On this week's podcast, Marcus sits down with Mandy Green. Mandy started Caffeine Corps. where everything there has caffeine, from coffee, energy drinks to caffeine inhalers. Listen to this week's podcast and hear all about it!
Mandy: I am Mandy Green. I am the owner of Caffeine Corps.
Marcus: Awesome. I'm so happy to have you on the podcast finally. I know we've been talking about getting you on here for a couple of months, so I'm happy to have you here.
Mandy: It's been great. I'm excited.
Marcus: Yeah. First, tell us a little bit about Caffeine Corps because I don't think many people are familiar, unless they're maybe a student or in that kind of area of town? What is Caffeine Corps?
Mandy: It is the world's first caffeine store, literally. Everything I have in there has some sort of caffeine in it in some sort of way, whether it be Death Wish Coffee, any kind of coffee really, energy drinks. I have caffeinated soap, shaving cream, lip gloss. What am I working on? Inhalers. The inhalers are pretty cool, so any weird oddities we can find with caffeine in it, we have it.
Marcus: I have to ask the question because I am a caffeine addict.
Mandy: Bring it.
Marcus: What's the one that you found that is the best?
Mandy: That hits you the hardest or the fastest?
Mandy: Because there's a difference.
Marcus: Both. There is both.
Mandy: I would have to say the caffeine inhaler 100% because-
Marcus: Hits you the hardest or fastest?
Mandy: Both. Yes.
Mandy: Yeah, because, think about it, you inhale it, it goes straight into your bloodstream, and it hits you a little bit differently because it really only takes five inhalations to get it and it's good.
Marcus: That's wild, so I mean-
Mandy: [crosstalk 00:01:35].
Marcus: Most people don't think about these kinds of things, but, I don't know, I love coffee and I will admit that my ADD is somewhat regulated by the amount of caffeine that I take in ...
Mandy: I get that a lot.
Marcus: ... and so there's a part of me that's been curious about the products that you sell just because I know that you carry more than just beverages and you know which ones work in that mechanism, but I also just ... I want to come over and see the shop just because I think there are more products out there that I might be interested in, and I sound like I'm talking about drugs, and it actually is.
Mandy: It's funny.
Marcus: It kind of is talking about drugs.
Mandy: I have a shirt that says, "I am the caffeine dealer," because, technically, I am. I'm totally a dealer, and I'm okay with it. I've embraced it.
Marcus: That's cool.
Mandy: Made a shirt out of it.
Marcus: No, that's really cool, and I will have some other questions for you in regards to the business, but let's go ahead and jump back to where we normally start, and that's why don't you tell us the story of your life? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school, high school? Did you go to college? If you did, what did you study? You've already mentioned you're married. You have a child. Tell us all that stuff.
Mandy: Oh, this is a fun ride. Okay, so my parents were actually in the military. They met in the Army over in Germany, had me over in D.C. while they were stationed there.
Marcus: Really? Very cool.
Mandy: I was born in D.C., but they-
Marcus: Where at, because I'm from that area?
Mandy: A military hospital up there.
Marcus: Okay. Yeah.
Mandy: They brought me down here when I was three months, so we can say that I was raised here in Mobile, and then I went to Davidson high school. My first job was a lifeguard and a swimming instructor at the YMCA. I did that for 10 years. Loved every minute of it. I still coach over there, so I coach on the team every now and then, and then, let's see, I met my husband who is a fireman here in Mobile. He works down at Central. We had a baby about a year and a half ago. Now, our marriage was kind of awkward because I joined- I know. I say awkward... Okay, he's probably listening to this podcast, like, "Oh, my goodness."
Marcus: Yeah, you might want to retract that.
Mandy: There's a reason it was awkward, I promise. We got married, and then I shipped off to basic training a month later. I was gone our entire-
Marcus: You were in the military?
Mandy: Our entire first year of marriage, I was gone.
Marcus: Oh, wow.
Mandy: Yeah, I shipped off to basic training up in Great Lakes, Illinois, which is freaking cold.
Mandy: I will never go back there again. It's freaking cold. You have to wear something over your face. Sorry, side story, you have to wear something over your face so you live. Why would you want to live there?
Marcus: Yeah. Exactly.
Mandy: Like why?
Marcus: You get the humidity off of the Great Lakes and the cold temperatures-
Mandy: We were literally on the lake.
Marcus: Yeah, and so it does, it makes for a miserable ...
Mandy: Miserable ...
Marcus: ... existence.
Mandy: ... and then you have to march in it and all that jazz. It's phenomenal.
Marcus: Did you mention where you went ... and maybe I blanked out. Did you mention where you went to college?
Mandy: Oh, no. I can tell you that now. I went to USA. I went to South.
Marcus: There you go.
Mandy: Before I shipped off to basic training, actually, I was a music, vocal music education major over at South for three years.
Marcus: So was I.
Mandy: It was miserable.
Marcus: I hated it, too.
Mandy: It was so bad I had to drop out and join the military to get away from it.
Marcus: Oh, my God, I didn't do that. I just switched majors, which is a little bit less of a drastic, you know...
Mandy: Oh, no, mine was pretty drastic, and so I didn't finish.
Marcus: What was it that you hated most about it?
Mandy: Our professors were phenomenal, but it took the passion out of it because I was ... It was 22 hours every semester, and for what? They were talking about taking the music department out of schools anyway, and I wanted to be a middle school choir director making 30 grand a year, barely ...
Mandy: ... and then working or doing 20 hours every semester. One of our classes didn't count for credit hour.
Marcus: Yep. Most people don't realize that when you are a music major, most of the classes, instead of being three or four credit hours, are one or two ...
Mandy: Or zero.
Marcus: ... or zero, and then you also have practice for all the different groups that you're in, and you're usually in at least two if not three, and then you also have ... for me, I had ...
Mandy: Private lesson.
Marcus: ... keyboard proficiency exams, so I had to practice piano ...
Mandy: Yep, me, too.
Marcus: ... which I had never played piano before, so that was an issue, and then, on top of that, you also have your own solo performances that you have to study for and practice, and, weekly, you're having lessons with a professor. Those are not credit hours, so, I mean, it is. It's a ridiculous ...
Mandy: It's a lot ...
Marcus: ... amount of work ...
Mandy: ... and that's not even counting ...
Marcus: ... and for what?
Mandy: ... candidacy once you make it to the education part, so, yeah, it was miserable. I was there from 8:00 a.m. every day until 5:00 p.m. and then went to work afterwards. If it makes you see the picture, I was the only one in the department with a job.
Marcus: Oh, gosh.
Mandy: That was outside of performing for tips. Anyway, so I dropped out, three years, joined the military, came back, and I realized I only had two, maybe three semesters left to get my bachelor's, so I went interdisciplinary studies, ended up getting my music minor. Thank God. The music classes went for something.
Mandy: That's all I got out of that, but it was something. Finished with interdisciplinary studies last May, actually, the first time I ever made the president's list, I got all As. I was pregnant ...
Mandy: ... while doing my midterms in the hospital bed. It was amazing, but, yeah, I finished in May, finally graduated. Done.
Marcus: You can at least say that that is something that you completed.
Mandy: Yes, another thing I completed. Check.
Marcus: Wow. Yeah.
Marcus: Go back. You mentioned lifeguard was your first job. What lesson did you learn as part of that? Were there any takeaways that have stuck with you over the years?
Mandy: Of course, I mean, you have to ... You have a lot of responsibility, and it seems lifeguard is a super boring job there is. You sit on a stand and watch people swim, but you have to be physically fit. You have to have CPR certification every ... It was up every certain amount of years. You had to stay awake. You had to be hydrated, all of that, so it really just taught me maturity in a way, to take ownership of your own actions, that kind of thing.
Marcus: Right, and make sure that you're paying attention to those things. Yeah.
Mandy: Make sure you're paying attention.
Marcus: Yeah, because you know if something-
Mandy: Attention to the details.
Marcus: Yeah, even something as small as making sure that you're drinking enough water when you're sitting on a stand in the blazing sun or applying sunscreen or doing something along those lines can really affect the job that you're doing.
Marcus: Caffeine Corps. How in the world did you come up with ... I mean, where did this idea come from?
Mandy: Think about it. Where do all ideas come from?
Marcus: I don't know. Will you tell me about it?
Mandy: A little bit of liquid courage, and I'm not talking coffee.
Marcus: Yeah. Exactly.
Mandy: My husband and I, we took a small vacation away from life for a little while ...
Mandy: ... and a couple of bottomless mimosas later, I was like, "You know, babe, I would really enjoy a good cup of coffee," and he was a fanatic about energy drinks, and there was no convenience store around that had both that were decent, and so I was just like, "You know what? It'd be really cool to have a place where you can just go and get everything caffeinated and be set," because, nowadays, you're like, "Oh, this one gas station has my favorite drink, but this other place has my favorite coffee and everything in between," so I just wanted a place where you can actually get all of that, plus some, because there are things I have that people don't even know existed.
Mandy: That's how the idea came up, and then, on a whim, the name out of nowhere. Literally, I don't know where.
Marcus: Knowing your background now, I mean, it makes sense, right?
Mandy: It does.
Marcus: Yeah, and I just have to ask about the semantics. I mean, it would seem like this would be an idea that somebody's had before ...
Marcus: ... but I'm surprised that it isn't. I'm not questioning you, but it just boggles my mind, but that's ... Isn't that how those great ideas oftentimes come about? It's like, "Oh, well, somebody has obviously done this before," and then when you start researching and ...
Mandy: Right. That is exactly what happened.
Marcus: ... it's like, "What the heck, this doesn't exist?"
Mandy: That is exactly what. I even told my husband, I was like, "This doesn't exist. I think I have to jump on top of this. If I don't, somebody else will, and we're going to lose like this brilliant idea." He actually told me not to. He said no ...
Marcus: Oh, no.
Mandy: ... and I said, "Bet. Watch me," because our son was ... He was a few months old. We were just brand new parents, didn't know what we were doing, because you never know what we're doing, and I didn't know a squat about business. I've never taken a business class in my life. I got my interdisciplinary studies degree in community services, so I can literally work at The Y until I die. That's what I wanted to do, just stay at The Y as aquatics director, and then this idea came and, all of a sudden, super shift to, hey, I'm going to own this business, and it's a startup. We're not going to make any money. It's going to be great.
Marcus: Yeah. No, that is often the case, so, when you ... I mean, are you able to get all these supplies from one place? Are you having to-
Mandy: No. That's the hardest part. A lot of my supplies come from different distributors, and even Death Wish Coffee, Black Rifle Coffee comes from that distributor, like them. It comes straight from them. Bang, too, comes straight from Bang. There's a few drinks and odds-and-ends I have that come from distributors that wholesale a bunch of other things and not many.
Marcus: Yeah, because I would imagine the thing, going back, that was actually ... Where I was going with that question is it would seem like a very difficult thing to get your hands on all these various products because it's not like you can go one place, because if you could, somebody would have done it already.
Mandy: I'm always finding new stuff, too, so I'm just adding all this contact information. You should see my phone book. It's ridiculous.
Marcus: Yeah. If you were starting, if you were talking to someone who was wanting to start their own business, I mean, what's the one bit of wisdom that you want to impart to them?
Mandy: Know your location. Know your clientele. Know your customers. Know who you're reaching out to, because if you don't know your customers, your customers won't know you. I know exactly who my customer base is. I opened right next to South. My name screams military, so I get all of those people in there, plus some, so it's like a constant influx of different types of people. If your brand doesn't make sense, then people won't understand it, and they won't come back.
Marcus: Yeah. One of the very first things that, as an advertising agency, that we talk about with people is what are the user personas that they're working with, and user personas is just a fancy way of knowing or saying what are the demographics of the audience that you're trying to attract. You obviously knew that, but it's surprising to me that a lot of businesses have never put any thought into, "Well, am I male or female? What age range?" What's the-
Mandy: Even some of their locations are just dead ends.
Marcus: Yeah, and so once you know that though, it dictates what the branding looks like. It dictates what the interior of your store really needs to feel like.
Marcus: It dictates where you're reaching people online or where you're reaching them offline in traditional advertising. It influences everything, and so that's really one of the most important things as a business owner that you can do is figure that out.
Mandy: I couldn't agree more, and that's what I found out right off the bat.
Marcus: What do you currently working on? Anything interesting?
Mandy: I would love to franchise my brand. Actually, somebody has been-
Marcus: I knew it.
Mandy: Right? Right?
Marcus: You can't have this idea and not franchise it.
Mandy: Since day freaking one, at least six people come to my store and say, "Is this a franchise?" and I can't tell you how good that feels for someone to come into my little startup business and say, "Oh, my goodness, this would work so well here," or, "This would be awesome here." Even some of my distributors are like, "This idea is phenomenal. Why don't you open this up here?" I'm like ... I mean, more casually, no, whatever excuses.
Marcus: Let's talk offline because there maybe some mechanisms by which ... because I think every business before it starts franchising probably needs to have multiple locations because there is a lesson that's learned as you start to replicate those stores.
Marcus: Yeah. I knew you're making franchise because you wouldn't go through all the trouble that you've gone through in order to ... and not do that.
Mandy: I mean, it's such an easy idea.
Marcus: Yeah. If you look the business world, is there a person that motivates you or that you aspire to think more like or be more like?
Mandy: In the business world, I'm still really, really new. It's funny, I'm actually not business oriented, as you can tell. I'm actually people oriented. I love people. I love-
Marcus: Okay, but even towards people ... I mean, so, most business owners, they lean in different directions, so there's the visionary. There's the guy that is really focused on money. There's the person ... Like Marcus Lemonis' people, process ... and he has one other one, but I can't remember what the third P is, but, anyway ... Oh, product.
Mandy: There you go.
Marcus: People, process, product, and so just because I say business, it doesn't mean that there's not a people component to that.
Mandy: Yeah. The books I've been reading lately are more of a character kind of books. I'm really stuck on Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, really stuck on that.
Marcus: Tell me about it, because that is one other question. I mean, I know you've listened to the podcast, so there's question number eight. Are there any books, podcasts, people or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Mandy: Like two birds with one stone.
Marcus: Yeah, let's go.
Mandy: Oh, look, there.
Mandy: Okay, so Rachel Hollis and Girl, Wash Your Face is just ... It's a phenomenal book about just living out your failures and learning from them and standing back up and keeping going, keep going strong, keep going hard.
Marcus: Do they have a male version of that?
Mandy: I mean, you can read it if you like. I will skip a couple of chapters, but-
Mandy: Actually, if you want to learn more about females, it's probably a good book for you to read.
Marcus: Yeah. A good book to read, so understanding the female mind?
Mandy: Secret. Hint. Hint. Your wife will thank me later, right? No, but she does so much more than just the book, because she's written so many books, but she does ... I just started October 1st. She does this thing called the Last 90 Days, where you live out the last 90 days of the year as if they were the first of the year.
Marcus: Oh, wow.
Mandy: All those resolutions, all the things that you do at the first of the year, she's like, "Why don't you do that the last 90 days of the year?"
Mandy: She helps you along the way. She sends you emails every week. She's just a phenomenal person. I want to go listen to her live, listen to her talks, and she just inspired me to be a better person, to really ... to learn how to talk to people better, to empathize with people better and just be a people person I guess. I'm not sure how to explain that.
Marcus: No, I mean, that's really cool because, I mean, being a business owner is all about ... I mean, it's taking me a hundred episodes to get that through my thick skull, but when we did the first, say, 20 or 30 episodes, I kept hearing these business owners saying over and over again that people were the hardest part of running the business, and I don't know that it really clicked until we started growing, and I was like, "Oh, I get it," and it's not just that people are problematic, but it's like, as a business owner, not only do I have to cast the vision for the business, but I also have to be cognizant of what positions are going to be opening up and what people out in the community are actually good enough to fulfill those positions.
Mandy: You're talking like employees.
Marcus: Yeah, and then also not only can they fill them from a skill set, but also, culturally, what am I trying to accomplish as a ... for a culture of the business and do they fit in with that culture, and then can I convince them to actually come and work for me? Fortunately, some of the people on my team are just silly enough to come and do that, so-
Mandy: That is a good word for them.
Marcus: Yeah, but ... so people ...
Mandy: I couldn't agree more.
Marcus: ... is definitely a difficult thing, so, the fact that you're focusing on that is excellent.
Marcus: What's the most important thing that you've learned about running the business? How long has it been in existence?
Mandy: We're almost a year, November 11th, Veterans Day of the year.
Marcus: Nice. Very good.
Mandy: Yeah, easy to remember.
Marcus: You've obviously learned some lessons over the course of the last year.
Mandy: I learned quite a few pretty quickly.
Marcus: Yeah. Yeah.
Mandy: Going back to people, I've learned how to talk a little bit better, how to communicate with my customers, get returning customers. I'm proud to say that 80% of my customers are returning.
Mandy: It's phenomenal what we have going on over there, and, yeah, I agree with what you're saying. Finding employees is super difficult, super difficult. That's probably been the hardest part.
Marcus: People that you can count on, that are going to show up and do the job.
Mandy: Yes, and I do ... I'm going to give her a shout-out, I do have one right now how has just been there since the start, Paulette. She is wonderful. I don't know what I'd do without her. While I was gone to C School for a month and a half when we were still pretty new, she took over. I didn't have any problems.
Marcus: You're still in the Reserves or-
Mandy: Yeah, I'm still in the Reserves.
Marcus: I didn't know that. Yeah.
Mandy: I am. I'm actually looking to deploy here again in about a year and a half.
Marcus: What branch? You never said that.
Mandy: With the Navy.
Marcus: What do you do in the Navy?
Mandy: I work security and small arms. I'm a gunner's mate, so I actually work with the Seabees over in Gulf Port [MS].
Marcus: Very cool.
Mandy: They're a lot of fun.
Mandy: Crazy group.
Marcus: Yeah, that's an understatement. It's a crazy group.
Mandy: You know. You know.
Marcus: Yeah, I heard stories. I've definitely heard stories.
Marcus: What do you like to do to unwind because, obviously, if you're hopped up on caffeine all day, sometimes you ...
Mandy: Yeah. It's funny, I actually ... so I do hype up on caffeine and then I go over to Maxfit every now and then and get their REM to help sleep at night.
Marcus: What's it got in it that would-
Mandy: It's got melatonin, and it just helps your body relax and it also helps you burn fat while you're sleeping, so it's like a win-win all over the place, but it's funny because he hypes people up, too, and it's hilarious. I go there to sleep, but to unwind, usually, I go workout. I read a good book. I do whatever I can just to hang out with the kiddo.
Marcus: Get your mind off of it?
Mandy: Get my mind off of things. Whenever I go home, I leave work out of it. I don't take work home with me as much as I can. Sometimes, I have to because being a business owner 27/4, all that, but I try not to.
Marcus: Very good. Where can people find you?
Mandy: You mean like physical ...
Mandy: ... location?
Marcus: Online, all that stuff.
Mandy: Online, I just started doing ... I launched our apparel not too long ago, so they can find me on caffeinecorps.com, and my brick-and-mortar is down on Old Shell, about less than a mile away from the campus, right by where The Bubble Lounge used to be, Papa Johns, Dog Days Barkery. I'm giving them shout-outs. They're awesome. We're in a really good location.
Marcus: Yeah, especially for the college crowd.
Mandy: College. We got the hospitals. We've got night shift workers, first responders. The military base isn't far. It's perfect.
Mandy: It's perfect.
Marcus: That's cool. I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Mandy: I think that's pretty much it. We got good caffeine. Let me be your dealer kind of thing.
Marcus: Be your dealer?
Mandy: I'd love to deal you some.
Marcus: There ain't nothing wrong with that.
Mandy: Nothing wrong with that.
Marcus: You know what I mean? We're coffee freaks here in the office, so we do ... I mean, I showed you before. We got two Nespresso machines, a regular coffee machine. We have a pour-over and a couple of Chemexes, all the stuff, so ...
Mandy: The good stuff.
Marcus: ... at some point in time, I'd really like to have a true espresso, cappuccino machine, but at a thousand dollars plus ...
Mandy: They're a little pricey.
Marcus: ... yeah, they're a bit pricey, so ... but maybe a Christmas gift next year ...
Mandy: There you go.
Marcus: ... because the building is the Christmas gift this year. I'm going to put a big bow in the front of the building and just let that be my Christmas gift so.
Mandy: You deserve it, you should.
Marcus: Yeah. I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Mandy: Absolutely, it's been a blast.
Marcus: Yeah. Awesome.
5552 Old Shell Rd, Suite B
Mobile, AL 36608