a while.
Dave: Yeah, about 12 years.
Jeff: That's incredible. So what were you doing for Live Nation?
Dave: Well, I went to school for music and business. I was lucky enough to get a really good education, but the area of study is pretty limited in upstate New York. I didn't want to move to a big city. All my family's here, so I wanted to stay here. So the real music industry outlet here is a concert promoter, Live Nation. It was SFX at the time.
Jeff: Oh yeah, that's right.
Dave: Which was then bought by Clear Channel Entertainment.
Jeff: Clear Channel, yeah.
Dave: Which then turned into Live Nation. It's the same company still. But I kind of wanted to get in there. I wanted to get my foot in the door and they had an opening for a sales coordinator. I had known those guys for a long time because I worked in the SPAC box office, Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Dave: It was kind of my summer job during college, so I'd met a lot of those promoter guys and when there was an opening, I applied. Got the job. I never wanted to do anything involving sales. My personality is very much an introverted one. The idea of selling something to someone is just very ugly to me. It's just not something I ever wanted to do.
Jeff: I totally understand.
Dave: But there I was. I did well there. I got promoted a couple times. I ended up in this salesman position. I was selling advertising to corporations, to advertise around concerts. And I did that. I was at Live Nation for 12 years. I was actually selling for five or six or seven years.
Dave: Really stressful because it was such a conflict with my personality. Not a natural salesperson. I just kind of took the opportunities that came to me. Which I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is.
Jeff: Do you think that kind of throwing yourself to the fire like that and what you learned in those 12 years at Live Nation, do you draw on any of that in this position? Or is it completely different?
Dave: Yeah, for sure. And that's why Kane and Eric even interviewed me, because I had this extensive sales background. So what I lacked in grocery experience, coffee experience, I made up for in sales experience. And this job is perfect now because I'm not calling people up and being like, "What can I do to get you to buy our coffee right now?" You know?
Jeff: Right, right. That guy.
Dave: It's not like that at all. People are calling us, being like, "How do we get your coffee?" I mean, it's a whole different kind of sales. And it's just managing our systems and operations and stuff like that.
Dave: But I think, to answer your question, being the type of person that I am and doing sales for 12 years at Live Nation, I did sales at an IT company for another two years before I came here, yeah. It was just a constant ... I guess I'll call it growth process.
Dave: If I hadn't done that, if I had been anything else for the last 14-15 years, I would be a different person today for sure. I probably would have given in to my more introverted tendencies, weaker tendencies. Doing something that's really hard makes you stronger, you know?
Jeff: It's the truth, and that's very inspiring because it's very easy to be comfortable. In any avenue in life, whether it's your job or your home life or your hobby or whatever it is, it's very easy to be like, "Okay, I'm comfortable and I'm safe." Yet you're talking about being a very introverted personality, yet again, throwing yourself to the fire and doing that. Do you feel like you've always been like that? Have you always been someone who is okay to be uncomfortable?
Jeff: No? That was kind of the first foray into that, really?
Dave: Well, I mean, that was my career. That's the path it took. But no, if something's challenging, I do like a good challenge. I'm trying to think of other instances where it comes up in life, but it's usually more like, "Well, here we go. I got to do this." As opposed to like, "Yeah, come on. I'm going to fuck this up right now. I'm going to take this on." Yeah.
Jeff: That's still a good mentality, because you've got the mentality of the lion of, "I'm going to fuck this up. Let's do this. Yeah, let's do this!" You know? And that's not you, but you are, "Okay, this is happening. We're going to make this work and we're going to happen it." Because the third option is, "Nope. Nope. Nope, nope. I can't do this. Can't do this. Nope."
Dave: That is true.
Jeff: And that is a very normal response, you know? And it's inspiring that you're not like that, and I think that has led to your successes in being promoted through Live Nation, and also being hired by Death Wish.
Dave: Yeah, thanks.
Jeff: Speaking on Live Nation, you were in sales. Did you get a chance ever to, I don't know, crack into that music industry at all? Did you get to meet any rock stars or deal with any of that kind of thing as well? Or were you just relegated to, "Please buy our advertising," kind of thing?
Dave: No. I mean, the job was based around concerts.
Jeff: That's why I ask, yeah.
Dave: So every concert, I was there working, making sure the stuff I sold was right.
Jeff: And you got a lot of free concerts out of it?
Dave: Yeah, but I mean, it's horrible music, man. Just horrible. I'm such a snob about music and judge me all you want, but that's fine. But no, our offices were backstage there. I worked at SPAC and another couple venues.
Dave: So the artists would always be back there. There was this, the one rule of backstage when you're a local person, either for the promoter or doing labor or something like that, is-
Jeff: Stagehand, yup.
Dave: Don't engage the artists. People are literally paying to come here to see them. The backstage area here is the only place where they're free.
Jeff: Right, right.
Dave: There were a couple instances, though. Dave Matthews once made fun of the way I walk. That-
Jeff: Have you ever seen Dave Matthews walk? I mean, come on.
Dave: He's got a great walk. I'll give it to him. I'll give it to him. No, he was walking down the hallway and I was walking toward him. Behind the stage is this long, narrow hallway. And so, he's like 30-40 feet away, and all of a sudden he starts really waving his arms really high in the air, and he goes, "We're walking flamboyantly, aren't we? We're walking flamboyantly." Fuck you, Dave Matthews.
Jeff: Yeah. Fuck you, Dave Matthews. That's funny. But I mean, that's kind of cool that at least you got to be immersed in that industry, not just on the phone selling the thing.
Dave: Yeah. No, it was exciting, you know?
Jeff: That's kind of cool.
Dave: There was a big excitement factor. It was a cool job, for sure. And awesome people, like the local people, Live Nation Saratoga, I learned so much from them. They're so supportive. Yeah. Great people.
Jeff: That's awesome. And you know, you still get a little bit of that music now working at Death Wish, because we have so many connections to the music industry as well, which is really rad.
Jeff: Speaking on music though, you're a musician yourself.
Dave: I try, yeah.
Jeff: You're a bassist. And I kind of want to ask that question of, where did that start? Was that something in your childhood? Did you pick that up later in life? What made you pick up the bass?
Dave: Necessity. That's probably every bass player's answer.
Jeff: It is. "Oh, we need a bass player." "All right, I guess I'm that guy."
Dave: In high school, I was big into music. I mean, 50 million people have the same story. But like, I pick up guitar. Played a lot of guitar. Played some drums. In college, a couple really good buddies of mine who I went to high school with started a band. They sounded really good. They're crazy musicians, like way beyond me. They needed a bass player so I picked it up and I was probably 20 years old. 38 now. Been playing ever since.
Dave: What started out of necessity became absolute love. I mean, I couldn't imagine an instrument more perfect for me. Some of my happiest moments are locking in with a drummer, just laying down a groove. It's like a zen kind of thing for me. I love it.
Jeff: I totally agree. Being in bands in myself, I love being on stage with a drummer and a bassist that hit that pocket. It's one of those magical feelings that, if you've never been able to experience it, the thing I can akin to the most is being in the crowd when a band is locked into that groove and you feel it, the crowd feels it, the people on stage feel it. And you all are connected by the bassist and the drummer. And it's pretty excellent.
Dave: Yeah, it's a lot of fun. It goes unnoticed a lot, but it's a lot of fun for the people playing it.
Jeff: So as a bassist now, for 18 years, like you said, do you have anybody in the industry that really is somebody that you look up to? Any rock stars, any bassists out there that you're like, "Yeah, that's the guy that I really love listening to"?
Dave: I mean, people are going to roll their eyes because it's all snobby jazz guys. A man named Avishai Cohen is one of the greatest musicians alive today. He's a bass player, and totally locks into the stuff I'm into, like progressive types of music, odd rhythms. Things you've never heard before is kind of what I'm always looking for. I'd throw that guy's name out. Avishai Cohen.
Jeff: Awesome. I mean, definitely I want to check him out.
Dave: Yeah, he's cool.
Jeff: Are you a big jazz fan, like as a genre?
Dave: Yeah, I love jazz. Jazz and metal are kind of the only two things I listen to.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dave: They often cross over each other, metal and jazz.
Dave: There's a lot of similarities.
Jeff: I mean, look at the band Tool. I mean, there's a lot of similarity in that.
Dave: Yeah, for sure. Danny's a jazz drummer for sure.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure. That's awesome. That's really cool. And now you're playing in a band ... You guys predominately do covers, right? You're a cover band?
Dave: It's all covers, yup.
Jeff: Do you like doing a specific genre more than another? Do you guys do metal covers and stuff like that?
Dave: Oh my god. No. Like once a show, if there's like a lull of 10 seconds, I'll throw out the 46 and two lick, like you know ...
Jeff: Nice. Yup, Dustin used to do that all the time.
Dave: But no. It's so boring, man. It's boring music. It's what people want to hear when they're drinking at a bar and want to dance.
Jeff: It's the cover bar band. Yeah.
Dave: You could name 90% of our set lists, I'm sure. But there are some cool songs we do. My favorite probably being Kiss by Prince.
Jeff: Ah, good song.
Dave: They do this super funky, super-
Jeff: Good bass song, too.
Dave: I have this awesome line that I put on it and I could do that all night long.
Dave: But yeah, there's a lot of boring stuff. But it's cool, man. It's a fun gig.
Jeff: Even the boring stuff's got to be fun to play to a bar of people. Because I've never been in a cover band, but I love going to a bar where a good cover band is playing, because if you know that song, it's like, "Man, I'm having a great time now." You know? And then that makes you have a great time.
Dave: Yeah. 90% of the shows we do, the crowd's really into it. Or I should say, there is a crowd. Sometimes it's just a dead night.
Jeff: It happens.
Dave: And yeah, I always kind of look around and you can find that one person, if it's a slow night, grooving along to you. And you kind of go off of that. But yeah, if it's a big crowd dancing, it's easy. It's like, "I could do this all night." It's fun.
Jeff: That's so awesome. So, all of that brings me to the question I get to on this show with everybody. Through what you love in your hobby, music, and through your journey through your career, going to school for music business, working for Live Nation, which went into sales which then led you to work at this job, which never thought you'd even get a phone call for ...
Dave: No. Totally lucked out.
Jeff: Right. And now, being part of our sales team that has ballooned, as we said, from 500 stores to almost 10,000, you still are this person, ever since I've met you, who are ... As much as you say you're introverted, you're still a very passionate person. And I can see that exude from you, and it's awesome. And what fuels that passion?
Dave: Oh, man. I don't know. And when I say "introverted," I don't mean like I don't talk to people. It's not like that.
Jeff: Oh, I understand that, yeah.
Dave: It's more like, where you get your energy from, internally or externally.
Dave: But my family and my wife Molly, my daughter Anna, they're what it's all about. Having a kid added a dimension to my life that I never thought existed. It was like going from black and white life to color life. That's the root of everything for me. Music, there's always something playing in my head. Do you have that? Do you always have something-
Jeff: Always. Always.
Dave: Okay. Because Molly's like, "You have a song going in your head right now, right?" if I'm like, checked out. I'm like, "Yeah."
Jeff: Yeah. It's the plight of a musician. It's always there.
Dave: Yeah. And also, we share this science, specifically space. I draw a certain spirituality from it. Whenever shit starts feeling like it's out of control or I lose focus, reading about the cosmos brings it all back into perspective.
Jeff: It really does. That's why I've been a nerd about it forever too. And we connected on that almost instantaneously when we started here.
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: And that's really awesome. And I mean, that again, it speaks to your passion. And that's what we're all about here at Death Wish, is fueling your passion. Being passionate about it and creating a passionate environment with other people. And I kind of wanted to talk about that a little bit.
Jeff: You mentioned it earlier, that not only your job is dealing with wholesale, sales, all of that here, making sure that we're going to get as many shelves with our many products as possible and all that stuff. But you and Eric have been doing a lot of trade shows lately.
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: And I kind of want to get that perspective. What is that like, doing something like? Because I've done events for this company and they're eye-opening, but I want to hear your perspective. What is it like being at a trade show, but as Death Wish Coffee? What is the response that you get from either the booths next to you, or the just random people that come up to you?
Dave: Yeah. It's been very interesting. It's not what I expected.
Jeff: What did you expect?
Dave: I guess I didn't expect anything.
Jeff: Okay. Okay. No, that's fair. That's fair.
Dave: I didn't have any expectations. But you go there and you see these huge trade shows with thousands and thousands of vendors. It's crazy that anyone gets anything done at these things, but you see these people selling breath mints and potato chips and cat litter. Anything you find in a grocery store.
Dave: And then we have this super exciting product in Death Wish Coffee, and the response has been incredible. I mean, people come up to us. A lot of people are fans and like, "Oh my god. I can't believe you're here. Can I get some coffee? I have a subscription."
Jeff: That's so cool.
Dave: It was so cool. And then a lot of people come up and be like, "World's strongest coffee? What? I don't want to try that." Or, "Ooh, I got to try that." And we talk them through it either way. But overwhelming excitement to have a brand that was conceived as an e-commerce product ... You can do whatever you want in e-commerce, right?
Jeff: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Dave: To somehow have gotten a skull ... like a toxic poison symbol on the shelf of grocery stores, is just remarkable and it creates a lot of excitement. I mean, again, from people who own a Mom and Pop shop, to big time decision makers at huge companies coming by and trying our coffee at these trade shows and talking business. It's a really cool experience. I hope more people in the company get to do it at that level. It's a lot of fun.
Jeff: I would love to go, personally, to something like that. I've done a lot of our kind of auxiliary events like Comic Cons and that kind of thing, and we get a lot of that where someone will come up and say, "The world's strongest coffee?" And they'll either say, "I'm scared. I don't want to try that." Or, "Bullshit!" I love that one. "Bullshit you're the world's strongest coffee! I snort coffee beans every morning."
Jeff: And it's like, "Okay, cool. Here, try some." I love that moment. And it's really cool that we create that organically, just with the logo, just with the branding, just with the marketing. And even though all of that creates this buzz about it, it's amazing when someone tries it for the first time and they go, "Damn. That actually is a really good cup of coffee."
Dave: "Oh, that's not bitter." I love that.
Jeff: Yeah, I love that. Because you think it is going to be ... A strong cup of coffee is always burnt or bitter at any coffee shop you're going to go get it at. You know?
Dave: Yeah. And I love like, having the attitude of our brand too, and you can basically say whatever you want. Eric kind of disagrees with me, but so many of these brands, when they're doing a demonstration or they're at a show like this, it's like, "Oh. Well, this is our vibe. We're very clean cut and do this."
Dave: Someone comes up and like, you can say whatever you want to them. Like, someone comes up carrying a Starbucks cup and they're like, "Oh, what are you guys all about?" I'm like, "I'll talk to you when you get rid of that fucking Starbucks cup, lady." But it's cool to have that. I don't know if that's the right thing to do, but it seems to work.
Jeff: I mean, as long as we're still pushing a good product. And at the end of the day, we're not being subversive for the sake of being subversive, you know?
Dave: No, it's just being yourself.
Jeff: Being yourself. It's speaking to the brand and that's really great. And you and Eric work really, really well together.
Dave: We do.
Jeff: You guys have become a well-oiled machine. And we talked about this at the very beginning, but you guys share an office together. From your perspective, was it an easy fit for you? Because I know we all kind of know Eric Donovan, you can go back to episode two of this show and meet him. But he's a very easygoing guy.
Jeff: But he's also literally one of the first people to work for this company in the basement of Saratoga Coffee Traders. So you were brought into the company and immediately start working with this guy. Was it an easy fit or did you kind of feel that out?
Dave: It was an easy fit, just because of the kind of guy he is. There was a little intimidation, just because I know this guy started basically this company with Mike and a couple other people. And he's so easygoing. But at the same time, you get the impression that you have to impress this guy. You have to do a good job. You have to work your ass off.
Dave: And he sets that by example, you know? And I got that impression right away when I started. I had a lot to learn when I started. He brought me on because he said he liked my attitude. So, he dedicated a lot of time just to get me onboarded and educated on the grocery world and the coffee world. And it all worked out, man. I mean, we're 10 months in and we're really good buddies. I really enjoy following his vision and supporting it and we're doing great things.
Jeff: Yeah, and like I said, again, you guys are a well-oiled machine and I'll even throw it back to, you guys are constantly in the pocket and that works.
Dave: Ooh, I see where you're going.
Jeff: Because he is a drummer and you are a bassist.
Dave: Well done.
Jeff: And even though you guys aren't playing in that office all the time, you are playing. You're playing with our sales and making sure that those are in the pocket and that groove is there that entire time.
Dave: Oh, that was beautiful.
Jeff: And you guys are doing that. Finally, I want to get to two questions that I ask all of the employees here.
Dave: Oh, cool.
Jeff: One is, you've had 10 months of perspective on this company. You've seen us grow exponentially in sales, but also in e-commerce. Go back to space, do all of these different things we've done. Where do you see this company in, let's say, three to five years? What do you think our trajectory looks like?
Dave: Do you ask this of everyone?
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave: What do they say?
Jeff: Some people say they don't know. Some people have a clear-cut answer that they think we are going to be ruling the world and the cosmos. It's very, very, very different tracks of it.
Dave: Oh, man. I'm just excited to follow Mike's vision, you know? I'm sure he knows where we're going to be in two to five years. From my perspective, from my role, I hope ... There's something like 34,000 grocery stores in the country. I'd love to be in all of them.
Jeff: We're almost in a third of that already.
Dave: Yeah. There's that many probably more C-stores and gas stations. Hello, Mr. Cold Brew. We've got a big job ahead of us getting that rolled out. So I mean, if we have comparable numbers in C-stores with our cold brew in a few years, that'd be a huge success. International sales. I know that's not really an exciting answer, but that's a realistic thing. That'd be an awesome way to grow this company. Those are the next steps.
Jeff: I think that is exciting, because you know, even myself who started here just two and a half years ago, the idea of being in 1000 stores seemed unheard of at that time, and especially even the words "international sales." Like sure, we did that e-commerce. Sure, you can be on Amazon, UK or China and find us and buy the product.
Jeff: But I mean like, the idea of having the product in those channels, and to the point of now where we're even looking at roasting and producing the product in other countries. That's incredible to me.
Dave: Can we say that?
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: Because that's all the growth of this company and the amazing things that we are working towards every single day to, as I say all the time, caffeinate the fricking world.
Dave: Yeah, man.
Jeff: That's awesome. So finally, you have to answer honestly.
Jeff: Death Wish or Valhalla Java?
Jeff: Which one do you prefer?
Dave: I drink both all day long.
Dave: I mix them up. I'll do a 50/50 split.
Jeff: Ooh, I do like the 50/50.
Dave: I'll start my morning with the Valhalla Java. I'll end it with Death Wish. Or I'll switch that up.
Jeff: That's the first time I've ever gotten that answer for real. I've gotten that answer wishy-washy before, "I can't pick." No, no, no, no.
Dave: When I'm in need, in my moment of need, I go to Death Wish for sure. But we're so lucky to have virtually unlimited access to coffee here, I just go for it all, man.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, it's really awesome. And I'm glad that you did bring up the 50/50, because I say that to a lot of people and they're like, "Yeah, you're just saying that." And it's like, no. Valhalla Java has its own profile, as does Death Wish Coffee. But when you really do split them ...
Dave: Or a third.
Jeff: Or a third, yeah.
Dave: Third profile, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, when you really do split and kind of mix and match, and make your own blend, it's magical. And we have that ability because they're always brewed up all the time.
Dave: We're lucky guys.
Jeff: We are lucky guys, for sure. Finally, for anybody out there, and I don't know if you social media at all. Is there a way that anybody can follow you if you do social media? If you don't, that's totally cool.
Jeff: No. Okay, that's fine. The best way to follow you, then, is to follow us at deathwishcoffee.com and at deathwishcoffee across all social media platforms, because not only are the things that you're doing in our sales channels blossoming and people are going to know that you have a hand in that as well, you're in most of the events that we're doing and you're here at HQ all the time. So they'll be able to follow you.
Dave: Can I point out a great tragedy?
Dave: So you have this awesome rolly chair, but you have this thick carpet.
Jeff: It's true.
Dave: Completely negating the rolliness of the chairs.
Jeff: It's true. It's true. The reason why is that these chairs were hand-me-downs from the last warehouse. I've never actually gotten real chairs for the podcast, Mike Brown, if you're listening. And also, when I got into this new space which we are now in our new offices, as soon as I walked in here, it was incredibly boomy.
Dave: Oh, I see.
Jeff: Incredibly boomy, so the first thing I did was hang as many things as I could on the walls, put everything everywhere. And then I got thick carpet for the ground, to take some of that boom out of there.
Dave: Gotcha. You addressed that perfectly.
Jeff: So that's why we can't roll around as much. But we'll go out in the parking lot. We'll do some rollies.
Dave: And when are you going to do one of these? People want to know about Jeff.
Jeff: I'll end it on this. Apparently, I was hanging out with Teah, our marketing manager, recently. And we were having some drinks, and I apparently interviewed myself in a very inebriated fashion. And she has video proof of it, I think. So that might come out there at some point.
Dave: Release the tapes.
Jeff: Yeah, release the tapes. Awesome. Dave, I can't thank you enough for talking with me. This was really fun.