Entrepreneur and Founder of The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, Kenny Sipes, joins me to talk about his winding path to entrepreneurship, jumping (and risking it all) without a net, and what it means to bet on himself.
“I was either going to plan a church … go be a missions pastor at another church, start a non-profit, social justice organization, or go work for one. And those were what was on the table.” – Kenny Sipes
Kenny Sipes – Founder and Executive Director of Redeeming Injustice (The Roosevelt Coffeehouse and Roosevelt Coffee Roasters) in Columbus, Ohio – is a former youth pastor, and current advocate for clean water, world hunger, and fighting human trafficking.
Kenny is a natural, and somewhat unconventional, storyteller. If you’ve ever wondered if your story is finished, if you’ve missed your calling, if time has run out, please listen to this episode!
And if you’re a fan of the show don’t forget to Subscribe to see new episodes, and Rate or Review us wherever you tune in!
In this episode Michael and Kenny talked about:
- How taking a leap of faith changed his life
- Lessons on the path from leaving youth ministry to creating a community around coffee
- How he worked himself out of his full-time barista gig as a unifier for social justice in Columbus, Ohio
- On good luck, better timing, and the fallacy of long-term planning
- And more!
- The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
- Kenny Sipes on LinkedIn
- Kenny Sipes on Twitter
- The Roosevelt Coffeehouse on Twitter
- Michael Redd on Instagram
Kenny: ... and my oldest son was still playing travel baseball and I remember sitting on the side of the field and a parent said to me, "Hey Kenny, how is Africa?" and my wife said, "He's not back yet." I would say at the time that I was wrestling with this, that I was in a place where I was either going to play a church and my wife said, she'd leave me if I did that so it wasn't really gonna happen. Go be a missions pastor at another church, start a nonprofit social enterprise, social justice organization go work for one and those were kind of what was on the table.
Michael: Hey everybody, this is Michael Redd and welcome to the Betting on Yourself podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and other top performers who rose to the top, took success into their own hands and bet on themselves. Today, I'm talking with Kenny Sipes, founder of the Roosevelt Coffeehouse and Roosevelt Coffee Roasters in Columbus, Ohio. Former youth pastor, and current advocate for justice in the areas of clean water, world hunger and fighting human trafficking. In this episode, we talk about Kenny's incredible, interesting path to entrepreneurship, jumping, risking it all without a net and what it means to bet on himself. Kenny is a natural storyteller with an unconventional and exciting story to tell, if you've ever wondered if your story is finished, you missed your call, time has run out, please listen to this episode, I guarantee you'll find inspiration and guidance from this remarkable man. Here's my conversation with Kenny Sipes.
Michael: Kenny, let's just drop right on in man, so glad for you to be on the show. We've been knowing each other for the last, I don't know, four or five years or so. But when I think about betting on yourself, I thought about you and all of your experiences and I thought it'd be cool to have you share a little bit, man.
Kenny: Yeah, this is exciting. I'm grateful to be here.
Michael: So people know you in Columbus as the coffee aficionados, but I don't know if a lot of people know that for those who are listening, Kenny is a music savant as well.
Kenny: So they say.
Michael: So it was cool too that once I met you through our mutual friend, brother Danny Ortiz, that I was pleasantly surprised to hear about your musical history, man.
Kenny: Well, yeah. I mean, I just worked in urban retail. So back in the day, I just worked at a store that was predominantly selling RnB gospel, hip hop and jazz. And at that time there was just a... Man, this is a long time ago and half the people on here are going to realize you were buying records and tapes and CDs all at the same place but at that time we were one of the 40 most prominent, independent black music retailers in the country, even being a 6'3" really white redheaded guy, that was my quartet. Let me throw this out there, I'm here to talk about the Roosevelt obviously, but I just ordered some coffee from a coffee company in Texas, black owned coffee company called Three Keys and they have this really cool thing.
Kenny: So in the coffee industry, they have a flavor wheel. So as you might've seen when you've been in the shop the flavor notes might be hazel nut and dark cocoa and orange or something and they created... So there's this big, huge specialty coffee wheel with all these colors in these tasty notes. Well, Three Keys coffee made a poster where they use jazz and it's layers and it's musicians on the flavor wheel, if you're following me. So I can go on this wheel and it'll say bright, and then it'll say upbeat and then it'll take me to Ella Fitzgerald. Or if I go to balanced and round, it might take me to Art Blakely. So all I have to say is like, "Hey, it's full circle baby. I'm still doing copy and music in any form I can."
Michael: Kenny is a soul brother because he knows more about music than I probably do on a myriad of genres and I just appreciate him for that man. Man, when I think about bettering yourself, like I said before, I thought about you and I kind of want to hear from you, what has it meant for you to bet on yourself in your journey?
Kenny: I think more than anything else, it's just meant I know your roles in the community in life, you just take on, you bear more responsibility for other people. So although the bet on myself is more about number one what I'm talking about, was about making impact. That was the only reason I ventured into this next phase of my life but as it has birthed and succeeded helping others and then establishing a platform for others to be employed long-term which I guess with a five-year plan should have always been there, right? But I think for me, it was just kind of like, this is a winging and a prayer, let's see what happens and it happened and it's sustained and then it made impact and then people joined that I want to see hang with me as long as I possibly can have them hang with me. So I think betting on myself more than anything else it has given me accountability for other people's lives in a way that I didn't have before I started it.
Michael: And I'm sure along the way, there's been a number of moments in your life when you've had to bet on yourself even as recently as the last year or so, and we'll get into that, but was there a pivotal moment spawning from being a kid to a teenager, to college years to being an adult? Is there a moment that you can point to vividly that you remember that I took a major bet on myself?
Kenny: Yeah. I think there's a couple. I mean, number one I know you married well, and so did I and that is crucial and we both have pretty incredible women with vision and Lori and in life has got this gift of discernment where she can sense something's coming before I do in me. So all that to say, when you say was there a jumping off place? Was there a moment? Lori and I... I was wrestling, I'd been doing youth ministry for a long time. I love student ministry. I think I've been "anointed well" in that area so I didn't really have any restlessness about ever leaving because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. But went on a trip to the Lesotho, Africa, did some Cambodia experiences and just got a wrestle in my spirit.
Kenny: And after one of those trips, my wife said, "Hey, if you ever..." I had been at the church probably a decade at that time. And she just said, "Hey, if you ever need to leave the church, I'm at peace with that." And I was like, "What is that supposed to mean?" And she just said, "I'm just telling you, if you ever feel compelled to try something different you don't have to come home and convince me." And so she was already there, I wasn't. I was like, "You're crazy." So a couple of years later I got restless and we went to this conference and it was kind of one of these conferences where you kind of write your own story and they really compare it to a movie and every movie the protagonist is trying to get to something, but he always has to overcome something and he has to make some inciting incident.
Kenny: What big move will you make? And we were at this conference and I remember we went out to dinner afterwards and she said, "What do you think?" And I said, "I think I supposed to leave the church without a plan." And she said, "Well, I'm not feeling that." And I was like, "Yeah, I don't either. But the only sense of clarity I get is that I must take a risk in a way that I don't have anything else to fall back on." So I would say that was the moment, there was just this moment, there was a couple of other really inspiring or kind of like aha moments in that weekend that pretty much defined where we're at and why we are talking now, but we did come back from that and we resisted that clarity.
Kenny: So for about six months, I just went about things and got a promotion in church and things and then I just spiritually, mentally bottomed out about six months later and the inciting incident was I walked into our executive pastor's office and resigned without a plan.
Michael: Talk about that, the emotions behind that, right? Because we can spiritualize everything and we can be really ethereal when it comes to things like that, but talk about the human aspect of that, right? Of making a major risk, a major bet. I mean, you've talked about this. The courage, right? And humility that accompanies with that major risk, right?
Kenny: Yeah. I look back and I'm just... Part of me is like... and I had people, Michael and I know you do too because you're a dreamer and you like to push people into their moments of like the launching. If I was talking to me, I would be, "You're stupid. What are you doing?" I think like, "What the hell was behind that decision that you would do that?" So I think the humanness is like, how did I do that? And how did Lori just say, "I'm in for the ride?" And how did we go and it's just not have a plan and stayed on for like nine months and then kind of like catalyst into some of what we'll probably talk about now.
Kenny: Yeah. There was a moment where... I don't think there's any good business sense in what I did, so let's be clear there about it too, I just didn't have a total amount of fear, it just wasn't there. So I think part of that was the sense of like, I think I can move into this and I feel competent in it and then... You know I have a friend of mine who is a pretty incredible musician and he said what I love about Kenny is he doesn't have a plan B and I don't know if that's smart, but that is definitely the case, I just didn't have a plan B. So I think the human part of it was it made me sense that I'm not done and it's okay not to be done. I mean, I did this at the age of 47. I mean, I was in a position where most of my peer group was moving to that base of what they were going to do when they were done with their career and I was like, "Man, let's start a new one."
Michael: Wow. And you make a great point. We live our lives committed to certainty. We love as human beings certainty and when you can engraft your life into a kingdom way of living you have to get comfortable at being uncomfortable. And people look at Roosevelt and the success that you've had locally here in Columbus and expanding and growing as a founder, but that was all of a risk and you think about it, you grew up in Minnesota and you moved to Columbus, did your family have any part in you being a risk taker as you grew up? Did they cultivate that?
Kenny: Gosh, Michael, I'm going to say no. I mean, my dad was a station manager for a major airline for 35 years, was as consistent as a human being can be and my mom worked in administrative positions over the years. So to be honest, I think even the fact that I did these things were super foreign and scary for even my parents to hear about when I'm in my forties. So I don't think it was there. I say this a lot and maybe you can relate to it Michael because somewhere along the line when I started to get restless, I wrote down a dream team, I just kept writing down names of people that if I launched out they would support me, like they would get it.
Kenny: And over the years, people fell off that list, others stayed... It was just my own little goofy iOS note but I can tell you that the bulk of our board is made up of those people, or at some point it was made up of some of those people. So I think what I ended up doing is just surrounding myself with people that were... Not everybody's a risk-taking dreamer, but there are a lot of people that want to jump in and support and be a part of that without being the risk taker and they were the foundation of what it took to do what I did.
Michael: Well, another big bet that you mentioned earlier was the transition from youth pastoring to now being a founder. Was there a major transition with that because the nuances of running a business, but I see you actually doing the same thing that you did when you were pastoring, but just differently. And talk about that transition and there may not be a difference in what you're doing compared to what you used to do overall.
Kenny: I think you're right. I think when I did leave, there was a real grieving, I mean, I've been a youth guy for 10 years. I'd taken kids on 16 domestic and international mission trips, an average of 80 to 100 kids per trip. I'm going to spend a week long with kids serving other people. There's something super deep and life-affirming and something that never goes away in those experiences, so I think part of leaving ministry as a vocation, there was like, man, I'll never get that again, because you watched 13-year-old kids grow up and be incredible adults and at 25, they asked you to pastor their weddings. So it's just these really beautiful little things that are something you think you're going to lose.
Kenny: And the crazy thing is as you mentioned, I have not lost. Literally the last three weddings I can think of I actually pastored a wedding on the patio of the Roosevelt from a guy who was in love and wanted the Roosevelt to have a part in it because of their love for the shop. And then this year I am marrying one guy that I actually volunteer with at the church I'm at now and another girl who honestly, I haven't seen since she was just out of high school and now she's like 27. She randomly called me and asked me to pastor the wedding. So I think you're right, there's a part of me... But again in the Roosevelt, you know me I'm gregarious I like to be around. If you're in my shop for five days in a row, I will be sitting at your table pre-COVID. And I mean, I've gotten employees that way, I've met incredible people like Brett Kaufman and Mike Corey and Sarah [Anne 00:15:13] and all these people that do community stuff just through those things.
Kenny: And so I think there is a beauty and maybe care taking the city in the platform that I have. It's really hard to believe I mean, to think that we can take a coffee shop and it has that kind of presence in the community is pretty cool.
Michael: It's, remarkable and because you're remarkable and you love people and it emanates from you when we meet you, you think about you donated over $125,000. You've impacted thousands of people around the world. Tell us and the listeners, where'd you get the concept of Roosevelt and why coffee?
Kenny: Great questions. I would say my perspective on short-term mission trips in our day and age has changed a lot. So I don't necessarily have any... I look back at things we did overseas and I see the beauty in some of that and I think it's thanks to mistakes I made in some of that, but all that to say when I went to the Lesotho, Africa in 2008, and it rattled me in a way I can't even describe. I mean, I remember coming home... This is interesting, I remember coming after two weeks serving up there. We were in Lesotho, 90% of the people had tuberculosis, the whole generation between 20 and 40 when we were there was gone due to AIDS. They actually had access to clean water, but didn't even know it was a commodity and just to see the places that they could thrive and be happy and be satisfied in compared to our services here just kind of rattled me.
Kenny: And I remember coming back after like 15 days, I came back on a Sunday and my oldest son was still playing travel baseball and I'm sure you know that world and so like every weekend we were some city and on a four day tournament. So I came back on a Sunday, Ethan had a tournament on Friday, and I remember sitting on the side of the field and a parent said to me, "Hey Kenny, how was Africa?" and my wife said, "He's not back yet." and she was right. I mean, I was just processing in ways that continue to transform the way I think today. So from that was what the beginning of the rattle, the beginning of when Lori said, "Hey, if you need to leave." the beginning of trying to discover what that looked like.
Kenny: So that was kind of some of that experience led to that and so there just came a place where I felt like, "Man, how can we impact?" Because human trafficking, the whole concept is crazy and it overwhelms me and it still breaks my spirit to think that people are enslaved either in work labor or sex labor and you know we've seen some of that in Cambodia, we've worked in some orphanages and I started to work with some local organizations here like Grace Haven and She Has A Name to kind of have my students interact with them. And Invisible Children at the time was kind of bringing awareness to child soldiers in Africa and so all those things just started to steer my spirit.
Kenny: And after that trip that I talked about where we kind of figured out the story, am I supposed to leave without a plan? And we didn't leave without a plan and then it became messy. I remember that was in May and September of that year, I jumped on a plane and went to Nashville for three days just to dream and just to figure out, like what does this mean? And a couple things happen there. One, I lived in a coffee shop every day. So every day I end up like six or seven... Nashville's coffee scene is pretty incredible and so I was really enamored especially with the one shop called Barista Parlor and so some of that weighed on me and I... and then two of the organizations we support came out of meetings down there.
Kenny: And the funny thing is that when you say like, "How did you get the concept?" And I would say at the time that I was wrestling with this, that I was in a place where I was either going to plant a church and my wife said she'd leave me if I did that so it wasn't really going to happen. Go be a missions pastor at another church, start a nonprofit social enterprise, social justice organization, go work for one and those were kind of what was on the table. And I remember one of the organizations down in Nashville that we were working with, Blood: Water Mission, [inaudible 00:19:58] work with now, a lot of things connected and I ended up in a meeting with their procurement directors and I'm sitting in a room with them in their offices with an unscheduled appointment and they're like, "What are you doing?" And I'm like 47 years old, haven't quite resigned yet but know that I'm headed there and I'm like, "I don't know what I'm doing."
Kenny: I had no idea and I'm broke and I cried in that office and because I didn't have clarity and I resigned in November without clarity and it became May of the next year and I had to decide, I gotta do something and that's when we decided let's do a non-profit coffee shop that supports organizations fighting the injustices of hunger, unclean water, and human trafficking. And that was built upon my experiences with what I'd seen in the human trafficking realm and organizations working to beat it and then it came out of my meetings at Blood: Water Mission who was working with water wells and clean hygiene in different formats of ways to address those issues in Africa. And then we went to a justice conference and out of that came this, "Okay, we've got to include a way in which we could buy meals or support meals or purchase greenhouses or do something."
Kenny: And so those all kind of came together and at that point it was kind of like we had to figure out what is the commodity, what is the unifier to make this platform of justice work? And coffee just seemed to be the thing because everybody will commune at a coffee shop, they don't even need to buy a coffee, they'll get a hot chocolate or a tea or a soda, but they will meet at the coffee shop. And I just felt if we can build an experience that's big enough so there's enough seats in it that's a little bigger than the average coffee shop and then get the community to understand that the commune here puts you in touch with people who want to make the difference in the NGO world or the non-profit world, social enterprise world. If we could create that place, then we might be able to do what has become some of the numbers that you just throw out there.
Michael: You shared a powerful nugget that I caught that proceeded everything and that was you went away for three days to dream. How important is it to engage solitude which can help lead to clarity?
Kenny: I feel like to be honest, I feel like I was privileged enough to be there. Here's some things, my dad worked for that airline for 35 years. So I had free airfare until I was 24 and then... I had it for life and then they got bought out and then it ended when I was 24. Right about the time I started dreaming about this, that airline got bought out again and my mom was like, "Hey, why don't you check to see if there are flight privileges with this airline as a child of the employee?" and sure enough, I had them back and because of that, I was able to do a little bit of this. I go into Nashville, I spent one day with one guy who just prayed and was just like a cheerleader for like eight hours. And I took a trip to New Orleans, a friend of mine at the time was the youth ministry professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and I told him what I was doing, I didn't know what my plan was. He like, "Just come down here, I'm going to put you up in a dorm for two days and you figure it out."
Kenny: And so I think those are super important. And gosh, I really wish that I did them more Michael, because there isn't a time that I don't walk in a park for three hours, that I don't come out with some clarity, right? And I think those are the only... And I'm going to challenge the word clarity as much as just confidence in moving toward whatever is ahead. I feel like if you want to get into spiritual terms, Moses led a bunch of people down a cul-de-sac and said, "We're not going to die." and they're like, "We're all gonna die. There's the sea and there's the bad guys and we're done." And out of faith, he steps into the moment, the seas part and they go, and I felt like everything I did there was... There was no clarity for Moses. There wasn't like a bullet point of like, "Here's what you do when that happens." You just gotta do it and it'll take care of itself and I think some of those moments of solace and solitude are built to not necessarily create clarity, but to be at peace with where you're headed and not look back.
Michael: Talk about some of the pivotal moments of the business. I remember us talking and you sharing when you first opened and yet hundreds of people coming to be a part. Talk about some of the more pivotal moments that you had with the business.
Kenny: I think more than anything else, when we opened the doors... You know, we fundraise, we're a nonprofit so we fundraise everything to get the doors open. We were about like $3,000 in debt when we opened and [inaudible 00:25:13] you don't know if anybody's going to ever show up, I've helped a bunch of businesses since then, they're lucky a hundred dollars a sales happens in a day and it just worked from day one. I think I had a community, we had just done a pretty decent job of being social media present for like seven, eight, nine, ten months before we truly opened the doors and so then there was kind of like this [inaudible 00:25:41] of waiting for this thing to occur and then it did and people showed up.
Kenny: And I think that the most pivotal thing is... I remember thinking, I live about East, the other side of town there's a noodle company there and I love the manager there just because he's really engaging, great guy but he always do his work at a booth. And I was like, "I don't like that. I'm never going to be that guy working in the shop." and that was a game changer to work in the shop. Much as you related back to it, it doesn't look like the ministry looks different, but it's kind of you're still doing things where you're affecting other people and speaking into their lives and I don't think that would have happened if I had not been working out of the shop.
Kenny: We couldn't afford an office and I wasn't going to do anything out of home and to honest, I think one of the pivotal things was that we got sustainable enough that I felt like I could delegate out. I mean, I was a barista 40 hours a week the first two and a half years we were open. And in addition to carrying a non-profit and making the donations and running everything else so I think two and a half years in was kind of this moment of like, all right, they can handle it. The people you've got here could do this and it'll free up your ability to potentially expand or do other valuable things. The pivotal moments we opened in April, 2015. In 2018, we did three things. We opened a roaster, so we were roasting our own coffee, we started to explore expansion into a second part of the city and three, we partnered with a local brewery that wanted to have a Roosevelt inside the brewery and so we negotiated a licensing deal, they literally have kind of like a Starbucks in a Target, they have a Roosevelt Coffeehouse in Olentangy River Brewing Company.
Kenny: So those are some pivotal things that just kind of like, I can't believe we got here. I mean, I remember what the budget was on day one and to think that we're tripling that, I mean, we don't make triple the money, but triple what we expect it could come in the doors it humbles me every day Michael. I'm just humbled by it.
Michael: Man, your motivation and your motives are felt by the people. Talk about how the city has embraced you and embraced Roosevelt. It's been remarkable.
Kenny: It's nuts. I mean, it really is. I mean, I was a suburban dad in a suburban church, so I didn't really have a city feel, but what I learned was, man, Columbus loves Columbus and there's a real affinity for local entrepreneur launches here and just a lot of things timed up. Some people are like, "Why do you think you succeeded? Why do you think people..." I think sometimes, as you probably know with some of the things that you've helped start and you've watched some entrepreneurs not make it, sometimes it's just good luck and timing and I think we had a lot of timing on our side or there's guy named David all time that was doing some stuff in the city and because of his energy, he showed up at the shop and he was in there every day. He created some local storytelling conferences that had pretty significant power of creating a lot of entrepreneur connectivity in the city.
Kenny: And then there's people just started coming into the shop. I think one of the things that really helped too is that we donated from day one. So like we opened April one and on the third week of April, we had a grand opening and we donated all of our profits that day to our organization fighting human trafficking in town here. So I think one of the things that kind of set us apart was that we... maybe not set us apart, but sometimes you can create these kinds of entities. It's like, they're going to do good things and they have a social mission and what does that really look like? And we just really been transparent and authentic about making that happen as much as possible without going in debt ourselves.
Kenny: Sometimes I think we've probably been more aggressive in giving than it's been practical in a business platform, but so far it has worked. And then that authenticity has just led to people... As you know Allen Proctor in this town runs the social enterprise circle in the city. He kind of challenged me before I opened really not to open and then I did open and we succeeded and he was all in and every Tuesday pre-COVID he's mentoring anybody who wants to start a social enterprise every Tuesday from like 9:00 to 5:00 and those things just led to other things. I think the best way I can describe it... [Quito Muscara 00:30:39] he's a local filmmaker and Quito comes in-
Michael: I don't.
Kenny: Qito knows everybody in town. A lot like you and I know everybody in town and his running joke is that he goes to the Roosevelt because all the people that have their schedules built out for the next three months and can't meet, he knows they'll be there. So if he can just get 10 minutes of their ear and not worry about getting on their schedule and that is kind of a real definition of what we become. There's probably not a time you haven't come in there where you aren't engaging a city council president or the Columbus Foundation executive or something and that's not like... I think it's become a place in town where people who do that work and then people who want to do that work start to sense this is a place I should be and I want to be and my opportunities increase to do what I want to do better because of who I see there. So I think again, it was good luck and timing and then word of mouth.
Michael: Totally makes sense. Wow. Well, let me ask you this, what has been some of the biggest challenges that you've seen with the business and how have you navigated through your challenges?
Kenny: Allen hates it when I say this, but I don't know what I'm doing yet, Michael, I'm still trying to figure it out, right? I remember... We take donations, so we have to be registered with the attorney general. I didn't know that until six months after opened and they sent me a notice like, "Hey." and I'm like, "Oh, I didn't know." I think the challenges have just been, I didn't have any history in business or legal or any of those things and so every day I'm still learning that stuff. I think I've delegated well, I think I've learned to hire, sub-contract our accounting and our legal, hire that out well, I'm still learning. We've expanded, to be honest I don't know if we did that too soon and if hurt our long-term sustainability... We were trying to figure that out pre-COVID and because of COVID we can't really figure that out.
Kenny: I mean, the target has moved and I been kind of saying the last few weeks or months that after five years, we kind of had a runway to success and wisdom and impact and we kind of were riding on the road of like, this is the way the Roosevelt does it and then you have to shut down for 10 weeks and then you have to go do online menus, which is the antithesis of everything a communal coffee shop that does what we do is built around. So currently the challenges are every day we make a different decision about the way it looks moving forward and we haven't really settled on what that looks like.
Michael: I think you've done a remarkable job in this COVID era of not only I think, sustaining but thriving and it's beautiful to stay curious and staying honest, there's beauty in that.
Kenny: I agree.
Michael: You're ever growing, you're ever evolving and I just so appreciate that of you, man. Any advice that you have for entrepreneurs in these times when starting a business?
Kenny: I think my number one really more than anything else is just don't listen to the naysayers. If I would've listened to all the people who said don't, I would have never opened. And I think there's some people... I'm built to think that we can push through what doesn't look practical or wise. And there are some people that have been so practical and so wise all of their lives that they can't engage in this and that's okay, I think that's great. They probably have a lot more retirement money than I do. They probably have a lot of things going their way, but I would just say, if you know this is what you want to do, then go do that. And I think too this is just my selfishness I'm 55 and I've never not done what I've loved, right? Like I came out of high school, I eventually worked in a drug rehab because I had been through that experience and I got to minister to people in their recovery.
Kenny: I went from there into music retail, and I loved every day of music retail and I went from there to ministry and I loved every day of ministry and I left there and I went into non-profit world and coffee and in this message I continue to say the same, I've loved those things. I would also say I think it's been exciting, I was reading something recently that I think more businesses have opened and closed or registered in the state of Ohio during COVID because people are... It's during these times, recession times and curiosity and I've got to support myself that incredible businesses and dreams come out and I was like, we were really struggling this past year. Our sales dropped 40%, we did probably a quarter million dollars less sales than sales last year, and yet our financial impact was never higher.
Kenny: So again, we just restrategized how we can continue to be authentic with our mission and accomplish what we've set out to do in spite of the circumstances. And that was a dangerous maybe ploy, it might've been wiser just to keep money. But for us, we took that risk and we made our shop super safe and we'd gotten parts of campaigns that raised lots of money for people who needed food and we donated over $25,000 in bags of coffee to professionals in the medical industry who are serving people that were going through COVID. So I think do it, that's the thing and I know it sounds so simple, but I think the simplest business books like Seth Godin's Linchpin or Austin Kleon's Keep Going or Steal Like an Artist, those things just give you simple, practical, move into it and I respond and function better initiating those suggestions than I do a business book that's 350 pages with a bunch of systems. I feel like I'm inspired to drive something to happen and then we're going to work the system or create a system to help us make that happen. I don't know if that's helpful.
Michael: No, very helpful, very helpful. I think it was on the money. Regarding the future, you make a quote. You say, "I believe your investment into the day at hand will define that for you." When you talk about ten-year plans and five-year plans, talk about that just for a moment.
Kenny: Yeah. I've never been a five-year, ten-year plan guy because I just think, so in 2017 did anybody make the COVID plan? So I think some of those things are just unbelievably arbitrary. Like what are we going to do? So again, as I mentioned, and I remember what that article was, we need to invest as much as we can now into the moment of what we're trying to do and create, and that is planning for the future, but it is making today successful. So if we can't take what we've and created and make it happen now, it certainly isn't going to have a five-year future. And then I think most importantly, what that does is that as you're on the trajectory of success and good business making and surrounding yourself with wise people that when you need to make an adjustment, you do.
Kenny: We started a roaster. I'll be transparent, we started a roaster more than anything else because my right-hand man guy is somebody I want to retire knowing he's still here. That wasn't the plan when we started the Roosevelt. So we started that roaster, that plan was like a lifetime plan. Like let's get Frank under the belt of what we're doing and let him have ownership of every coffee we make and brew and roast. So I think sometimes we get trapped into those things not to say we shouldn't have goals and we shouldn't set those things, but sometimes for me, I'm the kind of guy that those things sometimes hurt the way I see things rather than just kind of like...
Kenny: You say, "Hey, you've done a great job on it." Yada, yada, whatever those things are, I think it's important for us to tell people that because I'm sure as you've done, I mean, there's times you probably lose sleep at night going, "I have I done it right? Is it really working? Do people respect me? I'm I honoring my employees? Am I honoring the people that need the help that I'm trying to provide and giving them dignity and not trying to supplement something?" So I think you should always be learning and you should always be a sponge. I mean, my mentor is 20 years younger than me because he's better at business and he's savvier making decisions. So I think we always have to remain teachable and I feel the ones who don't dream or don't risk or play it safe, are the ones that just aren't willing to learn anything beyond what they already have. And I think that is debilitating for some people. And so I don't want that to be debilitating to me.
Michael: Interesting. That is really, really good. Kenny. Really, really good. Last question I have for you, what would you tell if you could go back, what would you tell your 16 year old self?
Kenny: What would I tell my 16 year old self? I think it might be... How do I say this without sounding arrogant? But I would say, "Hey, you are a born leader and as long as you remain humble whatever vision you cast, people will join in." And I think there's a lot of part of my life where I just didn't have that confidence that I didn't feel that way. I remember I mentioned a couple things at that story conference we went to, and I remember we went out to dinner that night, and I love those conferences. This is because it's really like 450 people, the guy speaking had like a lounge chair and his dog on the stage, and I was just eating up, right? We got to dinner that night and Lori's like, "Hey, just so you know [inaudible 00:41:21] conference, I'm not going back tomorrow, you enjoy it. It's just not my thing." She goes, but there was a moment today where he stopped the conference and he just said, "Hey listen, I need some of you out there to acknowledge that you do have a special vision. You are born to lead and you need to give yourself permission to be that and it's not a bad thing. It's not something that you... It's not arrogant to come out with that. Know that that's who you are so that you can accomplish what needs to be done."
Kenny: And I remember sitting in my chair during that conference, just weeping. Like I'm that guy, but I don't know how to convey that. And we went out to dinner and she goes, "Do you remember that time during today that he stopped the conference and he called out people who have vision?" She's, "That's you. That's you. So whatever you do, I don't need the conference to know that whatever you do, I'm going to support it, so know that." That was just super affirming for where we were headed. And to know that I was on the right trajectory. So that 16 year old self I would just say, "When you feel like it's not humble, just check yourself. If you're not injuring people, if you're not mean, if you're not a jerk, you're not disregarding what people think, it's not arrogant to step into your leadership and take ownership of it and just lead." And that would probably be the thing I would say the most because I've probably spent 15 years oblivious to any of that kind of thinking.
Michael: Couldn't have said it any better. Kenny, you are sharing with us why Roosevelt is successful because it all emanates from you and your wife and your heart for people. I salute you my friend and thank you for being you and thank you for being on this podcast today.
Kenny: Thank you brother, I appreciate you, I love you and I'm grateful for who you are and what you do.
Michael: I love you back, man. You've heard it from Kenny Sipes and there's an understanding now that from everybody who's listening to this podcast, why Roosevelt is one of my favorite places in the city. So remember this, you are the secret to your success. Thank you for listening. Well, I told you this has to be one of the most inspiring episodes we've done so far. Kenny is a wonderful example of many things, not least which being an inability to give up and his radical trust in God for his future security. Your life is a picture of faith and betting on yourself. Thank you for coming on the show Kenny, you could follow Kenny on Twitter at @kennysipes and @rooseveltcoffee. Thanks for listening until next time. I'm Michael Redd and remember you are the secret to your success.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.