“I think it’s so important to get out there and have people actually feel your product and you and your brand – more so for online companies because online it’s so competitive. You’ve got two seconds, if not one, to connect with somebody and then they’re on to the next thing.” -Lacie Mackey
On the show today, we have Lacie Mackey, co-founder and COO of Caveman Coffee. If you’re not already familiar with the story behind Caveman, then you’re in for a treat.
Lacie is a professional stunt trainer and cross-fit athlete with a business background in guerilla marketing. Her co-founders Keith
Jardine and Tait Fletcher are both professional MMA fighters who combined have either acted in or did stunts for Breaking Bad, Maze Runner, Jurrassic World and a lot more stuff you’ve probably seen or heard of.
We’re talking with Lacie today about how she and her cofounders stumbled upon their successful business idea, and then leveraged their skills toward disrupting a food category through social media, podcasting, and just being themselves.
On the episode, you’ll learn:
- What benefits and challenges come with starting an e-commerce first brand
- How Caveman leveraged social media and their community to grow their brand
- How to stay sharp and focused when you have a massive to do list
And plenty more.
Caveman Coffee is doing a lot of things right, tapping marketing channels most companies haven’t even thought about yet, and it’s paying big off for them in a big way. You’ll learn a lot from Lacie in this episode, not just about how to approach business, but managing the lifestyle as a marketer and entrepreneur, and what it’s like disrupting a food category through e-commerce.
- Mindset – Carol S. Dweck
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
- The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Alex: Can you tell our listeners just a little bit more about yourself and about Caveman Coffee?
Lacie: Yeah. So I’m Lacie Mackey. I’m one of the founders of Caveman Coffee, currently also the operating manager, and I handle most of the marketing and direction of things that go in that nature. I come from a background of marketing.
So I started out after college doing things with Viacom Network and MTV, lots of grassroots, lots of guerilla stuff, trying to get fan club people to come to shows that were shot in the middle of day in New York, so getting kids to ditch school and find people that were really into whatever guest was coming on, TRL or I did a comedy central show called Standup Nation with Greg Giraldo. So I spent a lot of time in comedy clubs, getting people to come be part of audiences. So I think that kind of trained me for, you know, looking at community and what different people like and target markets and things like that.
I later went on to work in the guerilla marketing world at a place called GoGorilla in New York. And we did all kinds of crazy stunts when guerilla marketing was cool, and you didn’t have to get permits for anything. Sometimes you got arrested, and you would do things to get publicity. You know, it was like mostly, pre-social media. So you were looking to get people to write about you or you know, the news to cover you or things like that. So we did all kinds of crazy stunts, did that for a couple of years.
And I’ve kind stayed in that world ever since. I’m actually part of another company called Black Ops that does different types of guerilla events but like actual experiential marketing with permits and things like that these days because now it’s more about the social media factor and getting brands to interact with communities. And so I think that has really boded well for Caveman.
And we started Caveman in 2013 as kind of a little fun side project, myself and Tait Fletcher and Keith Jardine who are the three partners in the company. Tait and I had a fun idea to do a pop-up food truck, coffee truck in the summer of 2013 leading up to the CrossFit Games. So we’re both in the health and fitness kind of world. And we’re really into Paleo, and we’re doing something called the Whole Life Challenge which basically eliminates all things that could be inflammatory in your body which really limits what you can eat. A huge part of that was like taking cream out of our coffee. So we started doing the butter coffee.
And that started out as us like literally going to Starbucks with like a piece of a stick of butter in a cup and be like, “Could you add some coffee to this?” They were like, “Do you want us to wash this out?” we’re like, “No, just put the coffee on top.” And that was kind of weird you know, you had like an oil slick on the top of your coffee. And it wasn’t like that enjoyable to drink but then we learned about blending it.
And we got really into coconut oil. We really got into MCT and all these things. So we said what if it was like instead going through this hassle of making it, this was just like already available, and it was a car that was going around to different gyms and like people could buy it. I was off of work that month. So I decided to go out and do it. And rented a truck and we rocked it. And we did like three events. And it was a struggle because I don’t know a lot about mechanics, and the truck was like a really bad truck. Yes, you know. If you can find a food truck that’s available to rent for one month it’s probably not gonna be the best quality.
Alex: Noted, noted.
Lacie: So that wasn’t awesome, but it did give us like a really fun, kind of dip into the coffee world. We were using different brands of coffee at the time like we actually had like the coffee machine break down. I remember like sneaking out of the back of the truck and like running to Pete’s and buying like gallons of hot coffee. It was, you know, it was crazy. But it established us kind of as these coffee people.
And around that same time, Keith, our third partner in Caveman was going to the Southwest Coffee and chocolate festival and he met these two brothers that own their own farm in Columbia and were roasting their beans, basically out of their garage and had just moved into like a space. They were roasting locally for, you know, some hotels and restaurants. And they were like, “Oh, keep chatting and let’s do some roasts for you.” So Keith told us about it. We all met. We did like 1,000 sessions, learned a lot more about coffee that we ever thought we would.
And we said, “Let’s just put this online and share it with people.” I made like our first generation of our website was a big cartel. And so it’s like a little design, do it yourself store front. And I, you know, designed it overnight, and we put it out it there. And we sold like 200 bags. And we were like, “Oh, maybe we actually have a business here.”
Lacie: Yeah, we kind of grew into a business that we didn’t know that we were gonna grow into. And then obviously we’re very nutrition-focused, so being a part of the natural food world for ourselves and like what we were eating, and what nutrition was working best for us from like a performance standpoint in athletics. You know, Tait and Keith are professional athletes. So they have a lot like first-hand experience with that and what they could do to put in their bodies as fuel. So we were just geeking on that to the ultimate extent and kind of fueling that into our coffee company.
Disrupting a Food Category
Alex: And so those first 200 sales, how did those come about when you launched the website, where was the awareness and visibility from?
Lacie: So we have a very, you know, lucky cool factor in that. We started from a place of having a lot of people know who Tait and Keith were and are. And so their voice in the world, like social media is obviously like a huge part of the way that our company grew and Tait just kind of tweeting about it a couple of times. When we did the truck, people started tweeting him about different single origin coffees that they were finding that they really liked. And so he was telling them about ones that he liked. And so when we decided to do this and put this coffee out there he, you know, mentioned it on social and said, “Hey, we did this roast with these two Columbian brothers.
They have a really cool story. It’s their grandfather’s farm. You guys should try it.” We worked on this roast, and we think we they’re really good by themselves and also from a nutrition standpoint we got them tested and prove that they were very clean coffee and that they have high levels of caffeine, things like that. So people reacted to that pretty instantly. And then that kind of grew because of Tait and Keith. They really involved in the MMA community and Jackson’s MMA which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico trains some of like the biggest fighters in the world. We’re talking about, you know, John Jones and Holly Holm. It’s their family.
You know, they started bringing the coffee around them and talking about it and that really launched us some more. We got a lot of like just organic community involvement and people that were talking about us on social. And then Tait has been really good friends with Joe Rogan for many years. And send him a bunch of coffee. He drinks a lot of coffee. And the minute Joe mentioned it, it was like sold out.
Alex: Oh, I can imagine.
Lacie: So it’s just been like this really amazing community, and we’ve been very lucky, you know, just kind of be in the circles that we’re in. And also come up with some like really, really cool products. It wasn’t like we started out like, “Let’s see how we can market this thing that may or may not be cool.” It was like, “Wow, this is really amazing. I wish you could share it with people. Let’s give it to our friends.” And it just like organically grew from there because people put it out there, and the power of social media is so strong. You get enough people talking about something and everyone reacts.
And you know, we probably weren’t prepared for that. Our website definitely…it could only handle like, 100 orders. And so when we got to the day that we had 100 orders which was like around the holidays, we couldn’t see. As a new order would come in like the bottom part would just drop off like the earlier orders would go away and there was no way to like recover them. So we were getting all these emails, and I was like literally like watching it order to order, print out the order, print out the order because it’s gonna go away. And like try to PDF everything. So, you know, obviously, we weren’t really planning on getting to where we’ve got now. And we’ve learned more about how to take that community-based social conversation and direct it a little bit better.
Alex: At what point did it click that, “Okay, we need a new website.”? And once you built that, how did that change the company?
Lacie: So that happened pretty quickly because when we launched it, it was November. So it was already getting into the holiday time and so we stuck it out with our little website through that holiday time. And like I said it, that was like me and one of our friends Maynard literally like printing out orders as they came in so that they wouldn’t disappear.
Alex: It’s a good problem, stressful.
Lacie: It was stressful but it was fun. And we were just, you know, having a good time, you know. And then on the other side of it was like Keith was like filling bags of beans because the company the guys we were working with definitely weren’t ready for that either. And we were like printing out labels on my home computer and just it was kind of chaotic. But we then decided to move to a square space website and outgrew that eventually. But that really, you know, was plug and play for me. We weren’t like ready to invest in a really expensive website.
So it was kind of like learn as you go, figure out how to do it. And we did. We learned things about like, you know, bulk shipping and other apps that can kind of plug into these websites that help do the labels. You don’t have to handwrite labels, all that stuff. It was very like not an intentional company and very much learn as you go. You know, I think we all knew how to like market something and like make a coffee, but I don’t think any of us realized what the back end would be like on, you know, online e-commerce side.
Alex: So you, Keith, and Tait, all have a high-performance background. I know. I met Keith at Expo West And I actually didn’t even recognized him. He shook my hand and immediately recognized this is a handshake of someone who could definitely be…
Lacie: And kind of other contacts there. It’s amazing to like, you know, walk with him and Tait through like a casino in Vegas where they can’t walk like two inches without people being like, “Oh my God, oh my God, let me take a picture.” But when you get into a trade show like that people just don’t…it doesn’t, you know, make sense why that person would be there. So it takes a little bit of time sometimes for people to realize, “Wait a minute, I’m talking to Keith Jardine in a coffee booth.”
Alex: Yes. How is that background in high-performance athletics and high-intensity training shaped the company both the product and how you guys run the company?
Lacie: I mean, it kind of really establishes our mission, I think. When you go back to like what are our goals, what’s like our core belief? And this was just kind like…it’s a through-line that goes with all of us is, you know, how can we get the most out of our bodies? How can we perform the best? How can we keep our minds so clearest? How can we do more? And not all comes down to nutrition. And so if you’re not feeling yourself correctly, you’re not gonna be able to get through your workout. You’re not gonna be as intense in your workout. You’re not gonna be able to then after your workout go back to your computer and get back to work, all those things.
You know, I think I’m speaking to Tait and Keith which, you know, I don’t really try to do that often. I know for sure, Keith, like when he started doing the coconut oil and MCT in his coffee he called Tait because Tait has been doing it for a while and said like, “Wow man, I feel amazing. I feel the best I felt in years.” He’s been training and probably over training for a long time which leads to all kind of things, lots of adrenal fatigue.
You know, not as much recovery as he used to get, and things like that. And so when you learn to feel your body a little bit better, and you’re able to recover better than everything clicks. And so that’s kind of in the foundation of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Coffee has almost turned into just like the starting point in a conversation. And it’s a great starting point because so many people, everybody drinks coffee. Second largest commodity in the world is coffee.
Lacie: And so that gives us a really good platform to then talk about, you know, what we found in nutrition. I also have a background in training and have worked with some of the top action stars in the world on their nutrition and on their fitness. And it becomes, you know, we’re gonna create new a product or we’re gonna like pair something with something like how does this work functionally?
Yes, does it taste great? We definitely wanna have that. Is it the highest quality? That’s great. But is it gonna be really good if you go into your body? And that’s, you know, kind of how we approach everything that we make from our MCT oil which we, you know, learned a lot about palm. And I feel like I can actually feel it when I drink something with palm oil it and with palm MCT. But can we source something that’s 100% coconut? Can we find products out there that we would want and that we would think help in our performance in our nutrition, and can we give those to our customers and the people in the world? And so that’s kind of how we approach everything.
These beans the reasons why we’re so excited about these two Columbians was that their farm had been in their family for years. Their beans were single origin. They were hand-picked, wet processed like the whole thing is on the top, top percentile on the coffee world and recognized by like the specialty coffee association, things like that. So it’s not just about, you know, performance enhancing.
It’s about, this is like food from the earth and we know where it comes from, we know how it’s done. So we were so excited to put that out there and kind of like share that with the world. And so that has given us the chance now to look at other products and other things that we just love, and we think are really unique, and how can we share them with our company and to our customers.
And so basically, everything that we put out there we test ourselves. Keith is probably like our greatest focus group because he tests things. Like I mean he’s the guy that’s like weighing his coffee and weighing his food and stuff like that and like eyeballing everything.
And he’s making sure like the temperature is right when he’s brewing and things like that. And so when we start to develop a new product, he’s working on it meticulously and testing it out a lot and then the three of us like share it with our community and see what people get back from it. And we hear pretty…you know, we don’t put anything out until we know like this is gonna be helpful to somebody somewhere and we enjoy it.
Alex: So one of the things that I really love about Caveman Coffee is that you work with advisers that are some of the leading dietitian and high-performance athletics.
Alex: You work with Robb Wolf who is a scientist. Are they actually helping you formulate the product or how… Can you speak to that a little bit?
Lacie: It’s been really cool. The people that like mentors us and like been a part of our world. Robb is a huge part. I’ll say Rob like has taken the time out of his busy day and schedule to answer crazy questions that we’re throwing at him like, you know, “If we added this like what would this do? And is this still Paleo?” And like, “Is this bad or good and would you recommend this for an athlete?” Things like that.
And he’s been so gracious to literally return every email and phone call and work on things and test things with us a little bit. And he’s been super inspirational to…you know, why we choose the diets that we choose and the lifestyle that we choose.
He lived in Santa Fe for a while where He has a gym. And so he came into the gym and that’s how that connection first happened. When we started sending him beans and products, he was like, “Yeah, this is amazing.” You know, for a while we had like a line of chocolate bars which chocolate doesn’t ship that well in the summer. So we started doing that. Not the best for an e-commerce. So if anyone’s is out there trying to make chocolate online be careful with that.
We, you know, developed like some paleo chocolate bars that are delicious and things like that. He’s been 100% helpful to us every step of the way. And we’ve also worked a lot with Mike Dolce, and that is somebody who advised Keith for many years on his diet during his like fighting career and weight cuts and things like that.
He works with some, if not all, of the athletics in the UFC world that are doing, you know this crazy thing or they’re being amazing, amazing athletes that have to perform and then also have to do a crazy thing to their body by cutting weight. And how do you do that in a way that you can still function at your top performance like you wanna peak at the same time, but you’re also gonna take out the nutrition?
You know, we worked with him a lot on a lot of things and he’s been very helpful to us. And then Robb and Mark have both kind of led me in my world because I’m definitely not a nutritionist but I have been a trainer in some really high-level action movies and things like that.
And how do I help people manage their weights while they’re also trying to perform and be actors and travel and do stunts and all these things? How do I deal with adrenal fatigue issues, people that don’t really sleep that much? So they have just been like these amazing, not only educators to us but advisers on every track of the way.
I’d also like to say Mark Sissons who basically I think like changed mine and Tait’s life in one single event. He came and spoke at our gym many, many years ago. This is right before we came up with the coffee truck idea. And some of his things like little tidbits that he gave in that speech like really resonated with us and really changed the way that I, not only train, but eat to perform. And so I think these guys like are under thanked in the world. But they do some really amazing things.
And they’ve helped inspired a lot of companies, not just ours, which is cool because I think that’s a movement in the natural food world that is not just about, you know, natural food for us. It’s also about like performance food. So how do you take it to the next level? And that, you know, you keep like narrowing the category of what you can eat and what’s good for you and all those things, and that gives a huge part of the market for people to create new products that can let go in these lines and help people on it. And it’s happening.
I mean, it’s all over the place. You walk into your grocery store and you see things that are like Paleo approved in primal all this and all that stuff. And it’s really exciting to see this shift in the way that people are eating and what people are looking for to this performance-based diet.
Alex: Right. I think that is such a great move in general, not just for these innovative and disruptive companies who are like Caveman Coffee who are coming out with this performance products that help you live a better life, but it’s just better for society in general.
Lacie: Yeah. It’s pretty amazing. And we all kind of like stick together, like we are on the phone and in email with like a bunch of different companies that are kind of at our same spot like Primal Kitchen Foods and people like that on it and everybody helps each other which really cool because we all have the same goal of, you know, taking on the issues with health and nutrition that are plaguing us as humans especially in this country. And the more that we all grow together, the more people we can reach, the more we can develop a healthy society which, you know, is a huge, huge issue right now.
Alex: So one of the things with a product like Caveman Coffee is the education piece. I heard about you guys first on Joe Rogan’s podcast which I’m sure you guys get all the time.
Lacie: All the time, yeah.
Alex: It’s a huge listener base. But podcasting is one of those mediums that…I mean, you would never hear of Starbucks advertising on a podcast, or at least not any podcast that I listen to.
Lacie: Not yet, yeah.
Alex: So I guess, why did you go that route or how did you think to go that route and what does that all look like?
Lacie: Here is what I love about like both of things, both like the fact that the technology these days allows small companies like ourselves to make up a product and sell it with, you know, some guidelines and some rules. But like you don’t have to adhere to the rules of like, “Okay, well we need to make everyone happy and we definitely can’t offend everyone, and we definitely need to like play by these really safe rules that all the big companies have to play by.
And we don’t wanna alienate anyone and stuff.” And definitely, you wanna like speak about what your product is and you wanna speak about what the lifestyle is about. And it’s the same thing in podcasts. Like, you know, people are electing to us in the podcast. So it’s like if chose to listen to it then you’re gonna listen to whatever that person has to see.
And people are gonna whatever they want. And that’s a freedom and that’s a beauty. So there’s the sub-culture of consumers that are listening to podcast or are on social media and are getting different types of information from different places that are these standard places and are seeking realness because we have so many people putting out, I don’t know, just corporate sponsored things that you don’t know what’s real anymore, and you don’t like who’s paying for that. And is that really healthy? And this doctor said this and things like that.
It’s like we’ve gotten to the point where pharmaceutical companies are running everything. And we’re trying to keep people sick. And so now there’s this movement of people that are seeking their information elsewhere and that elsewhere is podcast. And podcasts have blown up in the past few years in a way that I don’t think anybody really predicted. And for us obviously, it’s a no-brainer to send a ton of stuff to people that are influencers. And where people are influencing these people? Well, that’s on podcasts. So obviously Joe has a huge reach.
Jason Ellis has been a really big supporter of us. Even like Dr. Drew and Loveline and things like that like kind of old school shows that are turning into new school podcast and new school ways of thinking. You know, it’s a place that is not a huge barrier to entry. I mean, you can like reach out to people that you see doing really cool stuff and send them product and a lot of times they’ll just talk about you that way.
And then, you know, sponsorship dollars, you can look at that. And if you can compare paying for a sponsorship on a podcast that’s going to not only reach, you know, hundreds or thousands of people in the one show but then it’s gonna be like re-downloaded over time.
Like this is a timeless thing and it’s gonna go on forever. So if spread the right message then you’re essentially gonna be, you know, infinitely affected by this person talking about you. And if you compare that to the pricing of like radio advertising or stuff like that where people aren’t even listening anymore then it’s no-brainer. And so, you know, we have been very excited about that for a long time and kind of participating in that world.
You know, to date we have built our entire company on social media and I kind of include podcasting in that a little bit and then, you know, events and getting our brand out there and interacting with our community and like actually being a part of the community. That has been not only like the reason that we’ve been successful and become the company that we become, but it’s a super important market that I’m shocked that corporate interests haven’t like try to get into yet or haven’t figured that up.
Alex: Yeah. I’ve been wondering the same thing. I’m just checking my email waiting for the big Fortune 500’s to sponsor our podcast but nothing for some reason.
Lacie: Come on guys, show us the money? I mean the other part of that too is like we’ve been approaching…Tait has a podcast called Pirate Life Podcast. And he has been approached by some brands and he’s like, “No, I won’t represent that because I don’t believe in it.” And so I think that’s the other thing that’s really cool about podcasts is that it’s not like there’s a sales person sitting in an office somewhere, like just trying to get whatever money they can get for the spot. You know, there’s limited amount of space.
Obviously, the person doing the podcast doesn’t wanna like bombard people with commercials because then people will stop listening because I think that’s why people have stopped watching television, stop listening to the radio. You know you don’t wanna hear that stuff anymore. It’s just noise. So it’s like the community who controls it, and then therefore, you’re getting stuff that you really believe in based on like what you’re listening to. So it’s really…it’s cool. I think it’s a like taking back the market by creating a new market, killing the old market.
Alex: So I know a lot of companies look at social media and say, “Well, I don’t know if it’s working. We can’t really directly measure our ROI so why should we increase spend there?” And then we’ve got Caveman Coffee who has combined that with guerrilla marketing and smart outreach to influencers and really build the company on social media. I guess how is your approach been different?
Lacie: I mean, first of all, like when people say stuff like that I’m like, “Guess what? It’s free to start.” So it’s like, “Oh, I can’t measure the impact.” “Yeah, you can measure the impact.” I can measure the impact by posting, you know, a sale or a discount code, or something like that and see how many people respond. And they know which social media platforms are more responsive to us probably because we’re more involved in them. Instagram is like a huge part of us. Some people really successful on Facebook.
Some people do well on Twitter. It’s just kind of whatever you put your energy into. And the information is out there. The information is also free. So it’s kind of like it’s not like you’re going to say it in front of some like marketing agency that’s gonna do a bio for you and then they’re gonna give you all these metrics, like, “This many people watched this commercial at this time.” You know, it’s like you don’t know really how to measure that either other than looking at sales tracker.
But when you look at social you can. You can see like “Okay, it’s predominantly…like our market is predominantly male age 24 to 45. And they’re gonna click on this kind of adverts versus this kind of photo versus this kind of photo and they’re interested in these types of things. And they’re in these cities.” Like you can see all of that. So I feel like it’s more dialed than traditional marketing.
But also, you know, you can see like when you interact with the consumers and you do events, being an online company I think it’s really important to do events because you get in front of people and you also show them what it is that the image of your company that you wanna portray. So it’s like we try to…like recently we’ve been doing these little coffee shop builds and these experiences. And you’re giving people an experience with your brand that they may not get online, like they’re definitely gonna get something online based on what your website looks like, based on what type of social post you’re putting out there.
But to really experience you and your brand and connect with people is a very, very important thing that I think we lose a little bit with all of that. So if you can combine two things, social and event marketing, then you’re going to create an idea in people’s heads of what your product is, and what your brand is.
We could be any coffee company out there but we’re Caveman and we have like the flashy bags and the logo and things like that. And so we wanna keep reminding people what that is by being in front of them all the time. And so I think that people are really missing out. They aren’t getting on social and they’re not, you know, involving their community that way.
I had a really interesting conversation with a guy that’s like a professional social media guy which I’m always interested in. So this guy runs a company and he has a lot of celebrities that he represents online. And he was trying to tell me that my social media was horrible because I did a lot of re-posting.
And I get that like not everybody wants to see a repost on Instagram like a little repost logo at the bottom. But what people do wanna see is like somebody that’s like them that is doing something that they might wanna do. And so we try to like repost people that are doing cool inspirational stuff all the time that are a part of our community. And people respond to that really well because they see that and they’re like, “Oh, I can do that too. That looks like me or that’s something I wish I would do.” And that’s kind of what is about for us. And I think if you look at it from that scope then you’re gonna have genuine interaction. You’re gonna have people really connect with your brand on an emotional level.
Alex: That’s one of the insights so you brought up that I think is interesting and insightful is the fact that you guys are tying the e-commerce channel to the in-person branding and marketing events where you’re actually showing face because one of the things I think with digital marketing, in general, you’ve got that growth hacker mindset of, “We’ll just split test our way to making new bunch of money.” And not really building the brand. So it’s good to hear that the brand building tactics are what’s driving a lot of the awareness and loyalty to Caveman.
Lacie: Well, that’s where we meet everybody, too. Every year we go to this even called Paleo Effects in Austin. And it’s actually like not like, for the price points and stuff that people spend on the booths and stuff. There’s not that many people that actually attend yet. I think it’s growing every year.
But the speakers and the people that are there are like…I mean, I meet so many people, I get so many new ideas, we get so many new connections. Those moments are so worth it. If weren’t going to that event, we wouldn’t know any of those people, we wouldn’t have those connections, and we wouldn’t be growing at the rate that we’re growing and we wouldn’t have like a solid base to go off of. And so I think that it’s so important. And a lot of people miss that to get out there and how people actually feel your product and you and your brand more so online because, you know, online it’s so competitive.
You know, you got two seconds, if not one second, maybe a millisecond to connect with somebody and then they’re on to the next thing. And when you’re talking to someone in person, those conversations are so memorable and they resonate so well, and you learn a lot of about your customer from that as well, what they like, what don’t like, what they’re looking for, what their story is. Like people would just come up and like tell you their whole life story if you give them a second.
And so all that stuff I think is important to combine with everything that you’re doing online especially if you’re an e-commerce company. And if you wanna get into retail, you know, where can I get into retail, like the number one thing to do in retail is sample, sample, sample, like you need to get people in front trying your products. And so it’s that same idea of having that touch and interaction with your consumers and with the people that are part of your community.
Alex: So has building up your social channels and your presence and your e-commerce platform and your online sales, has that helped with working with retailers and trying to get into stores?
Lacie: It’s interesting. I mean, it’s a struggle to get into stores for sure, like it’s a whole other ballpark. It’s definitely a good old boys club and so people are gonna deal with the big brands that they’ve known for years and understandably because they have their system set up. And it’s a whole distribution channel that you have to create.
But what’s interesting to me and especially at Expo West and talking to people the last few years that we’ve gone is that they’re looking for something different. As the online culture grows, and we saw this year I think in the holiday season. I should have brought my stats with me. This is me trying to remember the actual number but I think online sales were up like 37%, something like that. And retailers saw like, a 20% drop.
So people are changing their buying habits. And this is terrifying for the good old boys, right? The systems that they have set up are great, but if people aren’t coming into your store and buying your product then you have nothing. So I think, well, obviously grocery stores are fine and people are gonna go to groceries stores every day. There is a shift happening and so I think some people are trying to stay ahead of that and see, “What can I do to protect my business?” And the plan for that is to, how do we reach millennials?
How do we reach people that are buying online? How do we reach the new consumer? Because not only are people buying online but they’re more educated now. They’re not watching these commercials, they’re listening to podcasts. Like this is the new consumer world. And so it’s going back to basics a little bit, how can we get these cool young brands into our stores? How can help them develop their distribution channels? and how can we make our retail location the cool place to go? And so I think a lot of companies are looking at that.
I’m always surprised at which retailers you meet and the numbers of retailers you meet at Expo West and some of these other trade shows because you would think like a big company like Walmart, “Ooh, the evil Walmart. They’re not gonna wanna buy premium MCT oil.”
Like, of course not. They’re sourcing the cheapest stuff and it’s like, you know, we’ve haven’t sold anything to Walmart but we had a really long conversation with the buyer from Walmart. And that’s like shocking to me that a company that size is trying to figure out how they’re gonna survive in this new future. And you know, the natural product world is exploding. If you go into any major retailer that you know, natural products, used to just be like your mom and pop’s store and like whole foods and now you can go into Albertson’s or Gelson’s or whatever, and you can see like the natural product section, the gluten free section, the Paleo section, like all these things are changing the way that grocery stores are buying and the way that they’re setting up their stuff, and I think that’s really cool.
So to really answer your question like when we go into these meetings with these retailers, the thing that really gets them is our social following. And when I start talking about that, they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Product, cool. Yeah, you can do that. Can you scale up? Awesome.” Obviously, those were like relevant questions. But then it’s like, “Wait.” So it’s really cool that you have the social following, and it’s really cool that you interact with this target market. That’s who we’re after.
So the retailers are trying to look at that and figure out, you know, “How can I get in there?” And obviously, Amazon is shaking up the whole world. You know, not only giving everyone an example of how to do it online but what is possible. And Thrive Market is kind of changing the game. I think they’re the first company.
I know Thrive Market really has lobbied to be able to take food stamps for organic products sold online to help people in every demographic that should be able to eat natural foods. And that was really pushed back on by the retail worlds and by certain people that have interest in getting that consumer market but he pushed and pushed and pushed and finally got it past to start taking, you know food stamps in an organic market sold online.
So I think retailers are looking at all these shifts and all these things. And how can they survive that or go to the next level with that? And that means bringing on like some small brands and helping them grow. And so we’re excited to be a part of that as well. And while a lot of our stuff they’ve just been conversations. We’re in whole food on the East Coast in the Northwest region with our Hibiscus tea and working to grow that line. But it’s been, you know, a long road for us to get from the e-commerce platform and take something like ready-to-drink products into groceries stores.
Alex: So you mentioned Amazon. And I don’t see a ton of your products on there. Maybe I’m just a bad researcher for Amazon.
Lacie: We just have a few. Yeah, we just have a few.
Alex: Why is that?
Lacie: Well, we were a little worried at first like, “Oh, are we gonna cannibalize our business? What are we gonna do?” When we first started out, and this is like a really good, I think, story for anybody that is starting an e-commerce site or starting out with a small product. When you first start out, you’re just like excited to sell to everybody, right? Anybody that can buy your product, great. So we went through a time where we were focusing on our little website that could take 100 orders. And then we started wholesaling to a couple of people.
And we wholesale a few different people that had Amazon stores. And we ended up having like five or six different people selling on Amazon with our stuff. And one of those retailers like saw the opportunity and they were able to get Caveman Coffee Co as their Amazon store. And so they basically were like selling as if they were us, but they would like have bad customer service. They wouldn’t like ship the product out on time. They would run out of product, like things like that. But they weren’t managing it well. So we started getting all these like bad reviews on Amazon even though weren’t…like it had nothing to do with our coffee or our product. It was like the customer service issues.
So I learn very quickly that, you know, you have to really protect your brand when you’re gonna into wholesale and give to people. I needed to come up with some rules about what you’re gonna do. And if you’re gonna get on Amazon, you should either go with a retailer that has a lot of experience and is a big store or you should create your own profile and manage it really well. And so we created our own profile after much back and forth with Amazon to prove that we were the real Caveman Coffee co and this other company wasn’t.
We did a lot of working with our partners and phasing out like our products with their stores and things like that and then finally through all of that started our own Amazon account and started doing our Amazon fulfillment. And we’ve just been playing that really for like the few last months.
But it’s been going very well so we’re gonna start feeding that a lot more and putting more product out there. You know, and learning that the person that’s shopping on Amazon, they have their credit card information stored, they have their shipping address. I’m an Amazon customer. It’s so easy now with the one click reorder buttons. Those people they might come on your website till like research a little bit, but they’re probably not gonna buy any website because they order Prime and they can like bulk it with a bunch of other stuff and whatever. So you’re just gonna reach a larger market if you go that route.
And so this year have launched on Amazon. We also launched some LuckyVitamin recently which is been going really well. You know, these customers are finding whatever website it is that they’re loyal. They’re probably not shopping on a ton of different ones like it’s not like you go to five different groceries stores. So just getting your products on those website is important for not only branding but, you know, you’re gonna reach a customer that you’re gonna reach anywhere else. So we started that outreach a little bit, and we’ll continue to grow that.
We lost a third iteration of our website this year which is BigCommerce as we outgrew kind of Squarespace and that allows us to sells on eBay as well. So we’re gonna start listing things via our website that way and reaching everybody everywhere.
Alex: So what’s next for Caveman Coffee?
Lacie: So we’ve been really working on what people have been asking for which is a couple of things, a ready-to- drink non-caffeinated herbal something. And we play with this for a long time, and we came out with this hibiscus tea which pretty mind blowing.
It’s sugar-free, it’s caffeine free, it’s everything free and somehow it still tastes unbelievable. And it’s also shelf stable which is something that retailers wanted to have a ready-to-drink product. We’re working on that for our coffee. But coffee is a living thing and it’s hard to stabilize it without adding a bunch of junk. So we’re working on that.
We’ve also come up with…people who asked us, “How can I get a keg in my gym or my facility or my restaurant or my home?” And it’s really hard to ship kegs of nitro cold brew coffee because you have to get the keg back and it has to stay cold and it’s really heavy. And so we partnered with a company that I met at the California Coffee Festival. And they make a 100% recyclable keg. And these have been around in the beer industry I think for a long time they ship oversees things like that. But only recently have a couple of people figured out how to really do coffee in them well. Coffee is also really fickle and kind of a pain because it can get over brewed quickly and become very acidic.
It can get really bitter. It can do all kinds of weird things if it’s like sits around too long and things like that. So it took a really long time to figure it out and now we have 100% recyclable mail order kegs that both UPS and FedEx have approved the box for shipping. They’re 30 days shelf stable. We cold brew it and then we heat it up a little bit to pasteurize it. Which is probably something we’ll move toward in the cans eventually.
But it’s a delicious product and it’s so accessible and literally, people just get the keg delivered to them, they plug it into their tap system and then they recycle the whole package at the very end and order another one. So that’s exciting. We’re looking to launch that on Amazon soon as well. So keep an eye off that.
And if you know, retailers are out there listening and they’re interested. We’ve figured it out so let us know. We’ve got that. We’ve also had the hibiscus tea that can be kegged and shipped. We’re working with a kombucha company. That’s another kind of small business in our realm that’s interested in doing the same thing. So the sky is a limit with kegs on tap. And there really is nothing as enjoyable as having a beverage on tap.
Alex: I agree. And so they are a few questions that I ask each of our guests to kind of close out the interview. And I felt this the next one really, really describes Caveman Coffee to a T with you, Keith, and Tait and what you’re doing outside of just the company itself. So with being insanely busy and having these active lifestyles. How do manage it all? Do you have any systems or processes that you use to make sure that everything gets done?
Lacie: Yeah. I mean, I think we all do things a little bit differently. But I know that we all incorporate like a meditation practice and that for me like in the morning is super important. I know Tait does that every morning. But there’s like little key things about like self-care that if you don’t pay attention to…
I’m probably the most guilty about it, where if you don’t pay attention to it, you eventually becomes frazzled and like run over basically. So there’s so many things to do. You can only do so many things in a day and if you can do things really efficiently and plan them out, then you can get more done.
And if you take the time for yourself and you take the time to do whatever that is whether it’s, you know, workouts or meditations or, you know, whatever your practice is then you’re gonna have a more fluid experience and you’re gonna get most things done.
You know, from an entrepreneurial standpoint I’m a really big fan of whiteboards and if you see my house. I have a live-work space that’s generally half run over by projects and half where I live. But I really function well in that kind of environment. But I have a lot of whiteboards and so when ideas comes to or projects happen or a get 1,000 emails with a bunch of different requests. I put them into like different categories. I put those categories up on the whiteboards so I can really see what it is I need to do and I don’t have to constantly think about. If you’re constantly thinking about it and worrying about it then you’re like forgetting things.
So if it’s up there. It’s written down. It’s out of my head I can then go back and reference it. I can try to finish one project at a time and then do a great job on that and move on to the next one. And more stuff is constantly gonna come up like learning that that’s always gonna happen.
There’s always gonna be cash flow issues. There’s always gonna be, you know, projects that don’t get fully done. There’s always gonna be new ideas and people coming at you with all these different things. And if you can kind of take that and stride and enjoy that and kind of, you know, smile at all those things coming in instead of getting really stressed out and scared of those things then I think you can be more productive and get more things done.
And from like a performance perspective, you know, we all tackle our work the same way that we tackle our fitness which is pretty much full on all the time, and you get in your routine so whether that’s like three days a week you’re going hard with a high-intensity workout and some sort of interval training and then you’re also doing yoga twice a week and then you’re also making sure that you’re paying attention to your accountant emails and all that stuff.
It’s all the same type of balance where you have to make time for everything and you have to figure out what that is for you and the best way that works for you. And you know, I think we all approach it a little bit differently but with the same mindset of creating that system for ourselves to keep our entire self-healthy from nutrition to fitness and our business growing the same way.
Alex: And I think that taking that period whether it’s in the morning or whatever period it is where you’re focusing on yourself to whether it’s through meditation through exercise just to sharpen the axe before going out and doing what you need to get done is crucial.
Lacie: Yeah. It really helps because I can like work myself into a frazzled state. Tait likes to call a maniac sometimes because I’ll just like go, go, go, go, go. But I find like I get less done when I’m like that. And so if I do take the time for myself which sometimes I feel guilty about. But then I just get so much more done. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried floating, but there’s float place that just opened down the street from my house.
A lot of people go there and just fall asleep. I go there and I spend an entire hour I just like clear my mind, clear my mind and then I spend the entire hour like all of a sudden I’m able to put all these lists together in my head and like to-do things. I come out of there like rejuvenated and ready to tackle things with like everything figured out, all the problems are solved. Everything’s done. I use to do that in the shower. Now, it’s in a float tank.
Alex: I’ve never tried it by I definitely want to. I heard really good things. I don’t know if there’s anything like that in Denver yet.
Lacie: I’m sure they are. I mean they’re literally everywhere. One of my business partners that lives in Kentucky. So they just opened one in Louisville also. If there’s one Louisville, I’m sure there’s one in Denver.
Alex: Yeah, you’re probably right. So you mentioned the website wasn’t really built to scale when you first started and then you guys went with the food truck to kind of get the word there. Is there anything else that you guys learned over the course of doing what you’re doing right now that if you could go back and tell the Lacie of just starting Caveman Coffee. What would be something that you’ve learned that you’d like to go back and give yourself in 2013 some advice?
Lacie: Yeah. If I can go back and give 2013 Lacie some advice it would be this, and it wouldn’t be like, “Oh, do this better or do this differently or do this bigger.” It would be, “Know that whatever you’re gonna create now is something that you’re gonna end up recreating again and again and again and again.” I remember like, getting frustrated after we had like a full product line out.
We had the website going like I had all these checklists in my head of things that needed to get done for the company to be functional. And then we got, you know…we had five products out or something at the time and then somebody was like, “Oh, you’re not putting this on your label. You should add this to your label.” And I was like frustrated because I don’t wanna recreate the label. I already created the label. That was already checked off my head or the website. Like now it’s not big enough. I need something that can handle more orders and I’m like, “I already finished that. I already checked that off.”
So I think if I knew or had the understanding that everything that I’m creating is a fun process and I’m learning from that process and I’m gonna have to it all over again, and each time it’s gonna get a little bit better and a little bit different and to just like welcome that process, not get frustrated with it and not see things as like check off, never revisit again but as constant evolution. I think that is something that can be applied to like all of life and all business. And if you approach something from that mindset then you’re just gonna have an easier flow through all of that process.
Alex: Yeah, I totally agree. This is one of the last questions to wrap up here. Are there any books that you’ve read or any publications or podcast that you listen that you always recommend to people who are in a similar scenario as you or looking to start a business?
Lacie: I love to read self-health books and I love to read business books and I love to listen to podcast. So there’s so many. But I would say from any kind of mindset, there’s a book called “Mindset.” And it basically can be applied to all aspects of life. And I only recently read this, and I’m kind of shocked that I only recently read this. But it was given to me by the owner of DEUCE Gym, Logan Gelbrich who is kind of a visionary in a bunch of different worlds, has a couple of business, things like that. And reading that book and realizing things about mindset, maybe about my mindset or about people that were around me was super helpful and I can apply that to just about everything. So I would say that is probably number one.
“Good to Great” is a book like originally I read and kind of inspired me to like get more into business. “The Goal” which is a book that’s probably like outdated now as far as like what the storyline is, it’s kind of like about a factory and finding out bottlenecks and creating efficiencies. But I read that in college in my like business 101 class.
And it really identified to me that creating efficiencies in things and finding those efficiencies are a major part of the process of creating and being a business owner and things like that. So, I would start with those. I mean, my list could go on and on. I listen to obviously a lot of Joe Rogan. I listen to Tim Ferriss. I find his interviews and the people that he has on there to be pretty inspiring most of the time. I sometimes listen to Tony Robbins even and get fired up.
Alex: Well, Lacie, it’s been an actual pleasure to have you on the show and I love what you guys are doing to Caveman and you’re absolutely killing it. So keep up great work.
Lacie: Thank you. I appreciate that. We love it. It’s so much fun.
Alex: So where can people go to learn more about you and to find out what’s coming up next?
Lacie: You can go to Caveman Coffee Co or cavemancoffee.com. We have a lot of stuff going on there. But I think if you follow us on Instagram or Twitter @cavemancoffeeco, you will know everything that’s going on with Caveman. We have a newsletter you could sign up for. My Instagram handle is lacie_mackey. I post a lot of things I find inspirational and things like that. And I’m always reachable via our website. Any email that comes in there in I will see. So if everybody’s is interested in just chatting or anything, I’m always open to that.