Bo Nelson is a homegrown Kansas Citian, whose blend of rural and urban life experience reflects the city he serves. Bo grew up on a farm, working his family’s 10-acre nursery where he honed horticultural skills, learned business basics, and developed a hard work ethic that is evident in everything he does.
Bo traveled the world, but felt the call back home, inspired to put his mark on the culture of the city he loves. Bo started Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters in 2012, built upon the idea that communities grow through connections and conversations over a good drink.
Fresh specialty coffee in the morning and truly inspired cocktails in the evening, Thou Mayest is named in reference to a passage from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the shop’s design/atmosphere is equal parts Jacques Cousteau, Frank Zappa and the Boy Scouts of America. One visit and it’s evident that Bo has created a magnetic space that is itself alive, gathering people of all backgrounds and interests to have a drink and foster collaboration – with the intention of not just changing Kansas City for the better, but also the state, country and world.
Brad Burrow: Hi, this is Brad Burrow. I’m with Bo Nelson today. This is In a World with Real Media podcast. Thanks for joining us today Bo.
Bo Nelson: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Brad Burrow: So you have a very, very interesting background. I want to get into all of that and just hear, can you just tell us your story up to the point where you are right now? Doesn’t have to be real long, but I’d love to hear how did you get to where you are now? What brought you to the place where you are?
Bo Nelson: Yeah, so I was born and raised here in Kansas City. A little bit outside of the city limits. Come from a small entrepreneurial family that just instilled work ethic. I call them sandbox rules, just how to treat people. Not complicated, but it can be a known across the entire world. Hey, when you look somebody in the eye or when you shake their hands. How to do unto others. So that was just a really hammered into us pretty young. Went to Maranatha Academy in Shawnee, then went to Johnson County Community College afterwards. Played soccer for them for two years.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Bo Nelson: Yeah. Walked onto the team and that was a crazy experience. Wasn’t really planning on doing that. Really trying to get serious about school and about trying to transition from sports into academics. Had always been a good student, but I was just, I’m not going to be a pro athlete and I was pretty honest with myself about that. And then it was well, I’m going to start getting into school. Got into architecture through landscape architecture. My family runs, the entrepreneurial business they have is called family tree nursery. And so I grew up around plants. I know my plant material and I just needed to learn design.
Bo Nelson: Well, I got in design and I just fell in love with these characters like Frank Gehry, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn, and just these great architects. We call them starchitects. They’re these star designers. And a lot of their thinking and their philosophy and just how they took their approach about how they took art and made it practical for people. There was something about that, that I was like that’s really cool. So I just stored that away. I got to travel a little bit. Spent a lot of time over in Zimbabwe, Africa and South Africa. Just changed my life.
Brad Burrow: What were you doing there in Africa?
Bo Nelson: Yeah, I was visiting … One of my best friends, he lives over in Zimbabwe.
Brad Burrow: Really?
Bo Nelson: Yeah. Just serial, venture capital entrepreneur.
Brad Burrow: Really?
Bo Nelson: Yeah. And he just invited me to come over school and I got there. It shook me up pretty good.
Brad Burrow: That’s a life changing event right there.
Bo Nelson: It is, because it makes you question a lot of the things that you think are important or the things that we call it first world problems. It’s for real. And people would be, “So and so cut me off and now I’m having a horrible day.” And I’m like, “You have a house, you have food, you have the bare necessities.”
Brad Burrow: We all need to go do that don’t we?
Bo Nelson: Yeah, just a wake up call, and that’s what started the wake up call. And then I leaned into that a little bit more and just really went through my existential crisis probably in my mid twenties. By my late twenties, that’s when came back from Africa trying to get involved with the family business, but just struggling to find my place in that. And just roasting coffee on the side while we’d have these conversations in the garage, just talking. We were brewing our own beer and we had a 4,000 square foot garden, and chickens, and rabbits. I just graduated from college. It took me a little bit longer and mostly because of the ’08 crash that happened. I think I graduated in five or five and a half years. I took a year off in the middle just to go back and help the family on the farm.
Brad Burrow: That probably really impacted your family’s business.
Bo Nelson: It did, but it was just another wake up call. It’s been, these past 10 years have almost been a series of wake up calls starting from high school. And it was just what are you doing? I feel like that’s what … The message I keep getting is are you alive? And what are you doing? How do we do this better?
Bo Nelson: So I think those were the questions that started over in Africa. Why am I here? Because if I’m going back to Kansas City, I experienced some of the best wine, some of the most amazing food and drink in South Africa, not to mention 10% of the world’s horticulture is in South Africa. Not to mention just one of the most unbelievable, Cape Town, one of the most unbelievable world towns you’ll ever visit. It’s just gorgeous. You fall in love with it. The people there are so friendly and hospitable. Like that Midwest modesty, but somewhere else in the globe. “Hey, come on over. Come join our barbecue.”
Brad Burrow: Really?
Bo Nelson: Yeah, just everybody opened up their house. I could have spent probably a straight year over there and not had a place to stay because of how many people are just, “Yeah, just come stay with us for a few days.” It just blew me away. So yeah. So coming back, it messed me up. Just experiencing that different culture shock, and roasting coffee in the garage while we talked about that.
Brad Burrow: By the way, that coffee is really good.
Bo Nelson: Thank you. We’re drinking, it’s called Smooth Operator, it’s a coffee out of Brazil. I thought it was fitting for you.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, I feel like I’m at home. Yeah, baby.
Bo Nelson: Yeah, gets you going.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Keep going, I interrupted.
Bo Nelson: No. So we were just roasted in the garage and just asking a bunch of questions. And I think the most serious one that really kicked this whole, I’m going to call it a project off, was I wonder if we can get paid to do this. And we call it a jobby. It’s your hobby that turns into a job.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. It’s kind of the same with me actually.
Bo Nelson: Yeah, right? Yeah. And it’s like pinching yourself sometimes where am I doing this? We’re really doing it. You kind of pinch yourself just ’cause this is the dream. This is what the culture, the American dream. What has been sold to me and my generation, I found it in a very different way. I found it through work, I found it through hardship. I found it through wanting it. And that means you have to hold on. That means you have to fight. That means you have to wrestle. That means you have to get after it. And that’s not a really popular message right now. The popular message is, “Hey, you’re all going to be movie gods and rockstars someday. Just get your Instagram numbers up, and you’ll go viral someday.”
Bo Nelson: And that’s just not the reality of it. And that’s the message of the [inaudible 00:07:01] that me and my friend at the time who was moving through on his way from Florida to Portland to be a coffee roaster. He’s the one that introduced me to coffee. His name’s Bill [inaudible 00:07:12]. We were both also decompressing from a pretty intense spiritual on our way towards ministry background. And both of us took a hard left out of that and we were just like this is not for us. We were trying to decompress off of that because it was really, really intense and we were just trying to … Let’s get back to the middle.
Bo Nelson: We’d been really extreme with our viewpoints. So that’s where a lot of these conversations just all simultaneously happened. And a bunch of, the way I describe it is just cosmic serendipity of the right people coming in at the right place at the right time. It just kind of happened, and it was good.
Brad Burrow: So tell me about the name Thou Mayest. Where’d that come from?
Bo Nelson: It’s from a John Steinbeck book called East of Eden. So while we were in the garage, we would just read books and then we’d compare notes with each other. So Bill and I, he was the first one when I came back from Africa. I remember he was working at the greenhouse. My dad had hired him and I was one of the greenhouse managers. He and I got stuck doing some really monotonous, mundane project. We got to just spend a lot of time talking. I assumed he was just another employee moving through. So I wasn’t really paying attention until we started talking and we were talking about deconstructivism. We were talking about existentialism. We were talking about, these, I came out of this heavy academic going towards academic scholarship with Biblical studies. That was the direction. Hermeneutics speaking and making sure that I knew my Hebrew and my Greek. It was intense.
Bo Nelson: So the same rigor that we applied to that, we just applied to logic and philosophy and to business and to product. Why do people buy things? Why do you like this? I’m interested in that question. I’m really interested in what makes people tick. So the social psychology of commerce.
Bo Nelson: So it’s the blurring of the line between the digital side and the physical side, but also between … I love production and I love vertical integration. Not to get too crazy off on that, but I love being able to sell myself the product that then I then turn around and-
Brad Burrow: Have you ever done like a profile of your personality or anything like that?
Bo Nelson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: I’m picturing where you’re landing in some of those areas.
Bo Nelson: What do you think it is?
Brad Burrow: Well, I bet you’re high detail. And you’re high process and follow through. I happen to be high vision, but low follow through. So I need people to help me. I can think of great ideas, but following through is always a challenge for me.
Bo Nelson: I’m in this weird spot. Me and my business partner Bill talk about this. So to finish this story, this dude who just moving through who I wasn’t really paying attention to, we become business partners. Okay. So he moves up to Portland. So we’re sitting in this garage, we’re asking these-
Brad Burrow: That’s a long distance relationship right there.
Bo Nelson: Oh yeah. So it was one of those where we met, we were talking, he introduced coffee. I start roasting, he moves up to Portland. And I was wow, that’s that. We weren’t really talking about business. We just had this hypothetical joke that we would talk about. Coffee company that we would start someday.
Bo Nelson: So he moves up there. The crash happens, he moves back. And that’s when we really got serious. And that’s when he was like, “Hey, if I move back, you want to start this thing?” And I said, “Dude, there’s only one way to find out.”
Bo Nelson: And so he moved back. My wife and I who were friends at the time, we introduced her sister and him, and they fell in love and got married. And so he’s my brother in law now.
Brad Burrow: Oh my gosh.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. And we get along great.
Brad Burrow: It was destined to happen.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. And it’s one of those where we have such a deep friendship. We want to protect that and we’re very cognizant of-
Brad Burrow: Yeah, ’cause business can … It’s like marriage in some ways. It can ruin relationships.
Bo Nelson: But it can also be the most amazing thing in the world if you take it seriously and you really cultivate it and actually work on the relationship, it can be gorgeous.
Brad Burrow: The good thing is you’re going into it with your eyes wide open to that. That’s a big deal because most people are blindsided by it.
Bo Nelson: I want to continue showing up to family events. And I’m able to look him in the face. And this goes back to our original, it doesn’t really matter to me what people believe or why they believe it. It’s more about how do you treat others when you do that? Because I don’t really care what you call yourself or what labels you put on, or even other businesses for that matter. Listen Volkswagen, you can tell me that you’re being a green company. But gosh darn it, you just broke my trust. I will never buy a Volkswagen because of that whole scandal. Because I don’t trust them. So brands have got to start building trust with people. We have to start gaining that trust back.
Brad Burrow: Well especially as millennials, there’s more that they’re getting older, they’re getting into the buying cycle. That is one of the key things that brands need to be looking at. I’m glad you brought that up ’cause that’s what this podcast is about. Storytelling and brands. So how do you do that? As a coffee brand, how do you tell that story and how do you build that brand awareness?
Bo Nelson: We I’ll go back to and finish one of the questions you asked earlier because most of these questions are going to tie back to that. Thou Mayest comes from a John Steinbeck book called East of Eden, and we were sitting in the garage talking about this. What’s a Google?
Brad Burrow: What’s a Google?
Bo Nelson: It’s just a made up word, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Bo Nelson: But now it’s entered our vocabulary. How crazy is that?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Bo Nelson: Now it’s used as an adjective and adverb. That’s a cautionary tale for upcoming businesses. Does the name of your business actually matter? I don’t know. According to Google, no.
Brad Burrow: Nike.
Bo Nelson: Right. Just make up a word, it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, so as we were reading that book. It’s more about the why. This is before the Simon Sinek people don’t buy what you do. They find your why. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. Being able to articulate that. And I get it, you can beat that to death. But all I want to see is that the actual proof in the pudding. The business that actually follows through on the promises that it’s making and the trust that it’s building in me.
Bo Nelson: And all of a sudden, you start getting a few of these small wins. And this goes to entrepreneurship too. People are like how do I be an entrepreneur? I’m like, “What do you want to do? What tiny little goal do you have today? Make one sales call, just one. Then go to the park.” And they’re like, “Shouldn’t I be making 10?” I’m like, “Don’t be radical like I was.” And you go from these crazy extremes. Just get one little win. Today, you won. You crushed it today. You made that one sales call. They didn’t even buy anything. You did what you said you were going to do. And you just built a mental discipline loop. And then the next day you do two. And now that loop gets a little bigger and now you look at it a year later and you’re a freaking machine. And it’s like you had to build the muscle. Business is muscle.
Bo Nelson: You get little gains over long periods of time, and millennials do not want to hear that. Or I should say, sorry to generalize. I should say most people don’t want to hear that in general.
Brad Burrow: Well, it’s definitely a long process. We’ve been in business 21 years here, and have probably made every mistake that you can imagine making. But the biggest thing that we’ve done is what I call survive in advance. So we’ve been able to make it through the crash, through tremendous challenges from technology changing. So you talked about you’ve got buddies that are videographers. Well, when I started you had to have $100,000 camera. A half a million dollar editing suite to even compete. Now, for a couple grand you can go to Best Buy and buy everything you need to say, “I’m a video production company.”
Bo Nelson: They’re doing it on their iPhones. I’m like this is the future. They’re going to be producing all of it right here. That’s like probably me saying to you, it’s probably like Folgers. This is probably the Folgers of your world, I’m sure. But the fact that it’s like I end up consuming it. I don’t know any different. And it’s kind of like, and this is what I talk about a lot with business too. Because you’ll dive into some of the nuance here. “Oh man, I wouldn’t do that.” Then somebody goes viral on it. Same thing that I’m trying to preach about with coffee. It’s like, “No, no, no, take some time and like drink some nice coffee. It will reward you, whatever.” You’re like, “Yeah, but I just need to wake up. I don’t see what the value is. Or I don’t understand the dictionary that you’re talking to me in.”
Bo Nelson: So that same dictionary, all I try to do is try to synthesize dictionaries, whether it’s over language or whether it’s over business, or interdisciplinary. And I want to get around other people with very complicated or detailed dictionaries that really know some of the nuances of their dictionary. So whether it’s accounting, whether it’s audio. I’ve got so many questions about frequency, audio, and how that interacts with the vibrational energy of us.
Brad Burrow: See and that’s your personality profile coming through right there. Where I don’t care about those details, but I care about the emotion.
Bo Nelson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: When I’m doing a production project, I’m basing a lot of it on if it feels right to me. And if it feels right to me, it usually feels right for everybody else. Isn’t that funny?
Bo Nelson: Yeah. And I’m probably a little bit of a hybrid because what happened when people walked into our last shop, there was a deconstructive process that I was very intentional about creating because I had about preconceptions or about expectations that people would have. Walking into a specialty coffee shop that’s like walking into a specialty wine store, or a specialty cheese, or specialty beer, or specialty anything. Technology. And when they start talking to you, it is the most intimidating. You feel like you don’t know anything. If you’re not ready for that, you’ll just go inward and not talk. I just need something, whatever you want.
Brad Burrow: “I just wanted a cup of coffee.”
Bo Nelson: Right. And you’re just talking over their head about meters above sea level and Bourbon versus Tim Tim varietals of beans. And people are like, “I don’t know why that matters.” They just don’t see the same perspective and the same dictionary that you use to define. So that’s what our goal is to be around those other people so we can start crossing those lines more. So that we can start to grow that bubble out and out and out to be able to … We call it seducing people into coffee or showing leg. Wouldn’t you like to know why we’re tasting black cherry in this coffee? It’s pretty crazy how it got here. You’re going to taste flowers in this coffee. Not going to tell you which ones because we can identify these. But when you’re tasting lemon grass and milk chocolates, and all this stuff going together. Then it changes when it gets colder, and it’s this dynamic product that that just allows an ADD mind to just follow it all the way to the end.
Brad Burrow: So tell me, so this podcast I like to talk about storytelling a lot. That’s what we do here at Real Media. Tell us about your story. What Thou Mayest, it equinoxes. Am I saying that right?
Bo Nelson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: The story behind all of that. If I’m that person that you just described coming in and I’m like, “What is this place?” What’s the story that you would tell?
Bo Nelson: So the story is, yeah. So it starts with, and this is where I do think that some larger coffee companies did get this right? It starts more on your couch. It starts more in your bed. It starts more in the office when you’re sitting in your chair and you’re like, “Man, I’m dragging. I need that bump.” Or, I think for the next generation, it is, “I was going to the bathroom and I was scrolling on Instagram and I saw that you guys released a new drink today and I wanted to come down and check it out.” That for me, that sort of storytelling immediate instant dollars, money in the bank. Literal money in the bank when I post because people come down-
Brad Burrow: So you see that actually happening [crosstalk 00:20:38] you post something?
Bo Nelson: I’ll see it real time. And we’ve done a few of these experiments just to release one product only on one platform to make sure that I don’t want … We just have questions about again, why people are buying, what they’re buying, how they’re buying, what they feel when they buy. That’s informing the larger vision. The larger vision, the larger story is that we create spaces for people to be able to connect over beverages. And we say if we can create more connection in this world, we hope. And the dream is that the world becomes a better place for all of us because we’re able to compare notes with each other because we feel like we belong.
Brad Burrow: Well, that’s not happening right now in our world is it?
Bo Nelson: It is, but it is not … This is what I love. I love seeing people connected. Just seeing them in that right zone where their eyes are on fire and they’re just electric. Everything they touch, “You had way too much coffee this morning.” “Actually, I haven’t had any because I am so amped on life right now because there is something so cool.” There is a gap in the market. There is a need as an entrepreneur. This is just what gets me jazzed is solving problems. Creative problem solving is what personally, that is my motto in life. That’s my goal.
Brad Burrow: Coffee is the fuel for that. Right?
Bo Nelson: It is. But if people look at it as just coffee, you’re missing the point. Because coffee is community. And whether it’s on a farm over in Brazil or in Ethiopia, or whether that’s here buried into a sleepy suburb of Shawnee Equinox.
Brad Burrow: I think you just actually told us your marketing strategy right there.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. When people say, “Let’s go grab a cup of coffee,” what are they saying?
Brad Burrow: Let’s get together and talk. Let’s share what’s going on in our lives.
Bo Nelson: I want to know you, yeah. That’s a $2 cup right there. That’s a $2 barrier to entry to be able, a potential new vision coming out of that, I call them new babies coming out of that. Because these ideas need places where they can go and commingle. There is a great TED Talk that this guy talks about ideas having sex, which is a weird way to think about it. But coming from the plant world, that’s not too different for me because I look at that I can ruin people when it comes to plants. Everybody’s looking at these flowers like pretty flowers. I’m like, “That’s the sex organ of the plant. It’s kind of weird.” So that’s where-
Brad Burrow: I’m going to have to change the rating on this podcast now thanks a lot.
Bo Nelson: That’s explicit, yeah.
Brad Burrow: No, I’m just teasing you.
Bo Nelson: Hide your kids. There’s other businesses that are very similar in the way that … To plants where you have one color of plant and another … They’ll take a certain color and then graph that onto a wild route to make this into this super plant. And where it has great bloom and vigorous roots. And you’re able to start engineering the plant a little bit.
Brad Burrow: A new species almost, yeah.
Bo Nelson: There’s a natural way to do that for sure. And I think that people who understand how that process, that natural process works in nature, are able to translate that over into business pretty seamlessly. Because I view business as these are just organisms. And from a legal perspective, we look at them as that’s an entity. It’s a legal entity. So looking at it like that, it’s like this organism that needs feedback loops, and there’s all these systems. You look at it more like a forest. I look at business ecosystem. They’re all feeding off of each other, and they’re all synergistic to create what? A gorgeous rainforest of biodiversity of business, or is it a monoculture of all the same thing because we don’t have enough biodiversity within our ecosystem? This is where it takes me from being coffee guy to political advocate. Not activist, but it gets me into the political spectrum because I’m like, “We need to create cities that are more dynamic and create spaces for ideas to flourish if we want to be an attractive city for young millennials to move to. We have got to display that that is working. Otherwise, they’re going to move to LA. They’re going to move to Portland, they’re going to move to Chicago or anywhere else.”
Brad Burrow: So don’t you know that’s happening in Kansas City right now? Here’s an article that just came out in startup news.
Bo Nelson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: Our startup community is really pretty vibrant here in Kansas City right now. It’s pretty amazing what’s happening. What you just described is really in process right now in Kansas City.
Bo Nelson: They’re really trying to. And they’re trying to do that for all the way. These are deep, whether it’s chambers or whether it’s parts of the city. They’re trying to unite the city. We have a very divided city. We already have it really not in our best favor in the city, mostly because there’s Kansas City, Missouri, Wyandotte, Johnson, Plate, Jackson. And Cass even. And it’s like Gosh, we are sliced and diced so many ways.
Bo Nelson: Places like Denver. These cities that are in the same county, in the same state. And it’s like okay, now we have a united front to move on. Look at Kansas City, Missouri versus Kansas City, Kansas. What happened there?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Bo Nelson: There’s a cautionary tale in there. I’m from Kansas, I do business in Missouri. I’m this really weird amalgamation of if you’re not paying attention to what the future of us entrepreneurs look like because we probably look a lot like me. Not physically, but we don’t have borders. We don’t have boundaries. We don’t care about Missouri versus Kansas other than which has better tax returns or tax incentives for me to move to.
Bo Nelson: If I go to the EDC in Kansas City, Missouri and say I am considering moving my business here, they’ll probably kick me some money. I don’t know if Kansas City, Kansas would do that. I know Kansas City, Missouri would though because they’re more aggressive because they say, “We need to get those younger people. We need to get those fresh ideas. We need to get that fresh energy. We need to get that. Our product is our people.” I think from a city level as we’re looking at that. And that’s what I’m saying. This is just the way that we go about talking about that.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Tell me about Equinox. Is that the brand that you’re wanting to move forward with?
Bo Nelson: Thou Mayest coffee roasters is, it’s the parent company.
Brad Burrow: So what was Equinox then?
Bo Nelson: So Equinox, it was an eight year long project that me and my brothers started talking about a long time ago. And we wanted to put a coffee shop-
Brad Burrow: While you were grafting flowers and making new species?
Bo Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. I was in the growing facility, and my brother [Jonah 00:27:40] was running the Shawnee location at that time. My brother [Jesse 00:27:44] was at our Overland Park location. Jonah was, “Hey, I want to put a cafe in here someday.” We started talking about it seven or eight years ago. We were getting ready to close our retail shop down. This is a few months ago, and we were still considering whether we wanted to even pick the retail arm back up. I knew that I had to do retail in some way, shape, or form because I’ve got too many little social experiments bopping around in my head that I want to still, I have too many questions I need answered.
Bo Nelson: So anyway, my brothers were like, “Hey, this might be a good time to do this thing.” This winter was just so hard. It was just brutal. And everybody was getting cabin fever pretty bad. So when we opened a coffee shop in a greenhouse, people just lost their minds.
Brad Burrow: So there are a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs that listen to the podcast and stuff. What would you say to them? Especially from a startup standpoint. You obviously grew up around a family that probably dealt with lots of ups and downs when it came to business. You had the advantage of learning that a lot of people don’t have-
Bo Nelson: Or just watch.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. You probably learned a lot from seeing your parents go through things. What would you say to somebody starting up a business? What advice would you give them?
Bo Nelson: Throw away your television. Remove distractions from your life. Get focused on what you really want to do, and don’t make excuses. And that’s where, I remember when Bill called me. I’ll never forget that night because he called me from Portland, and he was like, “Man,” we joked around about that coffee company. We’ve talked about it. We’ve gone through a lot of the mental, what would it take and what would we need, and how would it happen? If I move back, are interested in this? And I just remember being like, “Dude, I’m done talking. I’m done. We got to try it man. You got to move back. We got to go.”
Bo Nelson: So that’s both Bill and I’s strategies. We’re not just abandoning all logic and thought. We’re not going that direction. What we are saying is there is a middle ground between the corporate side and the artistic side. And we’re trying to find that middle realm where we do care about money so that we can get up the next day and do it again. I’m not flying blind on feeling. I’m looking at a lot of data and I’m looking a lot of numbers. I think this is the hybrid of whatever the future business, the entrepreneur looks like. I really do think it has to be this mix between craftsmen and technician.
Bo Nelson: So you’ve got the craft, and then you’ve got all this equipment. The internet of things, which is very fastly catching up and surpassing craft. People used to say with coffee, you can pour the best cup of coffee only by hand because you can control your flow rates, and your grinds. You can’t trust a machine to know the nuance of this correctly. You can now, and that’s the crazy part. I’m just raising my hand saying, “Just embrace it and just get after it. And let’s use it to build our future even better so it can give me more time. So I can make more money, and so I can give it back to my employees or give it back to my community. Because by the way, I happen to be a good guy. I’m not pushing that forward. I’m not a humanitarian project.” We are committed to excellence number one.
Bo Nelson: And excellence is a little bit subjective in terms of like what’s excellent for you and your company, and your business right now. Are you buying the best equipment? No, but it’s the best we can do right now on our goal to get that nicer piece of equipment or that nicer, whatever it is. We’re on our way there. This is as good as I can do at the moment. That’s what I think everybody, that’s when I give talks or when I’m in front of people. It’s about you, and it’s about what you’re wanting and where you’re going. It’s about that internal journey on that quest to get there. And however quickly you want to get there, it’s all between your ears, man. It’s six inches of space. You have the power. This is the the point of Thou Mayest. You have the paintbrush, you’re painting the picture.
Bo Nelson: Whatever you want in life, you can get after it. As long as you have that attitude of Thou Mayest, which also means Thou Mayest not. The choice is yours. You can choose to go out there and change the world. Now as long as you’re flexible to learn, I would say that that’s a doable thing. If you’re just going to plow through, “I’m going to be the greatest in the world.” Greatest at what? I don’t know. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.” Well, you’re missing the point. The point is the process, first of all. And second of all-
Brad Burrow: We lose sight of that constantly, if you think about that.
Bo Nelson: It is so hard. And I don’t know. It’s a constant reminder for all of us to stay on track man. Stay the course. Come on, let’s keep marching and keep going with the positivity that we’re bringing to the world. We can, we can, we can. And you got to keep saying that. Otherwise the world’s, “You can’t, you’re not going to. Nothing’s going to work. You’re going to fail.” And it’s like dude, those voices just don’t even bother me anymore. Because it’s not a claim it and name it thing. But there is something that happened particularly this past year through hardships, that allowed faith to emerge more so than it ever has in my personal existence.
Bo Nelson: I don’t mean from a spiritual standpoint. It does translate spiritually. I’m not talking about a faith in God. I’m just talking about a faith in yourself. It’s one of those where it’s like I’m going to do this, and then you do it. And that’s because you have enough wins under your belt that you’re like, “I know that I can do this if I just put my mind to it.” Do I want to do it? Can I do it?
Brad Burrow: That gets me to the point where what I want to ask you is one of the things I think a lot of entrepreneurs, they go into a new venture with this big grandiose idea that I’m going to be very successful. This idea is going to be-
Bo Nelson: Growth. It’s going to be the next unicorn of-
Brad Burrow: What they don’t realize is that there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that have to go into this idea to really make it work, and they’re not prepared for that. So they fail, and the majority of them fail. And that’s one thing I see in you is you understand that. And that okay, I got to persevere through some pretty tough times. Through here at Real Media, over 20 years we’ve gone through some very tough times. And honestly faith’s got me through.
Bo Nelson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: But those things, I’d love to hear that from you. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it’s like what would you say? Hey, don’t give up.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. Well, so I was actually thinking about this earlier this morning. It was part of my meditation this morning as I was just … No one to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em type of deal. Where’s that line? Because yeah, I want to fail quick. But the failures that-
Brad Burrow: I’ve heard that before, but I never have been able to put that into practice.
Bo Nelson: It’s kind of an art. Knowing when … You identify a problem, you dive into it. And then very quickly you’re like whoa, there’s some roadblocks in here. There’s a barrier to entry. I see why people haven’t done this yet. For us, we didn’t see any of it in Kansas City. We saw it in other cities, but we hadn’t seen a coffee shop and a bar slammed together successfully. And that’s what we did on our first shop down in the crossroads. We had a full liquor license, so we were serving coffee ’til 12:00 AM. But it also allowed people to drink coffee later too. So we had this weird mix between people on dates grabbing a cocktail, and then people over there coding on the corner, just slamming cold brew and espressos.
Brad Burrow: They got an IV running in their arm.
Bo Nelson: Pretty much. Yeah. We joked about just putting drip bags at the bar. But treating this space a little more … We called our bar, that was our community table. And it was the barista’s and the bartender’s job behind there to help those people on their daily path, on their daily journey through … By talking to them. Somebody would sit down. This is just … I hope I get to produce this video. But hearing people’s testimonials of the space, what did this space do for you? It’s fairly unanimous. It’s really weird because I’ve never been in a space like this before.
Bo Nelson: And then we just created it. And I’m like, “I don’t actually know what I just did.” But there was an electricity in there. When people walked in, they would say, “Wow, this place feels really good.” And it got me thinking about what is the future of where we’re going from, in a retail perspective. It has to move to a vibe economy, meaning an environmental economy. Because we don’t have environment around us when we’re buying online, yet. We will someday via AR and VR, augmented realities. But until that day, we still rely on the brick and mortar space. And if you’re not doing something different in that brick and mortar space to be able to meet people and to be able to give them an interesting layer of experience on top of that, “We have the best product in the world.” Says everybody else in your industry.
Brad Burrow: Right.
Bo Nelson: So what’s actually making you different? This is just my opinion, is that people don’t actually care about the cup of coffee and they don’t actually … Let me rephrase this. There are three components that collide together to give people what I would say is that electric, experiential part. Product, service, and environment. You have to have all three and they have to be working in unison. This is like the holy trinity that creates a unique, memorable experience. Where it’s like, “Hey, tell me about that last more mobile experience you had with your coffee.” And you’re like, “I just drink it all the time. I don’t know.” And that’s where creating those memorable moments. Now all of a sudden whenever something reminds them of that moment, like my brand pops up. Man, I miss those guys. I need to get back down there. That was such a great experience last time.
Bo Nelson: So creating more of those moments that are trigger points for people. A lot of times, that has to do for me with the philosophical journey of people and touching them where it matters, where it counts.
Brad Burrow: And see, I think that can work for any brand. So at Real Media, I can see that same thing. The moments that we could create for people, even though we’re creating content. It’s those moments that you remember in that experience.
Bo Nelson: You’re reaching down into that. Even Plato talked about this allegory of the cave. You’re reaching down into a life that maybe, it looks like it’s trapped. They’re like, “I’m just doing thing. Another day, another dollar.” There’s so much more. You’re so close. All you have to do is reach out and get after it. And all of a sudden, your life is going to ignite. And the cool part about that is it is 110% contagious. Freaking love, contagious. The energy when it just goes, it’s like this pulse wave. And all of a sudden everybody’s attracted to, they’ve got a magnetic personality. I’m like no, they’re just in touch with themselves. They know who they are. They’re so self actualized, they’re so self realized that people are like, “Tell me what you found.” Whether it’s Jesus, whether it’s Gandhi, whether it’s Martin Luther King Jr. It doesn’t really matter. You’ve got these self actualized individuals who are pushing people to … You are valuable and you have a purpose and place here on this rock that’s hurling through space and seemingly random. And maybe it is. But you know what? It’s better together.
Bo Nelson: Let’s have a cup of coffee and discuss about, or a drink in the PM to be able to discuss how we can best navigate this seemingly chaos, random world together. That’s the point.
Brad Burrow: So I’m going to wrap it up here a little, but I want you to just finish by future. If you could look out in the future five years from now, where would you be with Thou Mayest?
Bo Nelson: The moon.
Brad Burrow: Yeah?
Bo Nelson: I’d be serving coffee on the lunar surface. I’m not joking.
Brad Burrow: Okay.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. Because why not?
Brad Burrow: It might be full all the time if you do that.
Bo Nelson: Well, yeah right? Let me give you an example of, I’m not going to say lack of vision, but not big enough. One of my goals, and it was just one of my personal goals in life. There’s a few of them. We’ve actually completely crossed off … Bill and I created a bucket list when we first started of things that we wanted to accomplish in business. We’ve already done them all, and we’re not even five years old. And I’m like, “We need to have some bigger goals here.”
Brad Burrow: So you need to think bigger?
Bo Nelson: I might as well. What do you want to do in five years? Go to Mars and serve coffee? Have a Martian coffee fest? I don’t know. I might as well because we’re doing it. And everyday that we wake up, we keep getting closer to these seemingly unrealistic dreams. I don’t know what drives that, but I just know that what I want is to be able to connect people to this earth, to their environment and to other people in a very creative and positive way. And to me, that’s just through coffee. Your product. You do that through media. You do that through content. And we all have something that we offer the world that we happen to be doing. But we’re all here for each other and for this environment. We live in this space. We all share the same energy. In a way we’re all sharing, it’s an ecosystem. It’s not just this linear, it’s not this isolation. We’re not islands. We’re all connected.
Bo Nelson: So the sooner we can get there in our brains, especially considered around business. Businesses, once we become that ecosystem, all of a sudden it just becomes very powerful. And what business can do for us. Not us going to work for the man. Dude, when’s the man going to work for me? That’s what I want. I’m tired of business owning. It owns our lives, it owns our egos, it owns our attitudes. We become something. It gets way off course and it’s like why don’t you use it as a tool to be able to pay people really, really well from the farms, to your employees, and make it a great price for the community so that they can enjoy $2 cups of coffee as low as you can get. That’s my goal. I want as high a shelf product as I can get. I want top shelf product at the most accessible. I want to basically be giving Geisha varietals of coffee away. That would be my dream. These varietals of coffee are like $50 for an eight ounce bag. They’re insanely valued. And I want to be able to give those to homeless people and say, “You deserve the best too.”
Bo Nelson: And it’s not because I’m irreverent. It’s because I just believe that there’s so much more potential within humanity for us to be so much more. And if this is what evolution looks, I think we need to look at ourselves again. Are we really progressing? Are we really evolving? Or are we just stagnating? That’s why I say throw away your television. Start reading again, start learning again. Find something you’re passionate about. Go make soap for all, it doesn’t matter what it is. Go get engaged, go touch. Let your heart be open to whatever that is out in the universe that speaks to us. I have no clue what it is anymore. But whatever that is for people, it is real. And the more they try to get after it, the more it actually finds them.
Bo Nelson: And that’s what I think is so cool is the internal plunge. I went through this huge existential nihilism basically. And I was like, “I just don’t even care anymore. It doesn’t matter. I’m just going to move wherever in the world because I want to.” It went from the more I cared about myself. And I don’t mean, it’s not just about me, but I was like who am I? What is going on inside of me? A really great book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl woke me up. An actual spiritual experience. A vision up on top of a mountain out in the wilderness of Colorado. And I came down completely different. It had nothing to do with this traditional concept of God, but it was like there’s so much power inside each one of us.
Bo Nelson: I’m not looking at myself saying I’m trusting in you for the power. I’m looking saying there is a lot of energy that is out there, that we are a part of. That if we’re able to like align that, it’s like those frequencies. They’re in the opposite, and it’s just abrasive. But once you get in tune, all of a sudden it’s like man, it’s just crystal clear. That guy has life together. That person’s inspired. That person’s on track to change the world and they’re going to do it. It’s because they’re in that frequency because they got in touch with themselves.
Bo Nelson: I just mean it’s everything that religion has been telling us that we need to be doing. I think this is why I believe the entrepreneurial endeavor is going to be the next religion that sweeps the globe. If you think about how much you’ve learned and how much spiritually you’ve grown as an individual because you own your own business or you’re part of that. For me, I’m like that. Trying to be a good person when somebody is bad mouthing your product. Trying to be a good person when somebody says, “You’re the worst boss I’ve ever worked for.” Am I? I don’t know.
Bo Nelson: “You’re a horrible individual. You’re an awful human being.” And you’re like, “I guess I’m the man now. I guess that’s me.” And to sit there and try to treat them with justice, to try to practice mercy. To try to be the balm of sympathy on people as they’re going through their day, whether they’re customers or whether they’re employees. My job right now is seeing people getting in those zones. That’s selfish for me, because it makes me feel alive. Which is good.
Brad Burrow: See for me, that’s all faith focused. So as a Christian, I would say that I would look at those things and say that’s how God wants me to live. You know? So when you talk about being in alignment, for me that’s biblical.
Bo Nelson: It’s perfect, yeah.
Brad Burrow: So that’s the approach that I would take to that, but I think a lot of the things you’re saying-
Bo Nelson: It’s very synonymous.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Bo Nelson: Yeah. And that’s all I’m saying is going back to that dictionary, I’ve had some of the most amazing conversations with … I’ve got a friend who practices Buddhism. As we’re sitting here comparing, we compare notes. It’s never-
Brad Burrow: Not a debate, but you’re just talking.
Bo Nelson: Dude, I just want to talk. I want to understand you. It’s usually while we’re drinking coffee or something like that, which is great. It just stimulates. And anyway. I’d love to-
Brad Burrow: That’s another podcast by the way.
Bo Nelson: I was going to say, the history of coffee with Brad and Bo.
Brad Burrow: In a world.
Bo Nelson: That’s good.
Brad Burrow: Well why don’t we go ahead and wrap it up? Bo, I really appreciate you coming here. I love your energy man. It’s awesome. It’s been great talking with you. I’d love to do it again sometime.
Bo Nelson: We’re hoping people can get involved with more of what we’re doing. And to do that, social media for us is the way to do that. On Instagram, it’s @thou_mayest.
Brad Burrow: Say it again. I stepped on you.
Bo Nelson: Thou. T-H-O-U. And then an underscore Mayest, M-A-Y-E-S-T. Then on Twitter, @ThouMayCoffee. You can find us on Facebook, Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters. Some of the side projects that we have going right now, we just acquired Quay Coffee. It looks like Quay Coffee-
Brad Burrow: Like river quay.
Bo Nelson: Yeah, river quay. So we’ve got a river market and then now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Then we did Equinox, Cafe Equinox. It’s the family tree nursery in Shawnee. The hashtag on that is #caffeineandchlorophyll. It’s basically plants and coffee smashed together. And then we’ve got another one called The Outpost, and it’s going to be down in the East Crossroads and that’s going to open up this next month.
Brad Burrow: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Well, let’s definitely keep in touch. I really have enjoyed it.
Bo Nelson: For sure.
Brad Burrow: Bo Nelson from Thou Mayest, and I’m Brad Burrow. This is the In a World with Real Media podcast. Thank you.