In this episode, Brock speaks with Matt Bishop.
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Matt attended the United States Naval Academy and received a Marine Corps Officer commission as a combat engineer. He participated in two combat deployments before exiting to pursue an MBA from Georgetown. After feeling like his work wasn't completed, Matt was selected for SF in the National Guard and completed several operations before exiting for good in 2015. After a few entrepreneurial missteps, Matt found traction in the coffee space after combining his business with a competitor to form Iron Mule Coffee. Iron Mule is a premiere roastery and supplies many regional grocery stores with quality coffee beans. Matt's passion for people has led to the launch of Direct Access coffee, a brand that sources beans directly from farmers in other countries. The goal of Direct Access is to provide transparency to farmers and pay that is consistent with their coffee sales, benefits missing from programs like fair trade.
Check out Matt and Iron Mule
Richard The Mule's Instagram
Iron Mule Coffee Website
Direct Access Coffee Website
Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.
Join Tim and Brock as they break down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.
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Brock Briggs 0:16
Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt Podcast. Our guest today is Matt Bishop. Matt is a former Marine Corps officer. And now is working, running a coffee roastery and doing some interesting things with the coffee supply chain, globally. Matt, welcome to the show!
Matt Bishop 0:32
Hey, thanks. I'm really happy to be here, stoked for it.
Brock Briggs 0:36
Me, too! This is gonna be fun conversation. You want us to give us a start out with what brings you here? How did you end up joining the Marines or you went to the Naval Academy? Give us a start. How did you get here?
Matt Bishop 0:51
Yeah. So I grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming, which is, you know, obviously incredibly landlocked small town, northern Wyoming. And I had, you know, just the sense that I wanted to get out of there more than anything. And I think I paid that maybe, you know, sixth grade. And I had a teacher who said, “Hey, you know, you're doing well academically.” I was not a great athlete. But I played, you know, I played a lot of sports. And I tried real hard, right? So, that was enough.
And yeah, just got fixated in my mind early on that the Naval Academy, specifically, might be a ticket for me, out of Sheridan, Wyoming. And I had a little bit of heritage there. I had a great grandfather that served in the Navy in World War One. My father was a dryland sailor during the Vietnam era for four years. And so we had a little bit of that heritage. And additionally, I think a little bit of family lore. My father had, you know, been drafted, went to boot camp, was already married. And he was offered, you know, a spot to go to Annapolis. And he just turned it down wholesale. And my mom was always super bitter about that. She said, “You know, he should have taken it. I would have been older, married so that he could go like this was a huge, huge thing.” So, you know, for whatever, that my mom might have planted that with me. It was seen as a big opportunity. So..
Brock Briggs 2:24
Fulfill your family's destiny.
Matt Bishop 2:27
Yeah, yeah right. Totally. So, yeah, I got accepted to the Naval Academy. And I didn't have, you know, I didn't have a deep Plan B or Plan C. It was like, get accepted, if not enlist, and then you know, drive on with life. But, you know, worked hard, got accepted, luckily. And during my time at the Naval Academy, I had no idea that I would end up a Marine Corps officer. But I think throughout kind of my military career, I've tried to make a lot of kind of, I guess, values based decisions. And one of those values for me was definitely family.
So my mom passed away my junior year of high school. And, you know, I always knew that, like, my parents had a good marriage. They were really faithful to one another was like, strong, you know, great place to grow up in that household. And I always knew that I wanted family. So I ended up meeting, my now wife of 17 years, who was in the Naval Academy class behind me. And she wanted to be a Marine Corps officer. So, you know, when I got close to my senior year, I said, “Hey, you know, I can accept being a Marine as well. And, you know, we'll end up probably being able to get stationed together and have, you know, less separation throughout our careers. Or you know, I can pursue this other path and the Navy that I'd been looking at, but probably ended up with a lot of, you know, separation in that.” It was pretty humorous, actually, you know. I'd done all sorts of kind of rigorous programs that were available throughout my time at the Naval Academy.
And then, you know, but it done nothing for the Marine Corps. Like, I looked at the people that wanted to be Marines and thought they were, you know, it had like a cult-like following for this institution. And we're just, you know, too extreme. And I also kind of assess that sometimes they didn't really have all the physicality and everything to quite back up the attitude. So I kind of steered clear of the Marine Corps.
But yes, the new year came around, you know. I felt like it would be a good option, family wise, for us long term. And so, I went to the interview. And luckily, I had this super crusty Marine Corps colonel, who also happened to have a daughter in my wife's class. And I think that kind of resonated with him that, you know. I was making a decision based on that, you know, wanting family and I told him straight up was like, “Yeah, I didn't really want to be a Marine until now. Like, I don't totally drink the Kool Aid but I think this would be a good thing. I think I can be successful here.” And he appreciated the honesty. So I ended up a Marine Corps officer about six.
Don’t drink the Kool Aid, or eat the Kranz as they say.
Yeah, totally! Yeah. So I commissioned 2003 out of the Marine Corps, you know, set things into historical perspective a little bit. You know, we had invaded Iraq, I think March of that year. Everyone at the Naval Academy is waiting to graduate in May in my class. And they're like, “Oh, this is gonna be over, right? Like, remember the Gulf War like this, you know, this stuff's all gonna be over by the time we finally hit the fleet.” Because you leave the Naval Academy, you have six months down in Quantico, Virginia, the basic school before you even get your MOS and then you end up going, doing an MOS school somewhere.
I went down, did my time in Quantico. I ended up selecting to be a combat engineer, and went to a follow on school camp, ‘twas June. And before I got out of engineering school, I ended up getting an individual augment billet to go to Iraq. So 2005, timeframe went to Iraq and that first deployment, I worked for something called the Iraqi Security Forces Detachment. So the Iraqi army had been completely tore down. The Iraqi Security Forces Detachment was there to basically rebuild all the infrastructure, both physical infrastructure camps, and also the, you know, recruit a brand new Iraqi Army.
I was mostly on the infrastructure side. I was combat engineer, so I was down building these, you know, hundreds man, you know, 900 to 1500 man camps, mostly tents, generators, and then making sure that they were outfitted with electric and sanitation and all that stuff, which I ended up being mostly the money guy.
And working every day with civilian Iraqis, who were staffing the camp, and it was absolutely an invaluable experience. It was awesome to work with civilian Iraqis every day and really get to know the culture. Because I left that deployment in the fall of 2005. I went to Okinawa where my regular unit was. And they were deploying as an engineer battalion in 2006. I was picked to be the security platoon commander, and built up this platoon that was doing security for mostly route repair missions. But my battalion did route repair route clearance. So you know, that timeframe, 2006 really terrible year for IEDs in western Iraq, and basically, you know, the roads would just get tore up because the insurgents would put in an ID and blow a crater. And then they would staff more IDs in those same craters.
So the road kept getting narrower and narrower and more dangerous. But I took that depot to the tune of, you know, almost 40 Marines on that deployment, 2006. It was definitely a lot more of a you know, aggressive posture kind of deployment. For me, we were doing a lot of mounted vehicle patrols and then dismounted patrols so that we can provide security in these areas where other engineers, either Marine Corps or Navy Seabees, were repairing the roads. And we went all over Iraq. So pretty much everywhere from Fallujah, Ramadi all the way out tell time, so I should say all over Al-Anbar in western Iraq. So while I was in Iraq, the first time my wife moved our household to Okinawa, we had both, you know, kind of, again, those decisions that we made. We both selected to go to Okinawa units there because a lot of people don't want to go to Okinawa.
I had family history there. My parents had both lived there. When my dad was in, so I kind of wanted to see the island. But more than anything, it was stability, right? It was like, “Hey, if no one wants to go to Okinawa, but we both want to go to Okinawa, like we have a good chance of having a, you know, an accompany tour there.” So it worked out. She ended up going to a logistics unit. And then I actually when I came back from Iraq 2005, I didn't have enough dwell time, you know, time in between deployments to really go on the deployment with my battalion in 2006.
But my wife's battalion was also deploying at the same time, as my battalion's 2006 deployment. So you know, luckily, I volunteered. I was like, “Hey, I want to do this. I'll go early, so that we're both aligned, and then we're not, you know, off on our kind of schedule.” It was super super interesting, right? Because one, you asked about separations. One of the beauties about being married to you know, another Marine was like, we both got it. Like we both wanted to deploy. We both understood that was an important thing in the community, you know, to get your deployments into Iraq. There's a lot of pressure in Marine Corps culture, that time to do that. So we both embraced that. But yeah, it was also awkward, you know. The last three months of the deployment, I had taken. I left my initial security platoon, took another security, putting those stood up and taking them to Al Asad, Iraq, which was the base my wife was doing security for convoys out of. And, you know, we were there.
You know, I think her leadership didn't want her hanging out with me, you know. It was this weird thing that they were like. Yeah, exactly. We're like, “Wait a minute, we're married,” you know. Who else is on the same base in Iraq, and just is so a little tense at times, but so weird, right? Like, who in the civilian world would ever think that their boss would not want them to, you know, spend downtime with their spouse, you know, outside of work?
That's a strange dynamic.
Yeah. And it was stressful. You know, I think we both compartmentalize information differently, but, you know, I would kind of just turn off. Like, when she was out on her missions. I didn't want to track them. I didn't want to know anything about them. Like, she leaves, she comes back great, you know. But she would go over to the ops center that I was managing whenever I was out. And, you know, my staff sergeant would sit there. And he would like, you know, that hanging out. And he'd, you know, pass on the reports and stuff that, you know, that we're sending back.
Brock Briggs 12:17
Yeah, that's cool. Like you said, probably a very interesting dynamic. You touched on something that I kind of am always curious to ask about when people bring up. But you're talking about Marine culture, and that like drive to deploy and like go and do something. Can you talk to me about why you think that is? And did you receive that? Like, did you get that sense of satisfaction? Was that fulfilled during your time in or like over during the deployment?
Matt Bishop 12:51
Yeah, I think. I mean, you know, I have two Iraq deployments, like that's miniscule in the, you know, stacked up against people that I know that did seven plus deployments. And I just happen, you know, part of the function of being with the unit out of Okinawa. The op tempo of those units going to the Middle East wasn't as heavy. Because, you know, those units are seen to have a, you know, a specific mission. They're in that part of Asia as well. So they're not pulling. They weren't pulling people to Iraq as much, but yeah, absolutely. I mean, I thought that it was important to deploy. I felt that pressure, you know.
And I think it boils down to, you know, there's the training element that we all do. And then there's, are you actually doing your job in real world, and you know, everyone used that analogy, like you know, Super Bowl kind of thing. And, yeah, you know, if you're going to do all the time training, like you want to see it come through. And I think definitely, you know, I'd spent so much time you know. The Naval Academy is really heavy on leadership. And, you know, really breaking you down initially, but then kind of, you know, instilling in you a lot of kind of ethics around how you lead. And I wanted the chance to lead when there were heavy moral decisions to be made, you know. That was something that, you know, I did get the opportunity to do. And it was totally gratifying.
So, you know, in that sense, you know, for me, it wasn't. The gratification wasn't like, “Oh, I went and like now I can say I deployed because, I mean, you know, as for Marine in that era, like two Iraq deployments, not a huge amount.” It wasn't the quantity, but it was the quality of the experience. You know, I think every, you know, young second or first lieutenant wants to be a platoon commander in combat, right? I mean, it's like still getting to that point.
Brock Briggs 15:02
Well, and I think that a lot of the people that I talked to that get out and talk poorly about their time and service for whatever reason, a lot of it stems from missing that feeling. There's like, this weird kind of, like primal urge that's baked into you throughout. Like, in bootcamp, I'm guessing, I think that everybody has it to some distance. But when you get out and that feeling hasn't been satisfied, it almost maybe doesn't feel like it's a waste. But like, there was something more that could have been done. And so I'm curious and curious to ask people that feel like they base, they've met that. So that's a cool feeling. And I'm glad that you got to experience that.
Matt Bishop 15:50
Yeah, thank you! And I mean, I think, you know, in my own experiences, you know with my wife. Like, you know, I look, well, my wife did. And we were able to relate. We traveled the same roads, the same ID risk the same, you know. Everything all over western Iraq and it was a time period when, you know, women weren't allowed in combat roles. And, you know, as part of the reason that I was so accepting of becoming a Marine Corps officer, because I knew that, you know, my wife had that drive to basically be, you know, as close to the tip of the spear as it was, you know, legally allowed for her that point.
And, you know, being a female Marine Corps officer, being a logistician, and going on the roads like that was it. But I see that sense in her of like, you know, there was something left may be unfulfilled, you know. There was a limiter, you know. She was trained, just like everyone else, as a, you know, a Marine Corps officer. But there was somewhat of a limiting factor on, you know, some of your capability to operate like other Marine Corps officers, you know. And so that's sad, like, I get that, you know.
Brock Briggs 17:00
So did you deploy twice? And then where does that leave you at?
Matt Bishop 17:04
Yeah, so I deployed to Iraq twice. I came back to Okinawa, Japan. I left my engineer battalion quickly after that. And that point, I pinned on Captain and I worked on a general’s command deck for my last year on the island. And that was totally eye opening, right?
It was interesting to look in, and peel back and say, like, “Wow, if I'm absolutely successful in this organization, this is where I might end up.”
And there's ever a bad way?
For me, it was a bad way to be honest. You know, I always tried to be incredibly professional and really do the things that I thought needed to be done for my unit and organization. But I never drank the Kool Aid, you know. I was just there, there was always something. I felt that every battalion could have, like one of me, right? Like I wanted to always go and be physically hard and be respected. But I would do little stuff like, you know, there's this tiny, just this tiny little addendum in the uniform regulations that say that you don't have to wear an undershirt with your camis. And I would do that.
And on multiple occasions, I would get, you know, get some officer more senior to me, who would call me in and berate me on how I'd have to wear one. And I'd go print off the thing and highlight the lines. And, you know, I was like, I was always looking for a little way to push back. And anyway, being on a command deck, I was forced to go to the interview. I told the colonel who's the Chief of Staff, I said, “Hey, I don't want to do this job.” And he told me, “Well, I don't want to do the job either. So I'm hiring you to do the job.” And, you know, and which I totally respect. But, you know, I really got to look under the hood. I was the staff secretary. So I was dealing with a lot of admin for a unit of 5,000 people. But, you know, at some point in that time period, the general's aide had to be out.
And so I went on multiple trips with the general ISS aide. And, you know, I looked forward and I said, “Hey, I've done all the fun stuff that the Marine Corps had to offer me as, you know, as an officer, like, I don't want to do a bunch of staff tours.” And, you know, I hope that there's someone out there you'd say, like, “Oh, man, he like totally bagged out.” And, you know, that's an unprofessional thing to do not want to, you know, plow into those items. But I wanted to lead. Like I enjoyed leading small units. And I just didn't want to, you know, kind of paid through a bunch of staff time and then get into more seemingly bureaucratic to me levels of leadership.
So, I made my decision at that point. I was gonna get out. I had zero plan for what it might look like to get out. And so a lot of military officers are like, “Well, let's go to grad school, right? I mean, that's the thing.” So I applied to an MBA program, got accepted, and went there. At the same time, my wife, we kind of lined up, us leaving Okinawa at the same time. She ended up getting an amazing opportunity to go to grad school through the Marine Corps, and stay on active duty. And so we both went off to school, had our first kid.
And then, you know, throughout my time in grad school, I realized that didn't totally resonate with a lot of my classmates, and what their goals were in life. And I did have an itching. You know, I'd really loved working with Iraqis. You know, on my 2005 deployment, when I went back in 2006, I was really big on instilling the sense with my platoon that, you know, they treat Iraqi civilians very respectfully. And I would encourage them to do little things, like we're out on patrol, you know. And it was, it was going to be, you know, we'd do a lot of 24 hour like 30 hour missions.
So invariably, we would, you know, be out overnight, and then morning would come. And you know, there is where we were at, the Iraqis would make flatbread, you know, that would be ready in the mornings fresh. So I always encourage my Marines, like, “Hey, this is a great time to patrol. And while you're out there, like these people are giving out free bread, you know.” Because we ended up having a ton of, you know, just amazing hospitality from different Iraqi civilians.
So I was always trying to set that tone. And, you know, they go back into my time in grad school. I felt there was kind of a mission that was left unfulfilled for me. I felt like I resonated really well to locals. I had a vision for how to be a military officer and treat people in a certain way. And so I decided to get out of grad school, like, you know, on my graduation there and accept an Army Guard commission, and then trial for Army SF. So I did. I went to selection. I got selected for Army Special Forces. And then I went back on active duty for about 22 months between, you know, a couple of different schools to get through the Army Special Forces pipeline, graduated out of there in 2013, joined a guard 28 Special Forces Group. Unfortunately, you know, I always wanted to get back to Iraq, didn't happen. So one reason or another, I got pressured to go do a couple of short trips down to South. And at that point, I was two kids, almost three kids in and, you know, I decided to exit that in 2015.
Brock Briggs 22:57
I think that that's like the story of so many people joining the military like this, at least this second half that are like, people joining with some kind of certain expectation. And you have these ideas of maybe coming up for orders or whatever, where you're like, look at all this stuff that just lines up perfectly, like it would make total sense for this to happen. And my inadvertently, it never happens that way. Like it just doesn't.
Matt Bishop 23:26
Absolutely. I love that I was. Yeah, I love that that's the way, like, I thought I knew it, right? Like I thought I knew all the little hooks and the like small fine print and the you know, the leverage of like, “Well, if you do this, then this will come.” And you know, I thought I saw through all of that.
Brock Briggs 23:47
I have to imagine that after like four years in, my fiancee has been in for seven, I've got a cute few more. All of my friends are current or former military. Seeing people's experiences, I have to believe that there's somebody in the detailing like hierarchy. That's just, they're like the master approver. And they're, they look at it. And if it makes too much sense, they're like, “We got to just throw a monkey wrench into this thing. Like, let everybody know that we're unpredictable and like we'll do anything, even if it doesn't make sense, like.”
Right. “We'll send you anywhere. You can't plan around us.”
That's I think one of the most frustrating things and why I ended up deciding to get out as I'm willing to offer and like barter more of my life to like serve my country and whatever. But there’s, there can't even be really a conversation about you know, “Hey, can I at least just be on this coast or like in this time zone in the world?” Or there's just no kind of negotiation.
Matt Bishop 24:50
I think that's one of the huge travesties and you know, I was very fortunate at times in the whole time that I was going through the Special Forces pipeline. My wife was still on active duty. She had a really great job. She went back to the Naval Academy to teach in the history department. But we had two kids at that point. So she was like, carrying the brunt of two kids, you know, Marine Corps captain. And I was down in, you know, either Fort Benning or Fort Bragg that whole time. And, you know, I remember butting heads with people on multiple occasions, because I, you know, I was making our money as a captain. I was like, “Hey, I want to go see my family, you know, my wife and two kids like Southwest as flights, their cheapest dirt.” You know and I'd always run up against that, like, “Well, that's outside of the liberty bubble for your weekend.”
And that's one very negative comment that I think I have, you know, a lot of times, I think the military just burns up families when it doesn't need to with silly policies, right? Like that, you know, it's like, yeah, we're gonna lock everyone down on base for whatever reason, you know. And now you can't go, you know, when, you know, people's families are right there. In my case, it was always like, “No, I did it.” I found people who would, you know, have me fill out leave paperwork, and stash it in their top drawer, and then shred it.
When I came back, every Monday, when I showed up on time, that was amazing. You know, I have to be so thankful for like, you know, intelligent Cadre that I found to, you know, expected me to perform well, and as long as I did that, they were willing to work with me to see my family. But, you know, that took a lot of advocacy on my part. And I think there's a lot of, you know, younger sailors and soldiers who don't even have that capability to advocate, you know, for their own well being, in that sense.
Brock Briggs 26:54
I don't know how many times I would like get a talking from my chief for first class or whatever. And they kind of have like this weird look in their eye. Like, “I know, you're about to do something fucked up. I know that this is a long weekend. We've denied your like out of balance cheque. And I see you.” After it's kind of like, hopefully, I think that the idea and like, I guess what I would recommend to like junior people in the military is like, be good to go all the time. And then when that time comes, they're willing to kind of like wink, but you gotta like, it ends up being. You better do whatever it takes to get back if you need to.
You better be like chartering a plane to get back to make liberty or whatever it is. And there were several instances, I had to rent a car and do wild stuff to get back on time. But that's what it takes.
Matt Bishop 27:54
I totally agree. And I'd love to jump in. I think we're there chronologically. I'll tell you a little bit about my entrepreneurial, you know, endeavors. So, you know, basically taken us up to 2015. My wife got out of the Marine Corps in 2013 and decided that she wanted to be a physician assistant. She applied to some different PA schools she had been doing, you know, the whole time she was the last few years as a Marine Corps officer.
She was doing pretty rats so that she could kind of make this transition in the medical field. And she got accepted to PA school in Meridian, Idaho. Followed my wife, fell in love with it ,decided I should transition out. And then I was looking to do something as an entrepreneur. The first couple of go-arounds didn't pan out for me. My wife's an endurance runner. And I have friends that run ultras. And I decided, you know, I have this really cool design for ultra runners and packs. And my mom had been a seamstress for the VA hospital when I was growing up. So I had some sewing skills. I picked those up from her. So I was like, “I'm gonna buy commercial sewing machine. I'm gonna build all this like cool, you know, outdoor gear, but focus mostly on the running crowd because I you know, I have kind of ties with that crowd.” And I spent about eight months just prototyping packs.
And you know, I had one of them that a buddy ran a number of 100 mile Ultras in and I was figuring out my designs. But I realized that I was gonna make, you know, pretty much zero money. Trying to sell this on my own, like the marketing expenses would have been incredibly steep, and a lot of barriers to entry. So I tried to license some of my designs to different people, different pack manufacturers. And I talked with you know, all sorts of the big kind of running gear manufacturers. And for one reason or another, those just didn't pan out.
So I thought, well, let's move to the next thing. And the next thing was I had been organizing this mountain race, partly to promote my pack. But I thought, well, “You know, I still love this endurance running community. What if I get a pack mule, and I decide to, you know, every week I'll set up basically a different course in the mountains. I'll go ahead of time, and I'll stash people's gear, you know, and their food and water that they want for a very long distance run using this pack mule. And then people can basically do a really unique, different long course run, you know, to train every weekend.”
And I applied to permits with all sorts of forest service units and BLM and I just kept getting stonewalled. It was like the worst bureaucracy, like I thought, as a military officer, I knew, you know, what federal bureaucracy looked like. And I had no idea that it could get to the level it was. So my whole event thing was like a failure to you know, launch. But in the meantime, I'd had this crazy idea that, you know, as a side to this event series, I was going to have this pack mule and I was going to set up a small coffee operation, you know, on the trails, where people had to, you know, run or bike or whatever in, you know, a couple miles and then they'd all congregate by coffee.
I thought it'd be this really cool concept. Same thing, I got totally stonewalled by every, you know, public land entity that I approached. But I found a slight loophole in the Boise National Forest rags that said, “If you didn't charge any money, and you kept the participation less than 75 people, you didn't require a commercial permit, and you didn't require a group permit to do something.”
So I was so entrenched to this point that I said, “Hey, I'm doing this.” So out of my own pocket, I started loading up a pack mule named Richard, by the way. I bought a pack mule for this very good loading up Richard with a, you know, coffee setup to be able to pour over coffee. And I would go in on Saturdays and announce a different location, you know, each week where I was going to be and I just set up and serve coffee to people. I didn't accept tips. I didn't accept donations in the early days. It was just like, you know, totally letter the law. So, you know, I fit into the Boise National Forest rags. But I was really just, I had a lot of angst, it had been treated. But I got this thing off the ground. And it became, you know, better than I ever could have imagined. It became this kind of cool community following.
And the first summer in 2016, I did 18 of these trail services. So I was gone. A lot of the weekends out of the house doing these, but it was awesome. And then a couple private landowners in the area around Boise, Idaho here, gave me permission to use their land, you know, told me I could charge you know, whatever I wanted. And we started using their land because they have public trails that have easements across the land. So we started operating in that manner. And, you know, I decided not to charge people. I still gave coffee away. But it started opening up to tips and donations. And so it became a really cool thing. But not a super solid business model. I was spending a lot of time every week to..
And it’s free coffee
How long you can do that for?
Free coffee’s like not sustainable, even if the tips are amazing. So I had some interest in whole foods, locally wanted some bottled cold brew. I was willing to, you know, tool up and make it for him. So I decided I was gonna start a coffee company. So we did that. We pursued cold brew heavily for a couple years. And then ultimately in 2018, I decided that I wanted to partner with another coffee roastery here in Boise. So I have a partner, my current business he founded a company called Ironside Roasting Company, felt like we had comparable skill sets. I had a business education. He was a food scientist. And you know we decided to kind of work as suppliers for one another for a while. I was producing cold brew and bottling it for him. And he was doing all the roasting for all my coffee needs and then we ultimately just merged our companies. That's a lot of minutiae on the business but I'll give you the ones over now.
You know, we run a roastery out of Boise, Idaho. We have four brands that we sell mostly in the grocery so the cafe meal, lay the initial brand. I founded Ironside Roasting Company, my partners. And then we have a brand that we sell mostly to WinCo’s, which are like the kind of more budget grocery store here. And then we have a brand called Direct Access. And Direct Access is something we started a couple years ago. And you know, we felt that Fairtrade has created this really cool sense in the market that we should be doing better for farmers and people who are producing. But if you ask the average consumer, what does Fairtrade do? They don't know. They just look for a badge on the bag that says Fairtrade. And so first, we asked, well, what does fair trade do? And then we said, well, maybe we can do a lot better and do something differently. So we noticed something was..
Brock Briggs 35:45
Understanding what fair trade was, did you say, “Oh, this isn't good enough?” Is that what kind of led you to pursuing the rabbit hole a little further? Or what was the inkling that led you to go past that?
Matt Bishop 36:03
Yeah. I think we had a sense that there could be more done. I mean, we've been trading, you know. We've been trading coffee. We've been purchasing coffee from importers for a long time. We understood some of the cost structure. We were reading a lot on the early supply chain, so from you know, farming, to milling to exporting the coffee. And it just didn't seem like the fairtrade minimum price was a lot, you know. So we, and the coffee pricing globally is really erratic. It goes up and down quite a bit.
And Fairtrade has a component where they set a basement price. Where if the market is below the basement price, they ensure the farmers get that basement price minus some expenses. But if the market’s up, they get the market price. They get whatever they can get, which sounds really good. But from year to year, it can be still really volatile on whether you know, Fairtrade farmers making the basement price, which we didn't think was a lot or, you know. They're making something a little bit better than that. So, you know, a lot of the questions we asked were, how could we provide one to a higher return to coffee farmers, specifically, very small hold coffee farmers? And then how can we provide more stability to them?
And that was just like a really fascinating problem, you know, coffee in general. Coffee culture has become significantly stronger, I think, in the last decade than it was previously. And you have a lot of third wave roasters, who want to tell you, you know, where the coffee came from, and how it was processed, and who the farmer was, and, you know, all these different things. But they don't ever actually meet the farmers, right? Or they'll tell you that they do direct trade where they pay farmers directly. But oftentimes, that's really abused that language. So you know, the roaster maybe went down and met the farmer one time. But they're still paying an importer exactly what the importer wants for that coffee. There's no real change in the finances, you know, the financial outcome for that farmer.
So coffee is very transactional. Most coffee is grown on small farms. It's grown on steep terrain. It has to be handpicked. And, you know, infrastructures usually pretty terrible around the typical coffee farm. So farmers are really incentivized to sell off their coffee very quickly, once it's harvested.
And then they do like, they do pre orders, like, did they commit a certain amount of like, or do they wait until it's harvested to do that?
Yeah. So I mean, there are definitely entities, right? Like, there's massive coffee companies. And I don't know for sure. But I've heard this and I'm sure it's somewhat credible that Starbucks does a lot of, you know, pre-commitments to farms in certain areas. And so, you know, those farmers know, like, “Hey, whatever I grow, you know, there's only so much Sumatra that can be produced and like Starbucks wants it all. So, you know, whatever I grow is going to them.”
And so there are some direct trade relationships where people are trying to make pre-commitments to farmers. Those can also be tricky though, because sometimes you have really demanding, pretentious third wave roasters that go down and, you know, tell a farmer like, “Hey, I want you to grow exactly this type of coffee and I want it to come out with, you know, this type of processing and fermentation, you know, after you pick it.” And then the strength of that commitment is, you know, always questionable. So if the farmer produces something that doesn't quite meet, you know, a certain score, sometimes they get dropped, right? For the most part, the norm is that, you know, coffee farmers, they harvest and then they have to get it to market and a lot of them play. Whatever the best price is at the moment, right? It's like a bird in the hand type mentality. And can I? Who's gonna give me the best price, right?
Brock Briggs 40:28
Yeah. Are we talking like people that, I maybe this is totally wrong, but like, this is the ignorant American approach here. I'm imagining people that like farm coffee beans for a living and probably have their entire livelihood staked on, like, one crop of coffee or whatever. And like, literally, a year to year, they come once a year, and they sell coffee. Is that right?
Matt Bishop 40:54
It’s absolutely right. And, you know, there's, we're talking about farms that are five acres in size, 10 acres in size, they're not big farms. And they're, you know, a lot of them are producing basically, coffee. That's it, you know. I mean, I think there's a movement to encourage coffee farmers to produce additional crops and food crops and things that they can fall back on. But for a lot of these farmers, what they harvest and get to market is what they get for the year.
And that, that really makes them vulnerable to the ups and downs of the commodity market. So even if they're growing specialty coffee, the commodity market sets the price. And then they just add on some spread over that, given the origin country and the quality on top of commodity. So you know, these farmers are really dependent on what that market is doing, if it's up or if it's down, and also currency risk. So how strong is their local currency versus the dollar.
Brock Briggs 42:07
Which I'm imagining one of the places is not very good.
Matt Bishop 42:12
Yeah and they, you know, you can plant or, I mean, they all have coffee trees. So it's not like they're planning year to year, but you can make an investment to, you know, apply additional fertilizers, do additional weeding, like do all sorts of things that you know, are a cost to try to get a better yield come harvest time. And the economic conditions surrounding when you take those actions throughout the growth period, and what those economic conditions are, that determine how much money you get when the crop is harvested can be totally different. So it's really interesting.
There's a lot of you know, there's a lot of other players in the coffee supply chain. So coffee, you know, it grows in something that looks like a cherry. The coffee beans that you see are two hot two sides of a seed that are in there on the farm. Those cherries are wet milled, a lot of times. Sometimes, the wet milling is done off farm. But a lot of times on the farm. But then there's an additional process called dry milling. And dry milling has to happen off the farm. It takes place in, you know, huge facilities that are like million dollar builds. And you know, no small farmer has the ability to do that for themselves.
So you end up having you know, this funnel that brings in all this coffee and requires it in most cases to be sold off to some other entity that's going to put it through the dry milling. And then there it gets prepped into export bags. And then there's a big shipping component, right? You have to have an exporter. You can sell to an importer who's willing to put it in big container ships and get it to the US. So you oftentimes have a lot of transaction, you know. Our approach that we're trying to implement, it's totally different. I don't want to totally you know, I don't think podcasts about our approach to coffee, but you know..
Brock Briggs 44:09
Absolutely, yes! I think that a lot of people are maybe even unaware of how that process works anyway. But it'll be good I think to compare, “Hey, like, this is your Starbucks, whatever coffee.” And then I guess how is what you guys do differently?
Matt Bishop 44:24
Yeah, so almost, you know, again, there's some very limited and genuine direct trade relationships going on where you know, small roasters may be committing to buy some coffee ahead of time. And they're even making you know, cash commitments ahead on it. Those are very, you know, very rare for the most part. Most of your coffee is grown on smaller farms. It is sold to some middleman that comes through the countryside and has the assets to run a truck, you know, on rough roads.
And basically they, this middleman buys up, you know all the green coffee there. It's called parchment at that point, all the parchment that they can throughout the countryside. And then they take it and dry millet. Once they get it dry milled, and it's an export bag, they contract with an importer, they sell it to the importer. The importer brings it to the states and the importer sells it to a roaster. The roaster, you know, does the roasting and packaging. But at every one of those stages, basically, the person holding on to the coffee is trying to maximize their profit, like everyone does, right?
But you end up having a lot of profit potential, but gets drained out of that supply chain as a whole that doesn't go to real value. Coffee is graded. But there's also a ton of kind of marketing value that's built up in certain places like you know, importers saying that, “This is like a super amazing special coffee from this very rare region.” And the reality is a lot of times it, like it isn't, you know. It was a coffee that was blended with, you know, 20 other coffees from that region. And, you know, it was milled and it's nothing super special.
And, you know, the farmer that they say grew up might not be the farmer and you know, there's this huge trade in information in the industry where the higher end kind of boutique roasters, you know, like to build that sense of connection between them and the farmers. So, exporters will build a digital package that gets sent in parallel with the coffee when they sell it to them. Ordering, it always show photos of the farm photos of the farmer, family information, you know, all sorts of stuff. The importer takes that on, and when they sell that coffee from the importer, to the roaster, they send it to the roaster.
And so, you know, we see all the time roasters who say, you know, “I'm roasting you know, Robin Gutierrez coffee,” and here's, you know, you go on their website, and you see pictures of Robin and you see his farm, see all this stuff. You know, the implication to a consumer is like, “Oh, man, this roaster here, he really cares. He must have been there. He must have seen this person, like there's some personal connection.” And the reality is like, the furthest from that, right?
And there's some variances in how coffees traded, but that is the norm. It's, you know, comes off far, sold quickly, goes to, you know, some intermediary who either does the exporting or sells and onto an exporter maybe, you know. The exporter does, you know, milling exports. It sold out right to an importer. And then, you know, further on sold out right to a roaster. What we said is, “Look, you know, all those prices that the farmers receiving under that system are really erratic because the commodity market for coffee is really erratic.”
Coffee farmers tend to get also very low prices. And a low overall value capture compared to everyone else. How can we do it differently? We looked at the retail market, and we said, “You know, the bad fruit, or the price for a 12 ounce bag of coffee in the grocery stores, like, it's the same this week, as it will be next week you know. If anything, it's gonna go up. But you don't go to the grocery store this week and bag’s $12 and next week, it's $8. Like, it's always $12.”
So we saw that there was a lot of stability in the end retail market. And we wanted to know if we could pin a farmer's outcome to that end retail market. And we said, you know, “Sure, we could do that, if a farmer had the capability to, you know, hold on to their coffee, pay for it to get dry, milled, pay for it to get exported, you know, pay for it to, you know, come through, you know, the US port and be imported, and then could hire someone to roast and package it for him and get it on a grocery shelf. Like if a farmer could do all that.
A farmer could basically make, you know, $12 that you know, 12-ounce bag sells for on the shelf minus all the actual just value added service costs of getting their coffee there. And so that's what we're trying to replicate with our Direct Access brand. That's our program. We go down. We identify farmers that we want to work with. Typically they're very small farmers. And we say hey, you know, we know that you can't survive if you don't get a payment when your coffee leaves the farm. So we're going to build a relationship with an exporter. They're going to buy your coffee. You're gonna get a market rate for your coffee once it leaves the farm. But then we're going to work with that exporter and an importer to keep the costs as low as possible.
To move this farmers coffee to the supply chain, we're going to roast and package the coffee at a reduced rate other than what we would capture. We're going to be super transparent with everyone's fees. And then once a farmer's coffee actually sells on a grocery shelf, we give them that amount minus all the costs that came out to include our own costs as a roaster. So we can make over a program like Fairtrade. We can make two and three times the profit for these farmers. It's really rewarding.
If it's two to three times the profit for the growers, that's significant.
Yeah, no, it's. I mean and it all depends on the country where the growers are and what the costs are for us to work with exporters and importers to get that coffee into the US. So you know, in some cases, we may be making an additional 25 cents per pound and just straight profit. That's ultimately going back, you know, to that farmer on top of whatever they're paid when it left the farm.
In some cases, we're making, you know, 80 cents or more. And we have a goal, we know. We know what scale we can get to to kind of maximize that, right? Like one of the big hurdles is the shipping piece. It takes about 300 export bags of coffee, and every export bag’s, you know, 69 to 70 kilograms. It takes 300 of those bags to fill up a container to be put on a ship. And so we have goals of, you know, every country that we're working in, to get to the container level. Because once we get to a container level of coffee that we're pulling out of that country, we're able to really negotiate down all the fees with exporters and importers. So that's kind of golden unit that we have. Right now, we're working with farmers in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Columbia.
And, you know, in each one of those areas, we have, you know, a handful of farmers of ones and twos that were, you know, having to negotiate their coffee being put, you know, in with these big shipments of, you know, other people's coffee. So, really cool, really fascinating challenges, at least for me. I mean, maybe not everyone finds it fascinating. But that's the economic side of it. I think, the side of it, that really goes back to service. I mean, this is, you know, we're talking about kind of our service and how that plays in, is kind of the human connection, right? Like, I find the coffee industry to be disingenuous and jaded. You know, I find consumers are duped right in thinking that all these roasters have this amazing caring outlook for the producers. And, you know, I think the roasters and the importers and exporters are really jaded and passing on all this information and allowing for that duping of the consumer.
And we really want to build genuine connections. We put the picture of the farmer whose coffee is in the retail bag, like right on front of the bag. And we want people to see their face. We want people to have some understanding of, you know, there's a real person behind this end of the supply chain. They have, you know, we want them to have some curiosity and what that person's life is like, at some point. And I think that's a constant challenge for us and how we message that, do it authentically, and do it in a way that doesn't have a slide into what the rest of the industry does, you know. And that's part of us trying to get down and actually visit our producers and also trying to share information with the producers that work with us.
So we're really trying to focus on some of those things that treat people really well that like build a genuine, deeper connection. And, you know, going back to my service, that's what I took. My, again, my 2005 Iraq deployment was amazing to be able to spend day in and day out with Iraqi civilians. It kept me or put me in a place to make really, really good decisions when I had a much more you know, kind of danger laden like deployment that required some finesse and how I operated and led people.
I'm super grateful that you know in 2006, I would, you know, come across Iraqi civilians who you know, maybe we just gotten shot at or an ID had gone off or whatever. And we had to search homes and we had to, you know do all those kinds of things. But I had the lens to be able to see that, you know maybe there were just people who were just caught in the middle, you know. They're just there. And I think, you know, a lot of people lack that lens if they maybe, you know, grow up in Wyoming like I did, but you know, aren't exposed to a lot of the world. And their first exposure to, you know, an Iraqi is, you know, on my 2006 type deployment and on my 2005 type deployment. So I thought that level of understanding, even if you've never met someone before, just for whatever their position in life, is really important. It's something I'm really trying to build into our coffee company, and with our Direct Access program, specifically.
I think there's something valuable in consumer understanding that, you know, coffee farmers aren't to be pitied, necessarily. But you know, like, I've visited coffee farmers in Peru this summer, who, you know, they have dirt floors, like, that's how they roll, right? Like, that's how they live. They cook everything on wood, still, you know. They are, you know, they don't go to a grocery store. They kill the chickens on the farm. And they, you know, maybe they go to a grocery store, but it's far and few in between, right? Like, just a different idea of, you know, people's kind of place in life with things really cool.
Brock Briggs 56:29
And I think that you're hitting the nail on the head and going about that the right way, really focusing on transparency. We live in a world like this internet world, where there's a million different types of coffee you can buy. There's a million different types of every single product. And everybody is looking for a way to differentiate themselves.
But at the end of the day, it really comes down to what people are looking for, what's real now. I feel like we've gone through that phase of, “Oh, yeah, like they're the organic this or maybe it's free trade that or this wasn't made in China or all these different phases.” But what I think is at the end of this road is people that are ultimately perfectly transparent with what they do about their costs. That gives you so much buy in as a consumer or somebody on the other side of that, that you know, it's real. And like you said, you feel like you're not being duped.
We get duped on the internet all the time. People get scammed or whatever. But this is the way around that I think.
Matt Bishop 57:38
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, that's what we're hoping for, you know. The challenge for us is, you know, how can we get people to care about that transparency? Or how can we communicate it in a way that is really quickly powerful, so that they also say, like, “I can feel good about this.” And you have the people that, you know, do that and drive on with their life and don't spend more than 10 seconds thinking about it. And then you have the people that really dig in deep and totally get well, you know, everything that we're about. That's a challenge. I'm not sure that my military background prepared me for that. I mean, there's probably something.
Brock Briggs 58:17
Eager to kind of hear more about like, what the size and scale of the business. Not sure how much of this you can tell me or if you want to or not, but can you give us a sense of, you know, how many pounds of coffee beans are you guys roasting? What are you guys doing in sales? Like you said, if you can share that, and what do you hope to be doing and maybe three to five years from now and how you're gonna get there?
Matt Bishop 58:45
Yeah. I mean, we're not massive. We have regional distribution with two of our brands. So Cafe Emulator, the brand that I found that is in 34 Albertsons in four states, and then Direct Access, which is, you know, our newest program and brand. But obviously, what we want to see is kind of the flagship for our company because of its social mission. We're in 58 QFC stores, their Kroger banner, over in the Seattle and Portland area. We're in 40 some stores on the Eastern Seaboard, mostly independents. And then we just got accepted for a national account with sprouts.
So we're moving along. We're executing in grocery. We like you know, we like grocery over selling to you know, online because the marketing expenses are super heavy online. And, you know, once you basically get a grocery account, if you do well, there's a little bit more stability there. So anyway, you know. What's that?
Isn’t that predictable?
Yeah, exactly. I mean, we're trying to benefit small holders who we want to work with year after year. And we want to see them put in a little bit of their crop one year and more than next year and like really gain confidence in us. And, you know, the more stable we can be on the sales side, the better. We should do around half a million in sales for this year. You know, again, we're not massive. But next year..
That’s cool. It’s huge!
It took us a while to get there. But, you know, I think I'm not trying to undercut it, but, I've seen the work to get there. And I'm really proud of that work. But, you know, it's not where we want to be, right? So, you know, I would love to be deployed in, you know, for really great national grocery accounts. And, you know, I'd love to be doing, like $20 million in sales in a few years. So we have about a 40 fold growth that we need to make happen to get there. But you know, we're gonna swing for the fences.
Brock Briggs 1:01:00
Well, and I think that, I don't know that there's really any other way to live. To be honest, that sounds really extreme. But you talked about something earlier that really resonated with me. And I kind of want to tie it into the entrepreneurial journey for those that are interested. You at like multiple points in your career, or like everything that you've told us, you realize that you weren't totally sold out on what you were doing. And it was okay to like, not call it quits. But sort of, you know, say, “Hey, like the, I don't want to be a Marine Corps lifer.” Or “I don't want to, you know, do the National Guard thing forever, like, and that.” That's okay. And it is okay to go 100% all in on, like, what you're passionate about. And I think it's clear that you are passionate about this.
Matt Bishop 1:01:56
Yeah, thank you. And absolutely, I mean, I'll take it back to, you know, I didn't want to be a Marine to start with. But it was the values decision, right? Like, it supported my family and I'm super proud of that organization, by the way. Like I, you know, I could say, you know, critical things like we can all say. And, you know, I think there's, it would take like another podcast to hear my thoughts on, you know, whether we can actually execute counterinsurgency with, you know, as a broad mission with anyone we have in any of the services, right?
Totally different podcast for that, probably. But, yeah, with any critiques that we might have, like that organization gave me so much. I mean, I have a very, it gave me an opportunity to really hone my leadership style into something that I was comfortable with. And it's been incredibly valuable that I brought with me into my entrepreneurial journey. But yeah, I'm getting a little bit off track. But like value based, right? I went into that organization, not necessarily wanting to but it fit, you know.
My other values of wanting to have a family like, I knew I wanted to have a family fairly early. And then, you know, same thing like leaving SF was like, I wasn't getting the professional fulfillment. I wanted out of my guard time there. And also, I had three kids, right? It was like, “Let's spend time with family.”
And in my coffee business, you know, my partner and I built a company that had good local and kind of regional footprint. But at the end of the day, it was just, it was just a coffee company, right? It was, we have our, you know, we give back to the trail system off one of our brands. And I love that we do that, but it wasn't that big, overarching purpose that I wanted. And so, you know, we said, kind of like, well, if it's worth doing, let's do something that is relevant to our industry that actually can change people's lives for the better.
And so that's why we launched Direct Access. And yeah, we have super ambitious goals there, but it fits our values, right? You know, I have that value of doing something that kind of impacts lives because that was something I carried with me for sure. I mean, I you know, I had my doubts on our success we may or may not have through our actions when I was a deployed Marine.
But I knew that I was where the rubber meets the road. And I knew that I could have individual impact on the people that myself and my platoon members came in contact with. And I was super proud to be able to do that, right? You know, because I know that Marine Corps culture isn't always positive, depending on who's kind of taking that culture on board and leading with it for the moment. You know and I saw people who didn't have a lot of regard for Iraqi civilians are an understanding of the place that they were in and did things that ultimately hurt the mission as a whole, right?
You know, everyone wanted to preach about a strategic corporal and how, you know, every person in the ranks should, you know, have this counterinsurgency mindset and be able to treat people well, and, you know, get the populace to come on board with our mission. But the reality is that, oftentimes, that's the furthest from how, you know, people are led and what they end up doing. So anyway, you know, I always saw that greater overarching purpose that I had there. And, you know, that's something that totally I'm taking on still now. And I need like, want that and I think I've heard in your other podcasts. And I've heard it many times from other veterans like that big purpose in life is important, you know, something that I think we all wanted, that's why we went in.
Brock Briggs 1:06:05
Yeah, what would you say? Or what advice would you give to somebody that is maybe doing something, maybe they're in the service, maybe they're working a different job, whatever it may be doing something that doesn't fulfill that value, whatever our number one thing is, like yours is your family and taking care of people? How can people square doing something that doesn't fulfill that?
Matt Bishop 1:06:47
Yeah, I mean, at the same time, you know, I have the opportunity at this point to try to do something that fits a broader purpose. The reality is, for the first three and a half years into my coffee company, I didn't like I literally just had to get out there, and, you know, produce and sell what I could sell, like there was no ability to, you know, take on a broader mission, or at least not a really significant one.
And so, I would say that, you know, don't give up on the dream. Like, look for those ways to fit into a broader purpose, and maybe as an extra, you know, an extra curricular item. But professionally, like, you know, you got to pay the bills first, I think. And you got to take care of you and your family. And don't get dejected, if you know, your immediate professional career doesn't fit in with that broader purpose.
I wouldn't give up on looking, like you still try to meet that. But like, don't get down on yourself, either. Because you got to pay the bills. You know and it took us in our business a long time to get to where we could, you know, take money out as founders. And you know, we're a small shop now. We're seven people total. And I love that like, paydays are super fun for me, because, you know, I know what it took to get there. And I'm like, “Oh, yeah, let's write checks to everyone, you know, like it.” So, I mean, I do it on QuickBooks.
But the thing is, like, it's super fun. Like, yeah, it feels good. It's like, “Yeah, damn, right!” Like, we have a business that produces enough money to pay all these people a reasonable salary. And, you know, I always want that to be more. And I always want our benefits to be more. And I know how we can get there. But like, it just feels good, right? To produce that and do it. And, but it takes a long time to get there.
And you know, I remember the days when I was like, making nothing and you know, negative if we think about the free coffee. But you know, I was like, you know, those days when I was calling people and like “Hey, man, like, I got a big bottling day for cold brew, like we're doing a massive run, can you come help me out?” And, you know, I had so many people that helped me out and, you know, you're gonna. And my wife's, like, you know, working full time as a PA, like doing all the heavy lifting on the family finances. You know, it's like, it takes a while. So, you know, everyone's situation is different. And I wouldn't want people to get discouraged because they don't find that massive, overarching purpose in their professional career, all the time and right away, especially doing something entrepreneurial.
Brock Briggs 1:09:41
Yeah. I find myself like incredibly drawn to the entrepreneurial space. I was talking to somebody earlier today, and I don't know how this came to be, but somehow, like spending several years like taking orders from people made me realize that I like there's nobody that I should be taking orders as from, except from myself. And I have to believe that there is a large portion of the active duty and like veteran community that should be starting businesses that I know that I'm not the only one that feels that way. Or at least I hope not at least me and you. We've got to on this podcast.
Yeah, yeah. Very scientific sample there. Right. Yeah, that's an official sample.
How do people, maybe it was obvious to you. You know, you're up there giving free coffee and doing that thing, just because you like running and we're in that space. But how do people find that thing, that fire that gets them up? And like I said, you're incredibly passionate about this. If somebody's looking for that, how do they find it?
Matt Bishop 1:10:52
Yeah, I mean I think maybe how do they find the passion is not the right question. It can be rough, right? It can be really, really brutal to manage a small business, especially early on. I think, because it's, for me, at least, it was a crushing weight of, you know, all of this comes down on you. And, you know, I mean, you're talking about that intoxicating, feeling a little bit. Or you didn't use those words, but you know, feeling fulfilled as someone who's deployed and you know, for me, for sure. Like, I can remember, like, staging up getting ready to go out on a mountain patrol at night. And like standing on the hood of the Humvee and doing radio checks with everyone and like, “Oh, yes, like, everything's down to me, like whatever happens, you know, good, bad, or indifferent, I'm going to have to make decisions.” And that was like this intoxicating feeling of, you know, you're in it, and the buck stops here.
Even having had that experience, the experience as a small business owner, it felt way heavier to me than those combat experiences like that feeling of, you know, whether we're solvent and make money or not, mean like, it came down to my decisions. And, you know, early on in a business, you're everything, you know. You're like the accountant, the HR person, the, you know, the marketing person, the production person, the delivery person, you're that everything person.
And so it leaves, you know, little bandwidth to actually, like, assess everything and make maybe decisions the way you would want to. Or at least that was my experience. And so it makes it all the more I think, just mentally challenging and kind of crushing of how, you know, everything is on you. The buck stops here. It can be a wild ride. I think you have to be really ready to, you know. You have to be passionate and going in, I think.
Brock Briggs 1:13:06
Yeah. I think that's right. I've got one final question for you. And this might be the heaviest, most critical question of this interview. Do you still have Richard, the mule?
Matt Bishop 1:13:18
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, yes. Yeah.
That really makes me so happy to hear.
Yeah, Richard lives about five minutes away. I have a plot in town but he was right over the hill from me, quick drive. We still take him out. We did two trail services this summer. So people are always asking. I don't have a personal Instagram. Our Instagram is @richardthemule. So he manages our social media for that brand.
Yeah. Yeah. No, I love that guy. He was, Richard was, like, life-changing. You know, like, some people don't like animals. They're just not you know, it's not their thing. I get that. Like, I know plenty of people like that. But Richard, for me was seriously, I don't know instructive, therapeutic, like all of those things.
And if you don't know the difference, you know, horses are very kind of reactionary. Like you can kinda, you know, and they're easier to instruct in some ways.You can tell them what to do and they do it. Mules you have to like build their trust and make them feel like they're safe and get you know, they you have to really massage them and a lot of times kind of set conditions for them to do exactly what you want, which was awesome, like totally made me a better parent. So yeah, have Richard loving.
Brock Briggs 1:14:48
I appreciate you drawing a connection to parenting and owning a mule. I'm sure that parents listening will appreciate that. Take out a close up here. You maybe mentioned the Instagram, but will you kind of let us, let our listeners know we might have a few regional purchasers of large bulk coffee that might be interested in reaching out to you? Where can people go to follow along with what you're doing - website, contact, whatever?
Matt Bishop 1:15:19
Yeah. No, thanks. I hope we have so many buyers.
I know, we do.
No way. Yeah, just a lot. Just tons, tons of them.
Brock Briggs 1:15:27
I'm getting emails right now. They're like coming in.
Matt Bishop 1:15:30
Now we have, you know, a suite of brands but directaccesscoffee.com is our website for Direct Access, @directaccess.coffee is our Instagram for that brand. Our other website and brands, you can find us at ironmealcoffee.com. And then the Instagram, there's @richardthemule.
Brock Briggs 1:16:00
So people can be following along. Hopefully, there's regular pictures of him because I'll be following along for those.
Matt Bishop 1:16:06
There's so many mule photos on there. So you'll be enthused.
Brock Briggs 1:16:11
Awesome! Well, this has been really great, Matt! Thank you so much for your time. And best of luck out there.
Matt Bishop 1:16:17
Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. It was a joy to be on.