by Shelly Preszler
We refer to it as mud, java, joe, or brew. Our Italian friends call it cappuccino or latte. Whatever you call it, there’s no mistaking; we love our coffee! I look forward to that robust smell drifting through my home in the wee morning hours. I’ve also been known to consume a pot before noon. I start receiving questions when I begin rambling on, a bit too jittery, “Ok, Shelly, how many cups today?”
So, imagine my interest when I meet a local young man committed to starting his own coffee roasting company. I met Brian Jackson at the Aquatic center last year and again at a swim clinic last spring, which my sons and I participated in. My curiosity was piqued, as I know coffee doesn’t just end up in my pot automatically or by my husband’s kind gesture. So how does a former UMary graduate, triathlete, and musician begin such a venture?
Jackson grew up in Hazen and was active in school sports, drama and music. He especially enjoyed spending hours outdoors cycling and fell in love with the beautiful North Dakota landscape. He fondly remembers his family enjoying Lake Sakakawea. His parents instilled a sense of adventure in him while experiencing the Missouri River area and all it has to offer. He later went on to graduate from UMary with a Communications degree and a minor in Theology. During his college years he did an internship with Frontier Precision. He said of owner, Dennis Kemmesat, “He really took me under his wing and became a wonderful mentor. Dennis’s wife, Charlyne, who runs Boneshaker Coffee Company, gave me my first glimpse into the world of coffee.”
Jackson was sidelined by a knee injury that kept him out of triathlon competitions in 2012. It was during this stretch of extra time he began to dream about starting his own business. He received a call from a coffee businessperson who was moving to South Dakota. Jackson believed this could be a successful business venture for him as well. He then spent time in Sioux Falls shadowing another coffee-roasting company. He laughs now at how he gave himself a month to get his business up and running. “From start to finish it took approximately a year before I ‘bagged’ my first roasted beans,” he said.
He shows me the Probatone 25, which he refers to as ‘The Great Bambeano.’ It is a huge coffee roaster and I call it the Behemoth. “When the Probatone arrived it was in a huge crate in a 100 different pieces, with no manual,” he said. “Electricians worked for weeks to get it up and running. I brewed my first batch in September 2013 relying on the help of my musician friends to bag it.”
Jackson relays to me the science behind the roasting method and how he imports beans from different countries, including Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Columbia. He also explained, “Not only can a sophisticated coffee connoisseur tell the country the beans are from, but the region and even the farm where the beans are grown.” I find this fascinating.
Once he began roasting his own beans, the next step of the process was marketing. “Coming up with a name and logo was easy. Mighty Missouri Coffee Company – I wanted to attribute the name of my business to show my love for the local area, with the mantra being, Another day, Another Adventure.”
However, finding a place to sell his coffee was much more difficult than Jackson expected. Coffee shelf space is at a premium. Things finally took a turn for the better when he said, ‘yes,’ to a volunteer job.
Christian Music artist Matthew West was in town for a concert. Jackson was asked if he could volunteer for this event. “My initial reaction was ‘no,’” he said. “I thought to myself, I’m trying to get this business up and running and don’t have a full day to spare.”
He was on his way to pick up his first T-shirt with the Mighty Mo logo and had a change of heart. He decided to volunteer and ended up meeting, guess who – Matthew West! “Matthew introduced himself to me, simply to say thanks,” said Jackson. “Then he noticed my t-shirt and asked me if this was dream. I told him, “I guess it is.’”
West said he liked the shirt and asked if he could have one. Jackson rushed back to the printer to get another shirt. But, what was in store for him the night of the concert was a total surprise. West not only wore the shirt at the concert but also told the sold-out crowd about the new coffee company. “The exciting thing to me is that I didn’t solicit anybody, ask anybody to talk about me or even to wear a t-shirt,” said Jackson. “It was all a gift. I wanted to be fully present at my job at the concert, and not working both here and there. It was all pure and organic. I count the entire experience as an absolute gift.”
The mention at the concert was a total game changer. Jackson managed to pick up some larger accounts like Dan’s Supermarkets. Boneshakers Coffee and Junk Yard Chic also carry specialty brands of his coffee. He felt like he had been pushing so hard for his business to get off the ground and when he finally took a step back and let God take over, things took off!
“I think my family and friends have taken this thing on as much as I have, and have been instrumental in making it a success,” said Jackson. “My friends and band members from 46 Shades have helped me with the bagging process. My dad even attended a coffee-roasting course with me in Boston. I feel this is the biggest race I’ve ever done and I’ve never run before. I have more faith than I have confidence. It’s all brand new.”
Well, now for the big question… how does Mighty Missouri Coffee taste? This coffee connoisseur can sum it up in one word – delicious!