This Entrepreneur’s (Death) Wish Has Come True
For those of us who will be watching the Super Bowl 50 for the commercials, there’s one that will stick out from the rest. Somewhere in between the Budweiser, Pepsi (PEP), and Toyota (TM) ads, expect to see a brand you don’t recognize during the game on Feb. 7.
Death Wish Coffee Company competed against thousands of other small businesses and ultimately won a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl 50 as part of Intuit’s (INTU) “Small Business, Big Game” contest this year.
The story behind the company is even more non-traditional than the company itself.
Working as an accountant, Mike Brown struggled to stay awake in the afternoons. So he had his first cup of coffee at age 25.
“I just didn’t love my accounting job, so I quit,” Brown said. “I took a year off, and I was spending a lot of time in coffee shops.”
Brown opened a local coffee shop in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and and he kept hearing the same thing over and over from his customers: “Give me a cup of your strongest coffee.” So he decided to make his own dark, strong, highly-caffeinated coffee, and Death Wish Coffee was born in 2012.
Brown claims Death Wish is “the world’s strongest coffee.” The secret? It’s made from robusta coffee beans that are much higher in caffeine than the commonly-used arabica coffee beans. The coffee reportedly contains 200% more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee.
The company roasted 350,000 pounds of coffee last year. Now, they’re getting 250,000 pounds ready solely for the demand he’s expecting after the Super Bowl 50 commercial airs.
Death Wish may currently hold the title for “the world’s strongest coffee,” but what happens if another disruptor figures out a way to make an even stronger cup of coffee? Brown isn’t worried. In fact, he’s so confident that he even has a 100% money back guarantee if the customer is not satisfied with the product.
“I see competitors come in the market all the time, and then I watch them come right back out of the market,” he said. “It’s about more than just making strong coffee. It’s about focusing on the customer.”
With a cult-like customer base, Death Wish Coffee has reportedly more five-star reviews than any other coffee bag on Amazon.com (AMZN). It brought in about $6 million in revenue last year. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Brown ran into some financial challenges to keep the company afloat, so he sold his house and moved back in with his mom at age 30.
“I was running low on funds, so I had to borrow money from my mom to meet payroll,” Brown said. “That’s when I hit rock bottom, and I got serious about online marketing and selling my coffee online.”
Hundreds of thousands of people voted for Death Wish in the “Small Business, Big Game” competition. Chubbies Shorts and Vidler’s 5 & 10 are the two runners-up, who each received $25,000 as well as local media advertising valued at $15,000. The seven other finalists each received $10,000.
“People love his story,” said Bill Rancic, an entrepreneur, Intuit spokesperson, and the first winner of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. “He didn’t grow up with a trust fund, he doesn’t have four Ivy League degrees and he took a risk. Death Wish and Mike really encompass the American Dream.”