FOUNDER AND OWNER - MIKE BROWN
"I would say if you are comfortable being uncomfortable, especially initially, I think then go for it. " Mike Brown, founder, owner, CEO of Death Wish Coffee Company
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
ABOUT MIKE BROWN:
Founder and owner of Death Wish Coffee, Mike Brown, joins the show for the second time. (Check out episode 17 for the first time Mike was a guest). This time Mike talks about how the company has grown since last year, including getting into over 2000 retail stores like Walmart and more. Plus he answers questions from customers and community members and talks about where the company is headed in the future. Check out the full transcript below.
ON THE WEEKLY FUELED BY DEATH COMPANION SHOW:
This week on Science, Jeff runs down the upcoming Expedition 56 crew that will be launching on June 6th to the ISS to join up with the existing crew members there. Also, hear about all the interesting science experiments the crew will be doing, including an archaic form of navigation investigation with a sextant. Then stick around for Dustin to get mad about decaf coffee on The Roast and a cryptic tease of big news on The Update.
DEATH STAR OF THE WEEK:
Paul Thomas drove two hours to come visit Death Wish HQ and he talks about transforming his kitchen with hundreds of Death Wish Coffee stickers and what he plans to do with his mug collection. Learn more about Paul here:
Jeff: The last time we had you on this show, Mike, it was back in the conference room days when we were doing this off the ping pong table.
Dustin: I miss the ping pong table. Just saying. Just throwing that out there.
Jeff: Yeah. One of the things that we are going to do is we're going to upgrade this.
Mike Brown: Yeah, you guys don't like this plastic table.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah.
Dustin: It squeaks when I lean on it.
Jeff: We'll get there.
Mike Brown: Get you a new one from Home Depot or Walmart.
Jeff: Yeah. But I really wanted to have you back on. For those of you guys tuning into this show, if you did not catch the first time that Mike was on the show, it was episode 17 back in season one. We talked about all things Death Wish, and we're going to do a little bit of that this time around. I actually threw this out to the community at large to see, to pick their brains as well as to some questions for you because it's their opportunity to be able to really kind of pick the brain of the owner at Death Wish Coffee, which I think is fun.
First one I want to start out with because you've been posting about it incessantly, have you named your duck yet?
Mike Brown: I know what I call him. That's probably not his name. So I've had this duck for the last seven days. Every time I wake up ... I usually wake up around 4:30, 5:00 a.m. I walk downstairs and I look in my pool in the backyard and there's this duck. I think it's a female duck. It's floating around in my pool or it's walking around on my cement patio there, taking dumps everywhere.
Jeff: Duck dumps.
Mike Brown: No, I haven't named it. I mean, I call it the duck. My dog has no interest in it. So my dog's not scaring it away. I tried to train my dog, Odin, to attack this duck. I actually walked him out with a leash the other day and got him all excited. The duck just jumped into the water. So the ducks smarter than my dog, probably a little smarter than me. But I found a good deterrent. This maybe the only duck to be afraid of water. So if I get the hose out and chase it down with the hose and spray it, it flies away.
Jeff: That's so funny.
Mike Brown: Yeah. I don't know. I've gone online to look up ways to deter ducks from landing in my pool. One of them was to buy like a float that looks like an alligator.
Dustin: So this is a common issue?
Mike Brown: I don't know.
Jeff: Ducks in pools.
Mike Brown: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I did Google it and yes, it does happen. It's not good. You don't want ducks swimming in your pool and shitting in your pool because luckily I have the right amount of chlorine in there, but if I didn't and the pool chemicals are off, I could potentially have some nasty stuff swimming around in there. I don't know. I do need to get an alligator float or somebody wrote on their an owl, like a fake owl.
Jeff: Oh. Interesting.
Dustin: So like a scarecrow but a ...
Mike Brown: If anybody has any good solutions, I haven't tried these yet, let me know.
Dustin: Maybe this is something we can develop at Death Wish with our many resource.
Jeff: Death Wish duck deterrent. Look for that late 2018.
Mike Brown: Or if anybody has a name for this duck. I would like to give it a name, her a name.
Jeff: Instead of the duck.
Dustin: Or pain in the ass.
Mike Brown: Yes.
Jeff: Another question kind of stemming from that that we got from the community. Outside of trying to shoe ducks away from your pool, what do you like to do to decompress? You run Death Wish Coffee on a daily basis, and you have ... When you do get down time, I know it's very precious, what is some of the stuff that you do to kind of get away from the office?
Mike Brown: I drink. No, I'm just kidding. I don't.
Jeff: Me too. Good answer.
Mike Brown: I get out of here stressed out. No, I read a lot. That's probably my favorite thing to do. If I can just isolate myself and read a good ... I like to read business books, believe it or not, and self help books. I know that sounds pretty lame. But every once in a while I'll get into a good fiction book as well. Spend time with my dog, spend time with my girlfriend, hang out outside when it's nice out, do yard work. I've been into this handyman kick lately. So I built this loft in my garage. I built this table for next to my washer and dryer. So I've been doing a little bit of woodwork. I built this raised bed garden for my girlfriend Emily. So yeah, I've been doing self help ... Not self help, handyman type stuff.
Jeff: That's pretty awesome. I mean, that's a lot of good stuff to just get away from the day to day grind kind of thing.
Dustin: I know somebody who could use a new table. Just throwing that ...
Mike Brown: Well, all of my ... It's interesting that you said that. All of my woodworking has been made with pallets, empty pallets and broken down boxes from around the warehouse. So I'm sure I could find some wood from around here and bring in my table saw and drill.
Jeff: I'm in.
Mike Brown: Put something together.
Jeff: I love it.
Dustin: As far as much stigma as self help books get, I feel like as far as staying in tune with especially how to lead and how to run a business, there's almost nothing better out there. You find that all these CEOs and successful people, that's what they're doing. They're reaching out to these resources and using these self help books to run giant companies. Is there any in particular that have really held true to you on what you do here and your success?
Mike Brown: A lot of them are very, very similar. They're just kind of it's the same message delivered a different way, which to me is great because I just get it. Sometimes I learn something one way and it doesn't really resonate, but I'll read another author who has written it and it comes across totally different. I mean, this is going to sound great. I'm a Tony Robbins guy. I started reading Tony Robbins a long time ago. I've been to a few of his events. Man, they get out of your comfort zone really quick. You get to do ... They make you do some like crazy stuff. Did I talk about ... Did I talk about Tony Robbins last time?
Dustin: Not at all.
Mike Brown: I'll tell you about one of his events.
Dustin: I'm excited.
Mike Brown: Man, like I said, they get you out of you comfort zone. Actually I brought John to this. John Swedish to the first one I went to. They put you in this giant room and there's chairs and they're very close together. You're sitting around a bunch of strangers. If you came with someone, they tell you not to sit next to that someone because they don't want you to be comfortable. That's the goal to get you out of your comfort zone. They turn the air conditioner on basically as high as it can go. So I believe it was 56/57 degrees in this place. Everyone's freezing, shivering, and they're making you get up, stand up, dance, dance with your partner, you're hugging your partner.
Jeff: This person you've never met.
Mike Brown: Never met before. You're coming with all these strange like, I don't know, action moves that you're supposed to remember. They just stuff to really kind of like ... I don't know how to explain it.
Jeff: Make you off balance almost.
Mike Brown: It's like conditioning. What is it called? NPLR. You know what it is? Neurologic conditioning or something. I don't know.
Dustin: It's familiar. Yeah.
Mike Brown: Yeah, it's basically trying to get your energy and your mood up and then doing something very strange whether it's snapping your fingers or like, I don't know. Flexing. Doing something. Getting yourself into this really energetic state of mind and then doing a weird move that you usually don't do on your body. You do this for three days in a row, it's very weird. It's weird
Dustin: It's got to put you in a weird mindset.
Mike Brown: Weird mindset, but after you leave he says, "If you ever get in like that low energy, if you're brain is kind of turning sour and negative, you do that move," and it's supposed to bring you back to that place.
Dustin: It's an anchor technique.
Mike Brown: Yeah. It's anchoring. That's just one part of it. There's tons of other weird stuff. We walked across fire.
Dustin: Oh so you did walk across the coals?
Mike Brown: Yeah. We did the coal walk.
Dustin: Was it hot?
Mike Brown: There was ...
Dustin: It's more of a mental thing, right?
Mike Brown: There were hot parts. I mean, they do it at night so you see the red coals. But they spray it down a little bit.
Dustin: I heard it's not really hot unless you stay in one place for too long, and they started having injuries with people who got comfortable with it and started trying to take selfies while standing on the coals.
Jeff: Oh my God. Goodness.
Dustin: They deserved to get burned.
Mike Brown: Man, you're going to meet all sorts of people there. All sorts of people. It was very interesting. Really it does get you out of comfort ... You're there for ... This guys an animal. He starts at I think 9:00 a.m. He doesn't finish until after midnight, and he doesn't like people taking breaks. They shut the doors and they guard them so you can't even take a leak.
Mike Brown: I mean, you can. But they don't suggest it. They basically chase you and tell you to run. I'm making it sound like a torture ...
Dustin: It sounds like a cult is what it sounds like.
Mike Brown: It does sound like a cult now that I'm talking about it.
Jeff: But it sounds like you're getting ... What you're getting out of it is a different perspective on how to manage not only the company that you have but also yourself.
Dustin: It's reconditioning, right?
Dustin: So it is actually using my manipulation cult techniques, but another word for manipulation is inspiration, right? If you're inspired, you're being manipulated by somebody in a positive way. This is using mental conditioning and reconditioning to kind of change your perspective on everything. So you're not stuck in this box. Because if you're stuck in that box, you're just going to be like everybody else. You want to be outside of that. You want to be on top. That's one way to do it for sure.
Mike Brown: They teach valuable lessons as well. Health advice, diet advice, business advice. They have relationship advice. Very sound principles. But yeah, it's wow. Another self help guru I saw not long ago, totally outside of my comfort zone once again was Joel Osteen. He's that mega preacher from Texas. He came into the area. I'm not very religious. I kind of want to say, "Hey, this guys the mega preacher. He's the best at what he does in his field. I got to check this guy out." So I went down and I saw him at our local arena. He was pretty interesting too. I mean, very similar message to the Tony Robbins thing. Very similar to a lot of the books I read. He preaches a lot of positivity. Basically he calls positivity Jesus and he calls negativity the Devil. So there was a lot of Jesus and a lot of Devil talk.
Jeff: Same kind of message.
Mike Brown: Same message. But it was good. It was a refresher of a lot of things I would say I already know, but some things that fly out the window during your day to day life. Specifically when you wake up in the morning, you can kind of get off on the right side of the bed or the wrong side of the bed. You can just sit there and just really, before you get out of bed, just have that ... Think of the ... I'm not really saying it right. Think of the all that can be accomplished. Don't dread going into work. Just think about, "Hey, why is this goin to be the best day ever?" I ask myself that a lot. Like, "How can I make this the best day of my life? What are some things I can do?" Then it's up to me to get that but at least getting out of bed it's like I have a game plan.
Dustin: It's one thing that I preach here a lot, be the hero of your own story, right?
Dustin: If this was a movie and your life was this movie, what would your main character do? Even if you're living your worst life at that time, if you start thinking that way. That's how most movies start, right? The dudes in the dumps and he's like, something happens where he has to defy adversity and come out on top. Well, how do you get to that point? What are the steps that you need to take to get there?
Dustin: But moving on to more of our community questions. I know this one comes up a lot. I don't necessarily advocate this even though I'm asking it. What do you think about making a light roast with Death Wish?
Mike Brown: I didn't even know that comes up a lot.
Jeff: It does.
Mike Brown: Really? I need to put my ear to the ground.
Jeff: We definitely had a few out there asking. I know one of the biggest ones was Jason Heath. But I've heard the rumblings before.
Mike Brown: Jason Heath says everything.
Jeff: But I've heard the rumblings.
Mike Brown: Thank you, Jason Heath. We like to be challenged.
Jeff: From other people. As a legitimate question, I mean, we are the world's strongest coffee and we pride ourselves on the blend that we make. Is there ever the idea in your head to branch out and kind of change that footprint?
Mike Brown: The idea for Death Wish Coffee came from my customers in my coffee shop. They'd come in and they'd say, "Hey, Mike. Give me a cup of your strongest coffee." At that point I'd always go, "All right. Do you want the coffee that taste the strongest? Do you want the boldest coffee or do you want the coffee with the most caffeine?" That's when the confusion came in and we'd have this awkward conversation. I'd try to tell them that dark coffees not necessarily always the most caffeinated. Then that's when the light bulb went off. I was like, "Okay. I should just make a very caffeinated dark roast coffee, and then I won't have to have this conversation over and over again."
But yeah, you can get some strong coffees that are light roast. Now, my goal always here at Death Wish Coffee was to keep things pretty simple. Keep things simple, just have one product. Focus on that one product and then go broad with the market. By market I mean go broad with just kind of start at the center and grow our customer base with that one product. Once we got to a very comfortable point with our customer base, then we can start diving deep into the product line. So do we have anything on the table yet? No. We're still kind of broadening our market. But once it's to a point where we're comfortable with, we're going to start diving deep into the product line. I think at that point we're going to see ... You may see, I don't want to make any promises.
Mike Brown: So yes, some different blends from Death Wish Coffee.
Jeff: I mean, we've dipped our toes into that already with the Barrel Brand Coffee that we do. I got it. Also our collaboration with Zakk Wylde and making Valhalla Java. I like that this company, even though we have a single vision as to, like you said, to really put out the best product that we can and make it as simple as possible, that we're willing to not put any idea off the table. I think that's cool.
Mike Brown: Yeah, I change my mind a lot.
Jeff: That's true.
Mike Brown: A lot. Too much. Some would say.
Dustin: Now I know we talked to some experts and I remember reading some advice about doing maybe a caramel roast. I'm very curious on what something with our coffee because they were really impressed with our coffee and the quality of it. They were suggesting maybe a caramel roast would bring out the best flavors of the beans that we have. That would be something that you would be interested in at least researching.
Mike Brown: Yeah. We just actually started working with one of the top coffee experts actually. She was just in here not long ago.
Dustin: She was awesome.
Mike Brown: Yeah, and she's very knowledgeable. Her main objective is to come into coffee companies, coffee roasters, and to look at their equipment and make slight adjustments to bring out the best in everything that we're doing in the ... The best taste of the coffee, the freshness of the coffee. Basically an all encompassing quality improvement, but you're not going to notice a giant change. But she says, "Hey, I think that I can tweak this enough where it's going to be even better than it is now."
Jeff: It's exciting.
Mike Brown: It's really exciting.
Dustin: I was mostly like ... I was kind of taken aback by how much she liked our coffee. She was like not much smoke in it she said for a dark roast. It was a very clean bean. It tested really well. It's like I know it's good. I know it's good. I drink it all the time. I feel like I have ... Even though I work for the company, I have an unbiased perspective on my taste for coffee and I know we're freaking awesome. But hearing it verified by one of the experts is kind of like makes me puff out my chest.
Mike Brown: Oh, me too.
Dustin: It's kind of cool.
Dustin: Let's me know we're on the right track.
Mike Brown: Yeah. Just quality control. She's got some great ideas that once we implement here and we're in the process of implementing them right now. It's just going to improve our efficiencies not the word, consistency. Consistency and our flavor.
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Speaking back on some of the community questions, a lot of the questions stem around our products and our merchandise. I kind of want to rapid fire through some of these just to get your actual answer on some of these. It can be like a yes or a no or a no comment if you'd like.
Mike Brown: I'm one of those. I'm not a yes or a no person. I'm a yeah, let's think about that for a while. That's usually unless it's a hell no or a hell yes, I'm usually like, oh, let's think about that. Maybe. Where's the data?
Mike Brown: Show me the numbers. I'll try. I'll try.
Jeff: So first of all, I didn't even know this was a thing. I had to look it up, but a lot of people were asking this question. Do we have ever any plan or idea to make a larger K-Cup? I didn't know that even existed.
Mike Brown: No, not right now. They have actually a larger K-Cup for ... You can brew like a carafe.
Jeff: Like a whole carafe of it.
Mike Brown: Like a carafe. It's like a six cupper. I've seen in those in the past. I mean, no. I don't have a plan to make those. But I've see these and I'm not going to make these either, but I was in San Francisco I think and they had these Keurig pods that were about the size ... They would make coffee for an entire company, and these were about the size of ... They looked like a Keurig pod about the size of a bucket.
Jeff: Oh my God. We should just make one of those. That'd be amazing.
Mike Brown: Yeah, maybe.
Dustin: We could do a Death Wish challenge where you have to drink all the bucket of coffee yourself.
Jeff: Oh, I love it.
Mike Brown: I like it.
Jeff: I love it.
Mike Brown: I don't want to take it off the table, but no.
Jeff: Okay. Kind of on that respect, another question that came across as do you have any idea, plan, or want to do any kind of franchising or licensing like with let's say the energy drink side or that kind of thing with the brand itself? Do you ever want to do anything like that?
Mike Brown: We do similar things now with our Rad Soap Company. We have the Death Wish soap. We have the Death Wish vodka. We have some ...
Dustin: Beard balm.
Mike Brown: Yeah, we have the beard balm. We have the candles. There's a few things out there or we do like a co-branding thing with they use our product in their product. Mostly local companies up here in upstate New York. Do I have any ... No, I don't have any plans to ... There's nothing on the table to do any.
Jeff: Any more.
Mike Brown: Any more. Yeah. I mean, to me it's I like it because ... Especially if it's with a company here in the community, I think it's a great community builder. It's a great piece of conversation. I mean, we're always open to ideas. Who knows.
Jeff: Stemming out of that question, another question that was brought up by a few of the members who I think are local as well. Now that unfortunately Old Saratoga has closed their doors. Do we ever have the idea of maybe doing another beer collaboration in local sense?
Mike Brown: Yeah, that was a fun project.
Jeff: It really was. I loved those beers.
Dustin: They were good.
Mike Brown: Yeah, they were good. There's always beer in the office, which was a little risky but it was great to take some home. Nothings in the works right now. We have talked with a couple companies, but nothings in the works right now.
Jeff: All right.
Mike Brown: So it's ... I don't know. It was fun. It's one of those products where it's not a ... I don't know. I don't know how to say it. I don't hang my hat on it. I don't depend on it. As a business, we don't depend on that business.
Jeff: It's more fun than it is ...
Mike Brown: It's more fun. Yeah, we can have a good time with it. The teams involved and it really helps build the brand. Does something good for people. I think that's a win. Yeah.
Dustin: That makes sense. What about more Valhalla Java merchandise?
Jeff: We get a lot of questions for that. People want hoodies. People want flags. People want more merchandise with that, and I wanted you to speak a little bit just about maybe as to why we're not doing that.
Mike Brown: Yeah, I mean, we definitely can. There's just an extra approval process. We need to reach out to Zakk Wylde and make sure we get his approval. With that, he's very into the brand, which is great, and he's very active in the brand. He helps with all the design. So sometimes it's kind of like the extra bottleneck in the process. That's not a bad thing. He wants to have his interest shown on the products.
Dustin: We want his stamp of approval.
Mike Brown: Oh yeah. We want his stamp of approval.
Jeff: I think it's way better than working with somebody who's like, "Ah, do whatever."
Mike Brown: Exactly. Yeah. So I mean, there's just some give and take there. It just takes a little bit longer. But yeah, I think that's on us as well. We need to reach out to him more and throw ideas at him and then kind of get that back and forth going. Because right now I don't think we have a ton of back and forth going in terms of new product development on the merchandise side. But yeah, definitely.
Jeff: Cool. Then two products that we've done that are constantly being brought up and I'd love for you to answer it to the community at large. First being our Nespresso pods, which we did try and are we still going to do that? Are we going to come out with a new product?
Mike Brown: Those Nespresso pods, I think it had a three and a half, it had under a four star review on Amazon. I think even on our website. So as a company we just bit the bullet there and just scrapped them, threw them all out. We're not going to put out a product that's not the best possible product. So they are under a redesign right now. Looks like we have a potential test product that will be ... We probably won't even release it. It'll probably just be sent out to some former customers ... Not former customers, customers who had purchased those cups in the past. We'll have them test them, make sure they're good to go, and then we'll release it. It will happen, but ...
Jeff: Taking our time with it.
Mike Brown: Yeah. We want to take our time with it.
Dustin: I'm sure there's a ton of people right now going, "I'll do it!"
Jeff: Yeah, of course.
Dustin: "I'll test it." Those Nespresso pods were great.
Dustin: I mean, I personally loved them. They made a great shot of espresso. But yeah, there are some complications with developing a new item like that. If there's any hiccup along the way, we don't want to put out a subpar product whatsoever. So it's a no brainer just to pull it all back, figure it out, rerelease when we know everything is in the right place.
Jeff: Yeah. Then on that same vein, another product that I know is in the works, and I'd like for you to talk a little bit on is we are going to be doing another cold brew.
Mike Brown: Yeah. Yeah, I've been drinking so much cold brew the past ...
Jeff: Testing, testing, testing.
Mike Brown: Yeah, a lot of testing. I've visited some amazing facilities, learned the trade secrets on getting this cold brew perfect, and it's coming. I'd say I don't want to ... I'd say probably by the end of August. I know I initially last year I promised the first quarter. But we're way past that now.
Jeff: Again ...
Dustin: It's one of those things again, yeah, we don't want to put out a subpar product by any means. Since we had a hiccup to begin with, we dot all of our i's and crossed all of our t's and made sure we come out with the best possible Death Wish cold brew that we could ever brew.
Mike Brown: Yeah. I think it will be. I think it's going to be a dynamite product. Might be a little different. Maybe a little different style can. We'll see.
Jeff: We'll see.
Mike Brown: We have some options. But yeah, I'm excited for it.
Jeff: I'm excited for it too. Speaking of exciting things on the horizon, this is something I really wanted to dive into. Since last year, the company has grown a lot. I mean, a company grows every single year. But just since the last ... When we had you on the show last year until now, such growth has happened. One of those biggest things is we are getting into retail now. We are just about ... In fact, no, I think as this episode's coming out we are now in 1600 Walmart stores across the nation and a handful of other grocery outlets on the East Coast and on the West Coast. What is that been like from the owner of the company? Is it exciting? Is it nerve racking?
Mike Brown: It's a little of both. I think at five years, my goal was never to hey, have Death Wish Coffee in every Walmart.
Mike Brown: That wasn't the goal, but we received such great response and we found out that Death Wish resonates with so many different types of customers that it just seemed like a good decision. We have such a broad market and customers from all walks of life love Death Wish Coffee. There's Walmart's everywhere. You can't escape them. But yeah, last year in 2017, Walmart actually shot me an email. They're like, "Hey, we recognize your product as an up and comer," and invited Eric and I down to Bentonville, Arkansas. So I actually got to go to Walmart headquarters.
Jeff: The Walmart.
Mike Brown: The Walmart. I met the CEO of Walmart. I met ...
Jeff: Mr. Walmart.
Mike Brown: The coffee buyer of Walmart. It was a cool experience. Walmart right now, they're doing a American at Work program or Made in the USA program. They're calling it by two names. Actually I think the hashtags Made In USA, the programs called America at Work. But they've dedicated or put aside $15 billion to reinvest back into American manufacturing.
Mike Brown: They've invited thousands of businesses down to their open call event. They've been doing this for the last two years I believe. They get them all together, all these businesses together, and basically you walk into a room. It's almost like Shark Tank style. You're in this small room and you have 15 minutes to ... I think it's less than 15 minutes. It was a couple months ago. It was a short period of time, and you had to pitch your product to the buyer. They could either give you a green slip that meant you're good to go or a red slip basically like fuck off or you can get a maybe. We got the maybe. The maybe was basically they told us we're not resetting our coffee set for a while. So sit tight. We did. We sat tight. This wholesale building, business building, it's a new beast for me. It's a lot slower. It's a lot more about building a relationship with the buyer, not necessarily your customer. It's kind of like who you know. If you know some guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who runs the coffee buying, you're in. I guess with Walmart it wasn't the case. We just got that invite.
But yeah, it was stressful. We left and we're like ... I don't know. We didn't even know how we felt about it. We knew it was a great experience. It was a lesson learned. We had never done a pitch like that before. But I guess it was successful. I mean, in hindsight it was very successful. At the time, it was just like, "Wow. Walmart's pretty cool."
Jeff: What do you think about production wise how it's going to effect the company? Do you think is this another Superbowl situation? I've actually heard that exact question from some of our community members. Are we looking at a huge scale up because of all of this retail or are we prime to take it on?
Mike Brown: Have you guys had Tim on the podcast yet?
Jeff: Not yet.
Mike Brown: Tim. As our company grows, we actually brought in Tim. He's our new CFO. Our old CFO is me. I thought I was good. I'm not good. Tim is good.
Dustin: Tim's a fucking wizard, seriously. He needs a wizard hat and a wand.
Jeff: Some call me Tim.
Mike Brown: But he's amazing. So yeah, with Tim's help and guidance, we've run capacity in house is on our business to see exactly that. Can we do what we're promising these customers that we can do? We can. According to Tim we can. I mean, don't get me wrong. Could things run smoother? I think with every manufacturing company things can run quite a bit smoother. But the capacities there. The capacities there. Yeah, we'll store up some things. We're also working with some third party partners that help us, especially on the packaging side for all these single serve cups. So it's not like they're being done on our small 60 cup per minute machines. We're working with the best companies in the business to produce a product that they can do with multi-million dollar machines and equipment and make sure it's on point and 100% perfect. The testing process at these facilities is unbelievable. The amount of people removed because of the automation, you would be like, "Oh, okay. I see how ..." I don't even see how this is good for a manufacturing, but then if you walk to the end of the line, and the amount of people testing the product and making sure the product is perfect blows my mind.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Mike Brown: Yeah. It's like they move the labor from packing to testing.
Jeff: To testing.
Mike Brown: Yeah, it's good news for the consumer.
Jeff: That's cool. I mean, we must be in a very unique position now as Death Wish Coffee because even with the third party companies that we're working with, we are still only a company of 30 employees who can also say in the same breath that we are the number on selling coffee on Amazon and are about to be in 2,000 retail locations in America. I would hazard a bet that there's not another company out there that can have that same sentence come out of their mouth.
Mike Brown: Yeah, I believe we've fulfilled our first PO, our purchase order. We fulfilled almost 30 days early.
Mike Brown: Thanks to Dustin. That was mostly Dustin.
Dustin: The amazing ...
I earned that title.
Jeff: That's really cool. Speaking on the growth of the company, this actually stems from a question from the community as well. The goal obviously is always to put out the best product possible, but it's also to grow your company as much as you can. Just within the last year, the last couple years, have you found the growth of this company to be manageable or do you think it's gotten away from you at times or is it a rollercoaster kind of thing?
Mike Brown: Well, we have a great team, thank God, that handles it really well. I've always told people my goal is not to have the biggest coffee company in the world. That's not it. I want the best coffee company in the world. With that comes the best team. The best team makes ... The team makes the company. So as we grow as a team, that's where you're going to see the company grow into these different markets and different products. I don't know if I got too far away from the question right there.
Jeff: No, I think that's exactly ...
Mike Brown: As the team grows and gets better, the company can grow. But no, we're not getting ahead of ourselves.
Jeff: The second part of this question was this company started out ...
Mike Brown: Somebody write down the date and time I said that.
Jeff: I will. I will. No, we got that timestamp. As this company started out, I mean, God, in the basement of Coffee Traders, as you were one on one basis with your customer and as it grew, you always held that in the highest regard possible as really listening and keeping attention to the customer base of the product that you're creating. Are you afraid of losing that feel as the company grows bigger? Of losing the group of fans, the community members that you've built from that ground up?
Mike Brown: Oh yeah. I think I'm always afraid of losing that. I love that. That's one of my favorite parts. Do I get a chance to go on social media as much as I used to to interact with people and say what's up? No. Luckily, a lot of our customers stop in now. I think I went to lunch with CJ twice last month, which is nice. I went to ... I see DD all the time. She swings down.
Jeff: Swear to God. I'm going to become a cupcake.
Mike Brown: I know.
Jeff: The amount of cupcakes she brings.
Mike Brown: I mean, personally, I will always ... I'm going to make sure to always set time aside to pay attention to what the customers are saying.
Dustin: So that close customer care is always part of the game plan as far as Death Wish goes.
Mike Brown: Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad you guys brought that up. It's something for me to even rethink about. You know what I mean? Because things do get busy. I'm in meetings all day long. Everyone is. The thing about it is we get caught working on pieces of the business that are very internal. Yesterday, for instance, I spent ... No, the day before yesterday, I spent all day working on a business continuity plan. Sounds really exciting. It's basically backups to if our plan doesn't work, what's the backup. If something bad happens here, where do we go.
Dustin: That's been fun.
Mike Brown: Yeah. I'm working with Dustin a lot on that. Right. It's kind of like if plan A doesn't work, what's plan B. How do we make sure that we can continue to deliver value. But while I'm doing that, I'm not able to get online and interact with everyone and see what's going on and hear what they think about our latest pin release, which I think there was a little bit of like ... Actually, I did hear that. People didn't love the ... Some people didn't love the pin release. The $75 purchase to get it. I thought we were doing two things there.
Dustin: No comment.
Jeff: We're trying new things.
Dustin: Mike, I'm not in marketing.
Mike Brown: We might cut this piece out.
Jeff: No, no. I mean, we are always trying new things. But what that shows is even though you're busy, you're still trying to listen to the community.
Dustin: You're still ear to the ground.
Jeff: Yeah. I think that ...
Mike Brown: Message heard. I heard it. Yes, I'm going to bring it up at our next meeting. Pin set, that pin set was cool. Should you have to spend $75 to get it, eh. I mean, I understand what the business side point of it, but from the consumer, from the customer side, from the community side even, eh, that's probably not the best decision. I would love for ...
Dustin: Mike fighting for the people, man.
Jeff: Well, I think that's what great about this company too is like again it's the idea that we'll try any idea. That was an idea that we had when we tried. We're taking the feedback back from it. If we do another pin set, we'll probably release it in a completely different way because we're going to adapt and grow, that continuity plan. Okay, plan A didn't work. What's plan B? We figure that out from there. I think that's really, really cool.
Dustin: So one thing that we talked about a little bit here, we haven't seen much from yet, is the new Death Wish mobile, which is this giant, giant ...
Jeff: 400 feet long.
Dustin: Truck. Which is pretty much a stand of the art café on wheels, which is amazing. Where do you see this thing going? Where do you want to bring this thing? What do you want to do with this giant Death Wish mobile?
Mike Brown: I love talking to the team and they're like, "Mike, sometimes you give us the hardest time over the smallest expense." I swear I argued for an hour with Kane and Warren and Eric about a table, like a $40 table. Right? I wouldn't pull the trigger on this table because I thought, "Last time you guys said you needed a table, I got you a table, and you said that's the only table we'd need. Now we need another one." Anyways, dumbest thing ever. Then other times I'll pull the trigger or give the go ahead on a $100,000 coffee truck without really having a plan in mind. All I knew is we had a truck before, and ...
Dustin: Not very safe.
Mike Brown: But we used it.
Jeff: It was the scariest rides I'd ever ridden in.
Mike Brown: It was $5,000, and we got our $5,000 use out of it.
Dustin: Sure did.
Jeff: Probably more.
Dustin: Yeah. Way more.
Mike Brown: Then since we didn't have it anymore, I mean, we technically have it, but since we couldn't use it anymore, the next logical step in my warped mind at that time was to buy the greatest coffee truck we can find so we can use it for all these events that we don't really have planned. But I think the plan probably is to start scheduling these events. There's Comic Con. So there's one event.
Dustin: Oh yeah.
Mike Brown: That's not going to be enough to pay it off. But there's some local things we go to. We do trade shows, and I was talking to Kane about possibly getting this truck onto the trade show floors.
Mike Brown: If it looks nice enough.
Jeff: I mean, this truck is brand new. Like you said, it's going to be state of the art. We're going to have filtration systems in it and cooling and heating and ...
Dustin: A slayer.
Jeff: A slayer espresso machine. It's going to have all the bells and whistles. Able to sell coffee and merchandise out of it.
Dustin: I think you'll be able to buy merchandise online through the truck.
Jeff: Do you see us eventually taking this truck around the country?
Mike Brown: Why not? We've been talking about getting an event team together for doing just that. I mean, we're not going to show up at Bar Mitzvahs or anything or weddings. But we will show up ...
Jeff: You never know. Tomorrow Mike could change his mind on that. So you never know.
Mike Brown: No, we are planning and hitting events around, definitely around town to start. Then probably around New York. We'll probably branch out around the northeast, and eventually once we ... With everything, you need to get systems and processes in place. So we don't make mistakes or do anything incorrect that could get us in trouble. So once we have all those details worked out, I think that opens up the door to traveling further and further with this truck.
Jeff: Cool. Because I know as soon as we announced that we were coming out with a new Death Wish mobile, the community at large has just been like, "Well, I live here. Come visit me." I think all 50 states want us to come there. So I mean, I'm in.
Mike Brown: Did you guys hear what Amazon did? Amazon has a truck that like basically goes from town to town and it's just ... If you see it drive by, you can I think you can go online and order products directly from the truck.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. It's like the greatest ice cream man in the world.
Mike Brown: Yes. It's basically an Amazon ... It's an Amazon ice cream truck, but no ice cream but just ...
Jeff: I don't know. It's Amazon. There could be ice cream on there.
Mike Brown: Yeah. That's true. that's true.
Jeff: Wow. That's incredible.
Dustin: So it's been almost a year since we've had you on the show. Has it been a year?
Jeff: It's been over a year.
Dustin: It's been over a year. Has there been anything surprising or challenging that has happened within this past year?
Mike Brown: I feel like I'm challenged every day, not in a bad way, a good way. It's fun. It's always dynamic. Something to do, something to tackle. The recall wasn't a walk in the park. After that we had just about every regulatory agency in the country swing by to pay us a quick visit.
Jeff: Made a lot of new friends.
Mike Brown: Yeah, but we got through it with flying colors. No, we weren't trying to hide anything. We want to put out the best product possible.
Jeff: We just locked John's office.
Mike Brown: We held ourselves a very high standards. But that was a process getting through that and making sure we had all our ducks in a row. Right now we're undertaking an SQF initiative, and that's a Safe Quality Food initiative. This is a program that basically the safest food companies on the planet, this is the standard they're held to. Not many coffee roasters have this right now. Actually, when I was out visiting other coffee roasters, which I do from time to time just to make friends in the industry, I visited a large coffee plant out in Wisconsin. They had a sign that says they were one of 12 SQF level three coffee facilities in the United States. So there was only 12. This is the initiative we're undertaking right now. It's giant. I mean, I've read through the manual three times now, and luckily a lot of the stuff is stuff we already do, but there's a lot of processes we need to put in on top of that. So the whole premise, not to bore everyone to death. But the whole premise of this program is to write down what you're going to do, do what you say you're going to do, and then prove that you did what you just did. So it's a lot of paperwork. A lot of paperwork.
Jeff: It's checks and balances to make sure that it's as safe as possible.
Dustin: Like you said earlier, we're looking to be the best coffee company, not necessarily the biggest. This is one of the things you have to become the best coffee company.
Mike Brown: Yeah. World class. We're beyond the top level.
Dustin: It it were easy, every coffee company would do it.
Mike Brown: Right.
Dustin: It's not. We're doing it.
Jeff: Yeah. We're going to head into this year and into next year, is there anything that you're looking forward to that isn't a secret that we can talk about?
Dustin: Or maybe a secret that we can talk about?
Mike Brown: Yeah. What are we looking ... I mean, so we went over the coffee truck. Let me think about this for a second. Went over the cold brew. We went over ... Let's see what else. SQF. That's very exciting though. It's just paperwork. Yeah, we're growing, which is great. We're going to have some new hires coming in soon. Moving into tons of wholesale stores, which we went over as well.
Jeff: That's exciting.
Mike Brown: I mean, I've been looking for the last three years for a Death Wish's basic headquarters. Right now we're in a warehouse park, which is great. We have about ... Actually, we just leased out another 3,000 square feet to increase our footprint in this facility, but I've been looking to build. I've been looking to build a place for the last three years now. Yeah. There's just I've had very promising locations pop up, but haven't pulled the trigger on any of them. That's still a search in progress. I have been hearing of some and working on some very promising leads, which may or may not happen. Different industry and I'm very green there. So luckily I've surrounded myself with a bunch of people who are experts on the construction side, on the real estate side, on the land development side, on the ... Yeah, lots of people I got to know and outside of coffee to make this move and to do it the right way.
Mike Brown: Yeah, once it does happen, man that's going to be exciting.
Jeff: That is going to be exciting.
Dustin: To put you on a little bit on the spot for this situation, if you had to put your money on it, how long do you think it is before we're in a facility like that?
Mike Brown: My goal has always been August 2019. Eh. It still could happen.
Dustin: Would you put your money on it?
Mike Brown: I wouldn't put my money on it.
Mike Brown: I wouldn't put my money on it. I'd say at least two years.
Jeff: 2018 is getting pretty done pretty quick.
Mike Brown: Yeah. It's not like I haven't been working on it. I've been ... It's daily. I was working on it this morning sending out emails.
Mike Brown: But who knows. Sometimes that's the way these things happen. It's really slow up front and once we get our claws in something, it happens almost over night. We'll see. I do have some very exciting, promising leads that if they happen, I think we'll be some big news.
Dustin: Personally, to me it sounds like mega.
Jeff: Yeah. Can't wait.
Mike Brown: Yeah. It's going to be fun.
Jeff: It's going to be exciting.
Mike Brown: Been saving up for it.
Jeff: Finally, I want to go back to what we talked about in the beginning. I mean, we are an avid reader of what you enjoy, which is the business that you created and you read a lot about how to make the best coffee company that you can. Just like you said. What would be advice that you would give to somebody out there wanting to start their own business?
Mike Brown: I just talked to a group of 11th and 12th graders.
Mike Brown: At the local high school. No one asked that.
Jeff: Well, they asked the wrong questions.
Mike Brown: Yeah, no one asked that. But I'm ready for it. I think I am ready for it. I would say if you are comfortable being uncomfortable, especially initially, I think then go for it. If you're not comfortable being uncomfortable, maybe you want to kind of tiptoe your way into it very slowly and see what you an handle. Because it's not a hobby. I've heard this before. I didn't make it up and you know it. If you treat it like a hobby, it's going to pay you like a hobby. It's usually going to pay you nothing. If you treat it like a job, it'll eventually pay you like a job. I treat this like a job. I wake up, first thing do I get to work. I work ... I mean, I don't want to toot my own horn, but I work a lot.
Jeff: You do.
Mike Brown: It never shuts off.
Dustin: Getting email on Sundays from me.
Mike Brown: Whenever I have free time, even on the weekends, I try to get into it. So yeah, I mean, if you can do that ... I mean, luckily I don't have any kids right now. I shouldn't say luckily, but I don't have any kids right now. I'm not married. I have a girlfriend I live with. Long term girlfriend. I love her a lot, but she's not demanding. She's the most laid back, cool person ever. So she gives me time to work on the business as much as I want. She has her own friends and does her own stuff so it's great. Yeah, so I mean, I'm not saying you need to be there, but be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Jeff: I think that's good. Throwing that back to the first time that you were on the show, something that always stuck with me was you said that one of the reasons why you work so hard and why you do a lot of reading and stuff is because you feel if you take the time ... You said if you're not learning something, somebody else is learning something.
Mike Brown: God, you're right. I'm so competitive. That's what I think. If I'm not doing it, somebody else is.
Jeff: Then you are now second and not first.
Mike Brown: When you said that, I got a knot in my stomach. It's so true.
Jeff: That stuck with me. That really did. I've put that into my own work practices. It's like if I take ... I could take this time to not maybe put the work in, but if I do put the work in, I'm going to be that much ahead of whoever else is doing it. I think if you're starting your own business, that's something to strive for.
Mike Brown: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, it takes over your life but in a good way. I'm very happy. I'm very happy. I don't have as many hobbies as I probably should.
Dustin: But we have a lot of fun here.
Mike Brown: We do have a lot of fun.
Dustin: A lot of fun. Sometimes I look back and see salesmen coming in to talk to us, and we're here having fun. It must be such a spectacle to them because they're going into business after business after business talking to schlep after schlep, and they walk in and we're cheering around a table doing whatever we're doing. Whether it be ping pong or dice games, whatever it is. It's just ...
Mike Brown: That's all that Emily thinks I do at work. She's like, "Can you pick up the dog?" I'm like, "No, I'm working." She's like, "Yeah, but just call time out on the ping pong." "No, that's not what I'm doing."
Dustin: I would say that you're one of the best ping pong, probably the best ping pong ball player here. You play it the least. I don't see you on the table that often.
Mike Brown: Yeah, I don't play. I used to play a lot when I was a kid. Every day after school I would play as a kid. I got good as a kid. Now I'm okay. But yeah, I get beat daily. Someone beats me daily that's for sure.
Jeff: Makes you better.
Dustin: But nonetheless, it's like yeah, you might have a few less hobbies, but it's fucking wonderful here.
Jeff: It is.
You've created a monster.
Dustin: You don't need many ... I mean, I certainly have less hobbies from working here, and I don't fucking mind because the amount of things I get to do from this job outweighed any hobby I'd be doing on my own.
Dustin: So it's the juice is worth the squeeze, man.
Mike Brown: That's true.
Mike Brown: That's true. I do wake up in the morning and I'm just like, "All right. I can't wait to get in." I never used to say that when I was an accountant. It wasn't like, "God, can't wait to get into work and get going."
Jeff: Get accounting.
Mike Brown: Exactly.
Dustin: I still remember my last day as a or one of my last days as a dental lab technician. I was trying to leave for work but I was just sitting on the couch like head in my hands just like, "I don't think I can do this anymore. I can't. It's just so boring." I was just so unhappy. I remember that day very vividly, and looking back on that now, it's very obvious that I made the right choice.
Mike Brown: Plus unlimited coffee.
Jeff: Yeah. Can't beat that. Can't beat that.
Mike Brown: It doesn't suck.
Dustin: Well, Mike, thanks for taking the time for sitting with us and spilling your guts about the coffee company.
Mike Brown: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me.
Jeff: Hell yeah.
Mike Brown: We have to make it sooner than every like year.
Jeff: All right.
Dustin: I'm all about that.
Jeff: All right. Every other episode will be a Mike Brown episode.
Mike Brown: No, not every other.
Dustin: Welcome to the Mike Brown Show.
Jeff: All right. Thank you.