Word Count: 1287
Est. Time to Read: 8 minutes
It is at once: Big – but intimate, Old – but very new, Ugly – but beautiful. But, it is most definitely about what’s on the INSIDE.
If you have not yet guessed, we are describing first impressions of a fine entrepreneurial venture, The Coffee Bus, a product of TAPROOT. The Bus has been in existence for two years, and has become a “must stop by” place for many in the Hickory area. According to Hickory City Council member Charlotte Williams, “I’ve met amazing people on ‘the Bus’ from all walks of life. It’s my ‘Cheers’, the place where everyone knows your name!”.
My first visit was this week. First to just pick up a straight coffee and to scope the place out. Three days later I spent two hours in the Bus with Malachi Morris, the owner/founder of TAPROOT coffee, which later spawned both the Bus and its smaller counterpart (which is used at events in a more traditional “food truck” format).
I will say this, simply pushing open the bi-fold door and trying to close it with the pull-lever immediately brought back extremely pleasant and fond memories of my old Boy Scout Troop #20 Bus in Kannapolis, NC. I always enjoyed being in that bus anticipating a great camping trip, camporee visit, or troop beach trip. So, the Coffee Bus, as a place of business, was already scoring points with me just based on initial memories it stirred up.
My two visits offered no disappointments. Instant comfort brought about strangely by the old, truly “rust”-ic furnishings…some handmade, some bus seating, some evidently rescued much like a rescue pet…pleasant, under-valued, in need of some love. You know the feel. That one where you know you really don’t have to worry about spills, scratches, perfect arrangement, or modern seating that almost screams, “If you sit here, be careful. You are just a visitor”. No, this was instant comfort. Nice greeting from the barista and quick service with a VERY flavorful coffee from a rather short, but very tempting, menu of coffees.
Talking with the owner/founder, Malachi Morris, was a revelation, and generated a really positive feel in me. Why? Well, I’ve thought quite a bit about this 21-year old home-schooled, insightful, often deep-thinking, strategic-minded, and independent man. He has many of the traits we often look for and frequently find in entrepreneurs (see Jeff Neuville’s insightful review of some of those common threads in this issue of GFB Monthly, about the “entrepreneurial mind-set” in “It All Starts Up Here”) – power of choice, healthy view of “problems”, knowledge seeker, creator of value, personal attachment to the company, one who builds a sense of community…all while having the power of persistence.
Malachi checks all the boxes on those traits and many others thought to lead to success as an entrepreneur.
However, “checking the boxes” for being an entrepreneur does not do Malachi justice, not nearly so, for he is in many respects an “abnormal entrepreneur”.
Malachi skipped college to pursue “his own pathway”, and he knew early on, even without formal or informal mentoring or typical resources he had that path. He funded the start-up of his endeavor totally out of his life savings, had no “rich uncles” or high capital access channels. Malachi, even to the casual observer, is very bright, low-key, articulate, a thinker and a nice blend of Introvert and Extrovert – something he admittedly has to continually work to balance. He is reflective, willing to take risks within his capacity to absorb them, and he is VERY mission-driven – or at least mission-aware.
Is his mission so much a part of his business mindset? Well, when one reviews some of his earlier blog posts, during his “start-up” period, it is easy to spot several prominent threads. He is about maximizing coffee, as both the traditional “common meeting ground” and “ice-breaker” that can lead to open communication and meaningful relationships that are authentic. He is a coffee-roaster via self-training and several painful years “learning the barista/roaster trade” in more traditional settings, and is focused on producing “good coffee” with the emphasis on “good” – something he excels at, according to this writer.
But mostly, “People are the purpose” as Malachi puts it. He forgoes the hackneyed traditions of greeting people (“Good morning, how are you?) in favor of trying to make a personal engaging comment. He is observant about people, often throwing into the conversation comments about miniscule things he picked up while talking with someone – things that may even be risky, but always break the tradition of the trite, meaningless chatter. Doing that and forging relationships is difficult in the brevity-laced “stop by for a cup” or “Give me a cup to go” nature of coffee shops, but that intent still drives what he does and why he started TAPROOT.
Malachi is a constant learner and has long observed that people are drifting apart. He adds “There is no greater purpose than enjoying life with the people around you. If we are not striving to connect with others, we will miss our purpose for living.”
Well said, Malachi, and applicable to all – at work, at home, even with casual contacts.
MALACHI, THE BUSINESS SIDE
I just re-read my writing so far, and I became painfully aware of my own omission of the “business side” of TAPROOT, The Coffee Bus and Malachi himself. Malachi is not without business acumen; in fact he is very in touch with the fact he has sought out his personal fulfillment in life in the form and context of building a business. His type of business is best described as “Social Entrepreneurism”, in which motives and mission do not always revolve around profit, growth, access to capital, etc. However, TAPROOT and the Bus are not all about social interchange. Malachi is very comfortable with the “business lingo” – cash flow, profit margins, risk/reward, growth plans, strategic thinking and planning, etc. – the list goes on. But, those are admittedly Malachi’s learning points as the business matures. He is OK with that, but he, I believe, is also quite cognizant of the maxim, “In order to do good (in a business), one must first do well”.
Furthering his social mission and growing his enterprise will rely somewhat on market awareness, controlled growth, change in society interests, competition, that devil “cash flow”, and access to capital. It seems Malachi is quite aware of that and has plans well in hand for growth, on his terms and comfort level.
His moving from a solo seller of roasted coffee at area Farmers’ Markets to considering bricks and mortar, to buying the BUS, then a second bus, led me to ask, “So, what’s next?” Malachi calmly replied, “growth…and I have a plan”. A carnival barker he is not, nor is he the next P.T. Barnum (“There is a sucker born every minute”). Malachi is deliberate, considerate of those around him, values forming relationships (the core of customer respect), is introspective, always focusing on personal understanding and growth, self-reliant, and purposeful.
In the US
– 64% of American adults consume coffee dail
– The average person drinks 3.1 cups per day
– Annual consumption – 146 billion cups
– Portland, Oregon consumes the most coffee per capita per year
SO, stop by the TAPROOT Bus – located on Hwy. 127 (on the left, heading north toward the Catawba River, on 127 in the parking lot next to McDonald’s).
Look for it. You can’t miss it. I think you will love it and feel comfortable there.
Share a cup of coffee inside, and relate to Malachi and others there. This is what relationships are founded on – conversing, talking and listening to each other on equal ground. Say, at a coffee shop perhaps?
Managing Director and Founder
GFB Connect, Inc.