The Hunchback of LA Prep
It’s hard to believe that my brother and I started Mason Coffee over two years go. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun!*
*simultaneously preparing for total failure AND massive success!
Technically I’m a CEO but if you heard the debate over what to put on my business card, you’d know I don’t like that title. I was pushing for something way more chill, like Brewmaster or just, I dunno, nothing? Eli and I are so hands on and do everything from wash brew buckets to meet with investors. And while I love interacting directly with our vendors and customers – it makes everything more personal and like we’re all rooting for one another to succeed – sometimes I want the illusion that we’re a big company. Ya know, a big company whose product isn’t hand delivered by their sweaty, coffee stained CEO every Tuesday. The business card shatters that illusion.
It would be so nice to have employees to do the heavy lifting, the dirty work, the embarrassing things I don’t want to do. Like, set up a table at an all you can drink beer festival that starts at 8pm and try to act like that makes sense.
Do I wish I could have paid someone else to go to that event and repeat ‘no, it’s coffee’ for 3 hours?
Or assemble a bargain tent in the wind that requires AT LEAST 8 hands and 200 zip ties?
Or listen to a woman slur that her boss’s name is Mason and that sometimes he grabs her ass, but she doesn’t mind, but maybe it’s inappropriate, but she thinks she loves him and, no, she wouldn’t like to buy any coffee but hey! could she take a picture in front of our Mason sign to text him?
Of course I wish these things.
But when you’re a hands-on CEO, YOU do these things. YOU stand behind your folding table that is positioned down draft of the exhaust pipe to a very popular, therefore smoky, nitro ice cream truck. And YOU hold your head high despite the fact that the sad remains of your set up are fully exposed behind you. The melting bags of ice and tacky plastic camping coolers unable to hide under a table cloth because YOU FORGOT ONE.
Have you ever felt like you’re standing in front of a crowd of people with your pants at your ankles but you can’t pull them up? Embarrassing, right? Now imagine you pee yourself. And now imagine, on top of all that, having to sell a product to a bunch of drunks that is NOT french fries.
Eli and I decided early on that the best way for us to grow would be to say YES to as much as we could. That mentality brought us to the beer fest and it lead to me getting locked in our brew space, dragging buckets full of cold brew coffee through the empty halls of a warehouse in the middle of the night.
We received an order after our usual schedule but we were going to say YES to making it happen so I waited for traffic to die down, which in LA is 11pm, and headed off to brew coffee. Mason has its own kitchen in a large warehouse that houses many other small kitchens and the warehouse is great! It has all the amenities to make the start-up food business life easier: loading docks, large flat bed carts, employees to help you with anything! None of which are available after 11pm.
So by saying YES to making this order happen I also said YES to carrying the four buckets one-by-one to the front door. These are five gallon buckets. That’s over 40 sloshing, liquid pounds in a plastic bucket that can only be held by two tiny handles on the side so I didn’t so much “carry” as I did waddle them to the front door.
Knowing the door would lock behind me, I propped it open with a bucket and ran to pull Mason’s official delivery truck (my CR-V) to the front of the building. There wasn’t enough room in the doorway for me to keep the door wedged open and carry a bucket out so I squatted against the door, my ass propping it open and dragged each bucket past the threshold one-at-a-time. I was panting. I was sweating. I was looking like a hunchback coffee feind. But I did it! I successfully loaded all of the buckets into my car and I drove away into the night knowing that absolutely all of it was caught on the security cameras.
It’s the moments like the beer fest and the MacGyver brew space escape when I wish I had a gaggle of eager interns at my disposal. But then there are moments when I’m so happy to be present for every moment of this business’s growth.
Would an intern care if they were greeted with cheers when delivering a fresh batch of cold brew to a retailer?
Or be flattered when chased after down the street to meet the siblings behind “the best cold brew in the world” by a mild celebrity of the beverage world?
Or smile when emailed a gracious thank you for the personalized handwritten note included in a consumer’s birthday gift order.
I want that feedback, I want those compliments to my face, injected directly into my ego to fuel the fire to keep a start up cold brew coffee running. Okay, fine! I love being present when it’s good and want to be invisible when its bad. And maybe that’s not the right mindset for a CEO but it feels right for this Brewmaster.