Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 17—MIKE BROWN
FOUNDER OF DEATH WISH COFFEE COMPANY—MIKE BROWN
ON EPISODE 17:
Thought to be long extinct, a rare and ancient breed of dog has been re-discovered and all the details are in the Science segment this week. Fueling your own passions can lead to empowering others, and Dustin and Jeff explore this idea on What Fuels You. Plus, your weekly dose of community and birthday shoutouts and news about more products from the Death Wish Coffee.
ABOUT MIKE BROWN:
Mike Brown started Death Wish Coffee Company with a simple idea to create a strong, bold and smooth cup of coffee, and that journey has taken him and his company all over the world. On this very special episode, Mike joins the show to talk about how he started in accounting and what it was like transitioning into owning his own business. Also, hear how crazy it was to learn that Death Wish Coffee had won a commercial in the Big Game.
Jeff: We'll start kind of at the beginning, but there is a lot of information about the beginning of this company. Anyways, one thing that I think I've never really heard touched upon is it's known that Mike, you started out kind of in accounting, and then you went into working in a coffee shop. Can you talk a little bit about the transition of that? Was that an overnight thing you were just like, "I don't want to be an accountant anymore, and now I'm working in coffee," or was that a hard ... sometimes when you switch job tracks, it gets a little hard to wrap your mind around it.
Mike: Yeah, when I was ... I think I was 24, I came out of college. I did the five-year plan, five or six-year plan. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had no idea, but I went to school for business and economics. And I got home, and I was looking for a job. I didn't have one. Every single position that actually paid well, you needed accounting credits. I went back online and ... how am I going to get more accounting credits? I'll have to go back to school for a little bit. I found an accounting program where I could get 24 accounting credits in less than six months. It was in Hawaii. I'm like, "I'll just go on a big vacation in Hawaii and get 24 accounting credits while I'm out there. This should be a breeze." I actually did, I went out and did that. I spent six months in Hawaii at the University of Hawaii.
Dustin: Was it as nice as you thought it was going to be?
Mike: Oh my, yes. It was incredible.
Mike: But the program was very intensive. The way it was structured was ... it was kind of unique. I would do one ... I should say three credits, or one class every two or three weeks, but we would just focus on one class, and it would be all day long for three weeks. It was kind of a cool thing. Between each class, we'd have a week to let our minds refresh and just go down to the beach and hang out there. It was in Waikiki, which was cool. I didn't have any friends out there, so it was really ... it took me out of my comfort zone and put me in that place where I wasn't used to. I always had tons of friends at home, and when I was out there, I was like, "Okay, time to make new friends again. How the hell do I do this?"
It was a pretty cool learning experience, but fast forward. I got done with that, came back to New York, got a job right away. It was my first interview. I'm like, "All right, I don't know where I want to work in terms of accounting." My thought was I'll get my CPA, I'll work for one of the big accounting firms. I'm like, "I should get some interviews under my belt first before I try this though."
Dustin: You kind of saw a void of obviously, it looks like a lot of places need accountants, so I can. ... It wasn't like, "I want to be an accountant for the rest of my life."
Mike: Absolutely not. I was looking for a paycheck at the time. It probably wasn't the best decision ... it wasn't. The first interview, I went in ... I didn't think I did that great, but I must have nailed it because the next day they called me up. It was a state job. They're like, "Oh yeah, you got it. Come on in. You have your own accounting team working under you." I'm like, "Holy shit, my own accounting team? This is great."
I go to work the next day, and I meet my team. It's a small team apparently, of all the troublemakers that nobody wanted to work with. They put them all on my team. So I'm this really green, don't know how to manage a team. I learned a lot actually, just about running a team and being ... I guess a little bit about accounting too, but the accounting work I was doing was kind of basic. I was balancing bank accounts. Billion dollar bank accounts, which was kind of cool, because I'm like, "Look at all this money I've got at my fingertips," but not really.
I was giving out refund checks to people. Actually, that was one of my main purposes there was to facilitate their refund program. If you, for instance, had a business and you dissolved your business and the state owed you money, my job would be to reach out to you and be like, "Hey, we owe you money."
Half the year basically, I just sent checks to people, and it was kind of a neat experience, but I automated it really quick because that's the way my mind works. I'm like, "Let's automate this." We were doing it the old-fashioned way.
Jeff: Write a check, handwrite.
Mike: It was idiotic. We'd send out this massive outreach. We'd have to manually receive every piece of mail, look in it. I was like, "Why are we doing this?" We actually barcoded the whole system and ran it through the mail room, and I pretty much worked myself out of a job. After that I had really nothing to do. Half my year was gone, so I just sat at my desk and I read about business, starting my own business and just different ways other people were making money. That's actually where I got the courage to be like, "I don't want to do this anymore. I'm going to go out on my own and start something myself." I was so bored with my current job.
Jeff: It must be an unfulfilling feeling like you're not making a difference at that point.
Mike: No, absolutely not. My bosses recognized it. They're like, "Mike, a lot of people at this time start banking their ..." The way the job was, the way it worked was every week you worked, you got half a day of vacation time. Maybe every two weeks had half a day. Anyways, people would bank up this vacation time. They'd have months of paid time off, and I would use it as soon as I got it every time.
Dustin: Just get me out of here.
Mike: Yeah. I would hide during the day and go sleep in my car. I would just be like, "I'm going exploring." I'd just walk around the City Hall because there was really nothing for me to do, but I had to be there to supervise over my team to make sure they didn't cause any trouble, and boy, they did. I have some stories about that.
Dustin: Oh man.
Jeff: I'm curious.
Mike: Well, all right. Because I had this very senior team of troublemakers that didn't really have much—
Jeff: The mod squad.
Mike: Yeah. They didn't have much motivation for advancement, but they really just liked the position they were in. They just wanted to stay in. The way the state works is it's hard to get people out once they're in. They knew this, so I'd find people sleeping under their desks. I'd be like, "You have to do something. Just sit at your computer and act presently." I had old women crying on the floor. Banging their hands on the floor and stamping their feet in the middle of the hall.
Jeff: Yeah, why were they doing that?
Mike: I always thought of it as "I'm just a big babysitter."
Jeff: That's what I was saying. It sounds like you're babysitting.
Mike: You have to babysit the babies.
Jeff: The old babies.
Dustin: Oh my gosh.
Mike: I did that for a while, and it was interesting.
Jeff: You must have gotten to a point where you're like ... I know for me, I remember I was supposed to head to work, but I was sitting on the couch, looking at my hands, just being like, "I don't want to do this anymore." Did you get to that point or were you just ...
Mike: I was tiptoeing around that point for a while, and then that same conversation where my bosses had me in the conference room and they're like, "You know, you're missing a lot of days." I was like, "I'm putting in my two weeks right now." Something just snapped inside me and I'm like, "Should I have just said that?" They're like, "No, no, that's not what we're saying." I'm like, "Yep, that's what I'm saying. I'm done. Two weeks." Everyone's like, "Really?"
I was doing a lot at that time. Because I had a lot of time, I was volunteering to be ... I was trying to be the voice of my department, my whole unit. I was doing a lot of the speaking engagements. Telling the rest of the ... I worked for the comptroller's office. The rest of the comptroller's office what we were doing, and I was putting myself out there and trying to be involved. Trying to be a good worker.
Jeff: Trying to make a difference.
Mike: Yeah. I just wasn't feeling it. I'm glad it didn't work out—
Dustin: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike: Looking back, but I didn't have a game plan going out of it. I was just like, "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Dustin: You've got to start somewhere.
Mike: That's what I feel like.
Dustin: You might not have the greatest idea at the time, but you've got to get going. You've got to start somewhere. You've got to get out of there. So you have that moment, you give the two weeks. What made you start a coffee business?
Mike: For the next year, I didn't do anything. I really did nothing. My friends would be like, "Mike." After six months of doing nothing, they'd come home from work, and I'd be playing Guitar Hero and I was reading. They're like, "What did you do all day?" I'm like, "Actually, nothing. I literally laid on the couch and played some Guitar Hero." They're like, "You have to do something, man. You can't just be a loser." I'm like, "You're right." I can't just be a loser.
Jeff: Good friends, though.
Mike: Yeah. During that time where I wasn't doing anything, I was hanging around coffee shops a lot, and I was thinking in the background ... Actually, I had a girlfriend in North Carolina at the time, and I was driving back from visiting her ... what an idiotic place to have a girlfriend.
Jeff: Oh yeah, long distance.
Mike: But great girl, she was. But driving back and I'm like, "Maybe I'll try to start a coffee shop. I've got to do something." I got home, and I actually started taking action on my thoughts and I was able to find some viable places that were already going, so I didn't have to learn it all or start it all myself. I didn't know anything about coffee or running a business. The first one that I tried to purchase didn't work out. It didn't work out at all.
Dustin: Was that also in Saratoga?
Mike: No, it was in Del Mar or something, but I'm glad that one didn't work out. It's funny, the ones that don't work out, looking back you're just like, "Oh, that didn't work out. Thank God it didn't." The one in Saratoga ended up working out, and it was quite the experience. I came in really green again. Didn't know what I was doing, didn't know anything about coffee, didn't know anything about running a business, but the previous owner, his name is Mike as well, took me under his wing for about 30 days. Showed me everything I needed to know and just sent me off.
It's funny when I first started the business, I'm like, "Oh, this is great. People are coming in, buying things. There's money coming in, but it took a few months for me to realize, "Wait a minute, there's money coming in ... there's a lot more money going out."
For a few years, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about running a business and how much you have to keep an eye on things and how much you have to watch the money going out, just as closely as you watch the money coming in. I could talk forever about every single lesson I learned, but it was painful. It was painful at first. I lost a lot of money. I was pretty much going broke. I had to sell my house. I've said this a million times. I moved back in with my mom. She was great. She loves me though. She would love to have me back at home. It was tough for me personally and just my ego, because I'm very egotistical, I think, in some sense.
Jeff: It's rough. I did the same thing in my life. After college, I struck out on my own for a little bit and then had to move back in with my parents. It's rough for anybody, because when you—
Mike: It sucks to swallow your pride, man.
Jeff: Regardless of that, when you move out, that's the first time in anyone's life when you move away from the nest is you are now your own, man. You are an adult at that point. When you have to backtrack into that moment, it's a mental block, it really is.
Mike: All my friends and family are like, "How's the business going?" What are you going to say? I'm just like, "It's going great, man. Thanks for asking."
Jeff: Best business ever.
Dustin: That's where we've heard the story. We know Death Wish came into play to kind of take care of the lack of funds and then it obviously, "Oh, this is something." It kind of took off. But I feel like, from what it sounds like in your story ... Jeff and I have talked about this a lot of times. You see yourself gaining all these weird skill sets that you're not really sure why you're even learning them, but also when you get to a certain point, like where you are now, and you look back and you're like, "Wow, I got leadership skills by leading my accounting team, and I got business skills by running a business that was very difficult to keep alive." Are there any surprises in there, as far as looking back ...? Is there skills that you learned by chance that are coming into play now?
Mike: Yeah, I feel like I know a little bit of everything, in regards to running a business, which is very beneficial. I think Malcolm Gladwell said ... actually, I heard him speak the other day—not the other day but a couple months ago.
Dustin: Love that dude.
Mike: He was saying how the best business leaders, they learn little bits of everything and that makes them very valuable to their organization because they can put some things together that maybe people on the outside can't, about the way the business is going and possible pitfalls and it's. ... It takes a lot of zigzagging for a business to be successful, and I agree with that 100%.
Mike: I know about production. I deal with production every day. I deal with coffee roasting every day, internet marketing. That's what my passion is with internet marketing, and that's where I spend a lot of my time reading, but even people management and, in some aspect, psychology. Managing a team is like being a psychologist to some extent because different personalities respond to different things.
Dustin: You kind of have to get a read on people, too, to figure out their place in the business, too.
Mike: Yeah, a lot of social intelligence, which I think I have, but who really knows. Getting people to work together successfully is not easy. Sometimes ... you guys know, working here, sometimes it does seem like a lot of dysfunction, I think. At the same time, we're able to produce.
Dustin: It's almost like dealing with a bunch of different artists. I know being in bands, you're dealing with all those different personalities that might clash in strange ways and you never know what you're going to have to deal with day to day—
Jeff: But you all work together to create something beautiful.
Dustin: Yeah, absolutely. Something greater of the sum of everybody put together. You've got five people and each person can produce this much, but if you put them all together and make them work together, you produce something even greater than that, which I think is really magical. I always see her all the time. I feel that one thing that surprised me working for you is that you don't micromanage. You're not staring over people's shoulders and you kind of let them fly on their own.
Mike: Yeah, I do do that.
Jeff: Is that purposeful, or is that just your personality?
Mike: It is purposeful. I think that's the way the business world is going. If businesses aren't there yet, they will be in the future. That's just the way that the workforce is going to be. That's my opinion, and I'm pretty sure that's going to happen. I am purposeful with that, but at the same time, I think if we did have a more structured workplace, I think it could work as well. The one thing I've noticed about businesses and business, in general, is I feel like there's more than one way to succeed. There's more than one way to skin a cat.
Dustin: By the way, we don't condone skinning cats on the [inaudible 00:16:15] Death Cast.
Jeff: But it is the truth.
Mike: Yeah, it is. Someone could come in and be like, "I don't like your management style. You're doing it wrong," or "I love your management style, you're doing it right." Honestly, I could see both sides of the fence. Yeah, I think with a good team in place, we could go either way, and I still think we'd succeed.
Dustin: Yeah, I feel like personally, I work better figuring stuff out on my own, and that's why I feel like this team is right for me. I feel like that works out for me.
Jeff: Agreed. Speaking of figuring stuff out on your own. What we know from working for you and with you, you love to work out a puzzle. If there's a problem in front of you or a puzzle, something you don't know ... you've already talked about you didn't know how to run a business, so you did a bunch of research on it. You learned how to do that. You like to do that on the fly.
The famous story is that you were working at Saratoga Coffee Traders, and your customers wanted the strongest cup of coffee that you could not provide for them, so you started to research how to do the strongest cup of coffee. The information I've never heard, that I've always wanted to ask you, is what was that mad scientist alchemy process like? What was it like figuring out how to not only combine coffee, roast coffee, come up with your own blend of coffee, but were there some trials and errors in there that maybe you made the world's most disgusting coffee in that process? Was it the first time you tried it and Death Wish was born kind of thing?
Mike: I'm sure there were some trial and error. I'm pretty sure. At the time it was ... John works with us now, John [inaudible 00:18:02]. I was talking with him on the phone a lot. He was actually doing a lot of the work on his end, as well, putting together this blend. The way my mind ... sometimes I think I'm insane, sometimes.
Jeff: Those are the best minds. All the good people are.
Mike: I'm telling you, like you were saying with problem-solving, if I have a real problem, I'll sit and I'll just ... it'll infatuate. It'll take over my life, and I'll just really start working on it and thinking about it and dream about it. I'll wake up in the morning, and I'll start reading about it again. Even now, with stuff, I have no big problem I'm dealing with right now, but yesterday I spent all day reading and researching for no reason other than that's the way ... I'm just crazy. I don't want people to learn or know more than me. I want to be more successful than the next person, and I feel if I take a day off from reading and learning something, someone else is going to get ahead of me. And it drives me crazy.
Dustin: It might have been Tyson who was like, "When I'm out running ... I like to wake up super early and work out super early and get running super early, because I know while I'm out there, working hard, my opponent is sleeping."
Jeff: Yeah. That was Mike Tyson, actually, who said that.
Mike: Oh really? That's why I work on Sundays, I think. I'm like, "Yeah, people are spending time with their families, this is my time to plan for the week."
I really do a lot of reading and research and kind of get a head start on the week. Most people are in church or watching football or watching basketball.
Jeff: I think this is a tenement of my own life, but I subscribe to the idea that hunger breeds success. If you're constantly hungry and if you're constantly out there, you're never an expert. No matter how much you know, there's always more to know. You can always be hungry for it.
Mike: Especially with the internet now. I swear, there's a hundred new pieces of information that are out there every day on one particular narrow subject. If you take that day off, then the next day you've got to catch up.
Jeff: You've got to catch up, yeah. Interesting. Very, very cool.
Mike: I kind of went aside there and went down my own path. With the coffee, testing the coffee out, there were some awful coffees that I tested out. I tested it out on my customers at the time. The customers were very frank with me and they were like, "This is good, this is bad," until we found one that tasted great and had that extra power to power people through the day. They're like, "Yep, Mike, this is it." I had some very good customers up at Saratoga Coffee Traders. I still do. A lot of them are regulars still. I'm not up there as much. Scott runs it, that's John's brother. He does a good job up there.
Jeff: Another way to breed success is what you're explaining, the creation of Death Wish Coffee. It wasn't just you in a dark basement, mixing coffees together by yourself and tasting them.
Mike: This one's horrible ... next.
Jeff: Yeah, you were completely working off your buddy, John. You were also taste testing with an actual customer base. It wasn't just you and your idea. I think that, also, is what helps any successful idea is the team, what you surround yourself with.
Mike: You've got to be not only ready to work with other people, but—
Mike: ... willing to ask for help. It was always an issue in my early life, but I'm finding now, later on, that is the best thing you can do is ask for help, especially if you need it.
Jeff: You've got to put your ego aside.
Dustin: Yeah, and it's tough. Do you foresee any hurdles in the future of Death Wish Coffee?
Mike: Absolutely not.
Jeff: We love that answer.
Mike: Smooth sailing. No, of course. There's a hurdle every day. Every day is a battle and the battles are what ... it's where you learn, right? When those hurdles come up ... are there going to be some? Yeah, definitely. Specific examples ... whoops.
Jeff: Ping pong balls.
Mike: We're sitting at a ping pong table, by the way.
Jeff: For now.
Mike: For now. Specific hurdles ... yeah. As the business grows, and it's been growing at a pretty good rate. We've been doubling in size and revenue for the last five years, year after year. Last year we tripled, and I think it was ... I can't remember who said it, but one of the books I was reading recently. One of the authors said, "Every time a business triples in size, you have to rewrite all your procedures and manuals because of the whole business changes."
Jeff: It's a different business.
Mike: It is. Entirely. It's an entirely different business. So as we grow, everything we have, all the systems and procedures we have in place, they all have to be rewritten and we have to, basically, start from scratch again. With the amount of people we're bringing on, hiring, there's a lot of structure that needs to continually change and get put into place so that we can continue to grow at the rate we're growing at. It's going to be quite the challenge. I hope you guys are up for it.
Jeff: Oh heck yeah.
Dustin: You kind of have to have that Buddhist mentality of letting go. You can't be ... just because I spent all my time on this one thing, doesn't mean I should keep on spending time on it. Yeah. It's hard to just ... this took years to put together.
Dustin: I'm not going to just let it go, but it's not doing you any good. You've got to let it go. That's awesome.
Jeff: That kind of leads into ... we've had a few of the employees on the podcast at this point, and one of the things that we like to talk about, especially because we've had people like Eric Donovan who has been there since the basement days at Saratoga Coffee Traders, stuffing envelopes and stuff. We'd love to talk about some of the ideas that maybe didn't work as well since the inception of this company, and we were wondering if there's anything that you think back ... I hate to use the word fondly, but maybe just with a little bit of a rye chuckle when you think back on some ideas that we wanted to implement with Death Wish Coffee that, at the time were like, "Yes, this is a great idea," and it just didn't pan out. Does anything ever come to mind for you?
Mike: I think I block those things out. They're mostly my ideas, and I know that about 10% of the ideas that I come up with, they work out. Ninety percent fail miserably, or we just can't get the momentum going to drive it to success. The thing about a small team is you start bringing up projects, bringing up projects and eventually you spread yourself too thin and something that may have worked out, it just doesn't have the manpower or the focus to drive it to success. I'm trying to think of an example of that, but I really think ...
Dustin: Mental block.
Jeff: Something doesn't work out, on to the next thing. Maybe that's the way to be.
Dustin: I think so. Why dwell on the ... I don't like to call them failures, but why dwell on the failures? You win or you learn again.
Jeff: Mine has a tricky way of ... if you say something stupid to somebody and you think over and over, "Why did I say that? Why did I say that?"
A week later and you're still like, "Jesus, why did I say that?"
Mike: I'll come up with one by the time we're done talking.
Jeff: It's an unhealthy thing and it's weird that the mind will do that, so it's really important to dispel that ... just forget about it. Forget about the past, learn from it. EJ Snyder, we always bring this up, says, "You either win or you learn." You learn and you move on. You don't want to keep on replaying that flop over and over in your head. To me, that sounds like the way to be.
Dustin: Totally. This is something else that we ask everyone that's on this podcast. With the success and the hurdles that Death Wish Coffee has gained and the day-to-day. Like you said, every day is a battle and that's with any business, not just this one. Every day you come in wanting to better your business, better the brand, better all that stuff. What fuels you to do that? What, as the owner of Death Wish Coffee, as the idea behind the brand, what keeps you going every day to come in and keep pushing that extra mile?
Mike: This is a question ... I actually lost a lot of sleep over this in the past, because business is going great. When I started the business, my goal was just to make an extra $5,000 a year. I'm like, okay. After that, my goal was, "Okay, I just want to have a successful business and to be profitable." Luckily, thanks to the great team I have and the great customers, I was able to achieve that too. It's kind of like, "Okay, what's making me get out of bed in the morning. I lost a lot of sleep over it, and I talked to a lot of ... I have a lot of people that I respect highly that are business leaders that I talk to on the phone. I'm just like, "I'm kind of missing this sense of purpose right now." Through a lot of thought and meditation, I was like, "You know why I do this? I legitimately do this to help ... the reason I come to work is one, because of the customers and it's not just to give the customers a great product, but it is to fuel the customers." That might sound a little back-ended, but the whole Death Wish purpose is fueling other people's passion. If we can do that in some way, whether it's motivating them or giving them a great cup of coffee or entertaining them or just giving them something to look forward to later on in the week or later on in the day. Thinking about that and how happy it makes others, that gets me up in the morning.
Dustin: Awesome, that's the way to be.
Jeff: Motivation from motivation. Nothing wrong with that. So the best form of flattery is imitation. I wonder sometimes how you feel about all the copycats that are springing up now.
Mike: Oh, I love it. Welcome, welcome to ... come on in, the more competitors the better.
Dustin: Like you said, at the beginning of this company, you went out looking for the world's strongest coffee and there was no such thing. Now, since the success of Death Wish Coffee, there are many copycats out there boasting the exact same thing.
Mike: Yeah. I like to think I'm competitive, but this team, the Death Wish team is more competitive than I am. So when competitors enter the market, that fuels us to be better. We order all their products. As soon as we see competitors, "Let's order this and see how it is." Some of it's pretty good. Some of it's not so good. The stuff that's good, again, we're like, "What's good about their product? What's bad about ..." Basically, we audit everyone's product, and it makes us better and it drives us to succeed. Plus, what are they really coming to the market with? They're coming to the market with a coffee in our category. We created the category. We created the strong coffee category. They're bringing attention to ... they're bringing other customers ... they're spending their money to market to bring customers into our category and then when the people get to our category, they're gonna quickly find out who the leader of that category is and that's Death Wish Coffee.
Honestly, in my honest opinion, we are head and shoulders above the competition in the world's strongest. The amount of time and effort and money we spend to do our product ... putting into our product to get the best coffee beans, to get the best equipment, to get the best packaging, the best customer service ... it's not just the coffee bean. There's tons that roll into our product and what we can deliver. Yeah, the more competitors the better, come on in. Spend your money advertising. Bring your people into our category, because once they're in the category—
Dustin: We'll just be up at the top making it.
Mike: That's when we win.
Jeff: I feel like when they come to the battleground, it's like, "Man, we've been training for this for so long. They don't even stand a chance."
Mike: No. You guys have seen it. I've seen 10, 20, 30 companies come in and exit.
Jeff: Definitely over 20.
Dustin: Come and go.
Mike: Come in and exit. They enter and exit, enter and exit. It's one of those things where it's tough to hang in. It's tough to hang in a competitive category. Coffee is very competitive.
Dustin: Totally, there's a lot out there too.
Dustin: They call it the third wave of coffee, where people are really focusing on the quality of their coffee. It's not just a cup of joe anymore. It's layers. It's like wine. Now everybody's got the single origin and everyone's got the fair trade and organic. It's a crazy, competitive world out there now. Now, is there anything ... I always think about ... I'm surprised Starbucks hasn't joined the field and thrown their money behind a real, strong coffee.
Mike: It's funny. They're starting to take notice of what we're doing. I've noticed just recently they ... we were one of the first companies to release a barrel, a barrel brand coffee. It was a coffee that we age in spirit barrels, and Starbucks just released theirs. They just released it, I think, two weeks ago, and they're selling it for, I think. it's $10 a cup.
Mike: Yeah, like $80 a pound.
Dustin: The thing is, I can't imagine being able to commercially produce what we're doing. It's nearly impossible because we're handloading wine barrels or whiskey barrels or rum barrels and how are you gonna do that for tens and hundreds of thousands of people?
Mike: I think they're just doing it in their select stores and I think in Seattle ... I'm going to give it a try. Audit it and see how they're doing. Like I said, it's good for us that Starbucks is doing that, because it brought a lot of attention to that product and when people enter the ... I've already noticed three or four articles that, "Hey, Death Wish Coffee started this a couple years ago and now Starbucks is moving in," which is great. It puts us on a ... I guess in the same realm as Starbucks and Starbucks gets a lot of attention, which is good, because it will drive people towards ours and, actually, John ... we're working on another run right now of our barrel coffee. It can only stay on the shelves a couple days before it's sold out, unfortunately.
Dustin: It's a very limited run because it's a very intense process to do it. It's what makes it that much more special when we're able to roll out those barrel brands.
Mike: Yeah. I think Starbucks knows where their ... they are starting to move into other markets, which I think is probably not the smartest for their brand, but at the same time, they are large enough where they can ... they can compete on a lot of different levels and compete in the online realm, the supermarket realm, the coffee shop realm is where they started and where they should focus most of their time and attention, which I think they do. Now they're starting to move into specialty stores, and they're doing food. They're doing a lot.
Jeff: Yeah, they're getting a little convoluted.
Mike: Yeah, when you start to spread yourself that thin ... I'm not talking shit about Starbucks. I actually think they're a great company, but it does seem like they're starting to lose a little bit of focus, but it's good for us. As long as we stay focused on what our strengths are and don't spread our ... get too broad.
Jeff: I like that you keep that in mind, that you're not like, "Yeah, let's wait on that for a second. I don't want to just spread it too thin," because it keeps the quality of the product high.
Mike: Yes. We're not moving into coffee shops. We're not going to become the Death Wish Coffee Shop. That's not on the table anywhere in the future. We're not moving into 100 different coffees. We've got Death Wish and Valhalla. We've got two. We mess around with the barrel brand when we can. That's probably going to be it. We're going to focus on [inaudible 00:34:33]. We are moving into some supermarkets right now, but it's not ... Like I said, it's not a big focus.
Jeff: Even with the retail side, it's like, "Well, wait off on that for a little bit, because I just don't want to put all the focus on retail.
Mike: Yeah, it's tough. I want to continue to provide the best experience for our customer, and yeah, if we spread ourselves too thin, they won't get the best experience.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of the future of the company, where do you see it in five, ten years?
Mike: We're growing. We're growing fast. I'm really excited about some things we have coming out. We have this cold brew can I'm actually drinking right now. That's going to be a great product. It is a great product, but I think it's going to be another winner going down the line. But to be quite honest, it's going to be a lot of ... unfortunately, I tell you guys this a lot, building a brand is boring. Building a great company is sometimes boring because we're not going to go off in a hundred different directions. We're kind of focused on the meat of our business. We're going to continue to work on delivering a better product, getting these relationships in place where we can continue to get the best coffee beans at good prices. We haven't raised our prices in five years. I don't want to raise them. We're going to continue to just hit the straight and narrow and grow and spread the brand, grow the brand and I guess just be a good company.
Dustin: Yeah, stay the course. Focus on what you know and keep going, keep plugging away at it. That's a good tenement for a business and life, 100%. Finally, we always ask people where you can find them. I don't know if maybe you want to shout out your Twitter handle or something.
Mike: Yeah, Twitter handle. MikeBrownDWC.
Dustin: Yeah, there you go.
Mike: MikeBrownDWC. MikeBrownDWC. And Death Wish Coffee Mike on Instagram, right?
Mike: I think so, yeah. But we'll focus on the Twitter.
Mike: I'm really working on growing my Twitter following right now. I have a few bets ... one bet in particular here in the office where ...
Dustin: Wait, should we talk about it?
Dustin: You'll all just hear about it if he loses.
Jeff: We'll talk about it when it's over, but there is something going on. Make sure to follow Mike on Twitter.
Dustin: If there's one thing I've learned about working at Death Wish Coffee and especially about you, Mike, it is that you do not lose, so you're not going to lose this. I know. I know for a fact. Well, I've just got to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We've been really excited to have you on the podcast and pick your brain about the company that we love so much and all of our listeners out there also, as well. Is there anything else you want to plug? Coffee-wise or Mike Brown-wise?
Jeff: Here's your chance. Here's the stage, man. Spotlight's on you.
Mike: No, nothing for me personally. As far as the company goes, there is an amazing Death Wish Coffee team, so make sure you follow ... everyone that works for Death Wish Coffee, they're very special people. They work hard. They really do everything they can to deliver the best experience to everyone. Follow them on social media, if you want. They're pretty awesome. You can go to our About Us page on Death Wish Coffee and read about everyone and we're actually doing features on our blog as well about each individual employee and get to know them. They're cool people like I said. They're really here for you guys, so thanks.
Dustin: Yeah, like we say every week, make sure you follow all the Death Wish Coffee on social media. Subscribe to the newsletter. Go on deathwishcoffee.com and get all of your awesome coffee and merchandise products. Thanks again, Mike.
Jeff: Thanks, Mike.