An Opportunity of a Lifetime by Mike McKim

Last week was a career highlight for me.

by Mike McKim

As the board chairman at Operation Supply Drop, I participate in lots of events that involve veterans. And as a business owner I do the same thing with events that involve entrepreneurs. Sometimes (when I am really lucky) those worlds collide. Recently they collided in a big way!

I was introduced to Bunker Labs last year. Bunker is a national not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization built by military veterans to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation. Through local chapters organized in 12 different cities, they provide educational programming, mentors, events and thriving local networks to help military veterans start and grow businesses.

March 9th, I was invited to participate in the first Bunker Labs CEO Roundtable. Partly because I’m a veteran and entrepreneur, but mostly because of the guest CEO that would be visiting. That guest was Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. Now I know there are tons of SBUX haters in the craft coffee world, but I will gladly say (publicly) that I am not one of them. Not only did Mr. Schultz mainstream the idea of a hanging out in coffee shops, he made words like latte and cappuccino part of the American lexicon. Oh, and have you ever heard the word Frappuccino?

When I started roasting coffee and wanted to learn/get inspired, I bought a copy of Pour Your Heart Into It. So needless to say, I was pretty darn excited to be involved in the Bunker event. These days, political statements seem to get all the headlines. For this reason, many people don’t realize the level of support that Starbucks provides to the military and veteran community. One of Howard’s lesser known books is For Love Of Country, which is co-written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. I had no idea that I would actually have the opportunity to meet both of them at that roundtable.

Mr. Schultz kicked off the meeting with a brief background and introduction, then he was ready to do what he came there to do and that was meet and listen to all of the veteran entrepreneurs talk about their businesses and their military background. I was really impressed with his level of attentiveness and he had very thoughtful questions for pretty much everyone. As I sat there and listened to each person, I began to feel my heart beat faster. The table was surrounded by a group of incredibly intelligent and polished men and women. “I graduated from West Point, The Airforce Academy, The Naval Academy,” was a pretty common theme. “I flew B-52’s, FA-18’s or F-16’s,” was another echo around the table. By the time it came to me I could feel my chest tighten as I explained how I joined the Navy out of high school and served during the Gulf War. Then I failed out of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy…man I was feeling pretty inferior. Rashelle even commented that she was afraid no one could hear me because I was talking so quietly…event though I felt like I was yelling at the top of my lungs!

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Then something really cool happened as I started talking about starting Cuvee Coffee. Howard leaned forward and seemed incredibly interested and his interest made me start to feel a little more comfortable. Then nitro cold brew came up and he immediately asked to try some. Several people grabbed cans and opened them, releasing a chorus of widgets releasing nitrogen. It was an epic moment. Mr. Schultz took a drink, looked right at me and said (slightly surprised), “This is really good.” Any anxiety that I was feeling prior was completely gone after that.

The experience of listening to everyone talk about their businesses and how they served their country was enough to fully charge my battery. Throw in some quality time with an entrepreneur who has and continues to accomplish so much and I’m pretty sure my feet weren’t touching the ground when I walked out of that meeting room. So thank you Glenn, for allowing me to work with a great organization like OSD. And thank you Johnathan for including me in these great Bunker events and introducing me to some of most exciting and excited entrepreneurs on the planet. My hope is that I can give back more than I have been given.

Read more: 
> The Origins of Nitro Coffee
> "What?! No Wi-Fi?!" by Mike McKim
> "I loved Budweiser’s Super Bowl Advert" by Mike McKim
> Specialty coffee’s newest artisanal headache: Starbucks’ Flat White.
> Coffee Is Communal