Bo Nelson | Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters
Bo Nelson is a homegrown Kansas Citian. His blend of rural, urban and world travel life experiences gave him a unique perspective on community, doing good and building brands that make unique human connections. Out of this rose, Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters launched in 2012. It also drove Bo’s work as a catalyst and community builder driving the renaissance of KC’s East Crossroads neighborhood. A journey that’s just beginning as Thou Mayest creates new retail experiences that connect people. Bo’s CFG talk covered his journey, philosophy and perspectives.
Clips from Bo’s talk below plus his CFG Q&A.
What difference do you hope to make in the world?
It’s pretty simple. Connect actions to dreams and turn ideas into reality. Not just for myself, but to help others do the same.
For anyone interested in pursuing a business that has a positive impact on society what three pieces of advice would you give?
1) Positivity comes when you become personally ‘charged’. Focus on you. Take the internal plunge to really ‘know thyself’ (others call it 'finding your why'). You can't change the world if you can't change yourself. After you look inside and have your compass heading, then pursue excellence over all other. Who cares about a cafe focussed on ___x___ (name the cause) if you serve a crappy product, with horrible service, in a sub-par environment. It’s a holistic approach to business and we MUST start executing if we are to prevail in a brick and mortar when the internet can deliver so quickly and cheaply. It's definitely harder but I believe it’s a necessity now to start building that muscle for the future. 2) Learn to manage and truly sign your name onto something larger than yourself. Add value! From handling money to spreadsheets to restocking, making drinks, hiring/firing/inspiring, training, event planning, or doing dishes, make sure that at the end of the day, you can personally sign your name on the work you did. 3) Business is a muscle - work it out!
What’s been your biggest challenge in building your business/organization?
Clear communication. Alignment with key players in the organization and people staying in their lane - it’s easy to ‘go rogue’. Setting expectations and then holding each other accountable.
What have been the most pleasant surprises?
The relationships and friendships we have developed with other business owners. The community that has emerged surrounding my team and the brand. Closing of the shop in the Crossroads - the stories that emerged of people's lives being touched in a real, impactful way by the brand and catching that all on film as we closed up shop. Then the reopening of Cafe Equinox last week - 1 hr long waits for a latte and people were so happy to do it. The support from the community has really blown me away. I had my head down not paying attention or not being as connected to the brand over the past four years.
What is your personal purpose?
To be the best version of myself that I can be, from husband and father, to friend, brother, and ‘boss’. Stay ‘gritty’ - back against the wall with a no-other-options/excuse mentality. Stay humble. Listen to others. Fear God. Be a man of justice and love. And lastly, my motto is that I want to provide the environment for people to be able to take risks.
Who has been an inspiration to you in the work that you do?
Both of my grandpas and my father. My brothers. A whole host of mentors, advisors, friends, and family.
Have there been any partnerships that have helped you get where you are today?
Too many to count. I could tell collaborative stories for hours. Torn Label HouseBrew; J Rieger & Co Caffe Amaro; Betty Rae’s coffee ice cream; Solanoir; the Crossroads Community Association...to name a few
In 50 years, when people talk about your organization’s work, what do you hope they say?
They gave a shit!
What are some ways people could help you and your business advance the positive work you do?
Serve better coffee, buy less coffee more often - treat it more like fruit. Get everyone drinking better, higher grade, specialty coffee. Austin has amazing coffee even in its gas stations....who the heck is doing that here in QT land? Someone needs to do that! Or else I will! If we can do it with coffee, surely we can do it with healthier more thoughtful food selections too! So yeah, drink better coffee.
What does the term Conquer for Good mean in your life?
Life is a f*cking battle. The snowflakes that are uncomfortable with that remark won't have legs to stand when life delivers a solid punch to the face, over, and over, and over again. My dad always told me "you have to wrestle the blessings from life"...so yeah, it’s really tough to be "good" and that’s why it seems to be at such a commodity these days. It's a wrestle. It's a battle. But it’s so worth it. Every blood stained, sweaty, muddy, coffee stained, dehydrated, overworked, exhausted second of it. The wrestle builds muscle, and muscle when built over long periods of time doing repetitive movements produces results. To win is to get positive results. So from winning you build mastery...and from mastery, Nirvana. Conquer for Good is my battle flag.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your journey?
Don't hold it so tightly that you crush it, or so loosely that you drop it. I'm just a canary in a coal mine. Let's get a strong drink of something excellent if you want to talk about something serious. Enjoy the ride. Never stop the wonder. Explore the complex being within - the ‘you’. Never stop loving.