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These Coffee Lovers Brewed Up a Florida Business From the Back of a Bike

Decision-making, long hours, late nights, financial concerns, constantly changing plans — it’s no secret that starting your own business is hard work.

It’s no different for the owners of Made Coffee, but at least they have direct access to a caffeine source at all times.

Specializing in canned and kegged cold-brew coffee — because, hello Florida heat — Made Coffee is on a mission to bring on-the-go, iced caffeine to the masses.

As the company continues to gain traction in the Sunshine State, co-founders Michael Rideout and Taylor Prater took some time from their 14-hour work days to look back at where they’ve been and talk about how far they want to go.

Biking With the Brews

A can of Made Coffee is held next to some plants.
Made Coffee produces upwards of 15,000 cans of cold brew coffee a day. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Like many a good story, the origins of Made Coffee can be traced back to a beloved local bar.

Back in 2015, Rideout and Prater were both working at Mandarin Hide, a trendy cocktail bar nestled in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. Thanks to the combination of popular  espresso-based cocktails and an espresso machine that was constantly acting up, the idea for a cold, concentrated coffee product began to brew.

“We basically just started tinkering around, bought some equipment and started brewing out of the house,” says Rideout.

In keeping with their cocktail origins, they pitched the cold and nitro brew coffee creations in keg form to local bars and restaurants. They secured about five accounts to serve the product on tap in that first month.

Another good way to get word out about the newly made company? Hit the streets.

Rideout and Prater ordered a bike online and then hired someone to build a custom box frame — complete with a tap system — so that it was perfect for peddling the kegged coffee on the go. All in all, the custom bike ended up costing around $ 4,000 — about 50% of Made Coffee’s total startup costs.

They would do pop-up events with the bike, usually in front of one of their original account locations, but they really weren’t selling coffee as much as giving it out. And on top of that, they were selling their product to accounts at cost — basically just enough to cover what they were spending to make the brew.

Rideout says they focused on consumer education for the first year and a half — profitability wasn’t even on the horizon.

“We weren’t making any money,” he says. “We were trying to understand what we were doing, what the product was doing and get a lot of feedback from consumers to see what we needed to do.”

You Can Go Your Own Way

Two people work on roasting batches of coffee.
Brennan Rodriquez, a roaster and quality control specialist, and Rideout work at the company’s cannery. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

After building up brand awareness, they started toying with the the next step in the plan: Opening a cold brew-focused café.

Rideout shopped around downtown St. Pete for a location and came close to settling on a deal, but a meeting with a business mentor made him rethink his retail plan.

He realized that in order for the business to achieve a large footprint and be recognized on more than just a city- or county-wide level, he was going to have to stray from the arguably easier route.

Having seen examples of big-name, ready-to-drink coffee products growing in popularity, he realized that no local businesses in the area had gone the distribution route; they just stuck to local shops.

So wholesale was the name of the game, but again, with origins firmly rooted in the bar realm, Rideout and Prater didn’t want to stray too far. Hence the idea of canned, cold-brew coffee.

Navigating a New Business

A woman with long brown hair attends a business meeting outside.
Taylor Prater, left, co-founder and brand manager of Made Coffee, discusses a marketing strategy that promotes local business with Carissa Scott of Octane Media at Trophy Fish in St. Petersburg. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Rideout had money saved up for the coffee shop idea and planned on securing another partner at some point, but getting into beverage distribution was a whole different beast. Building out a café could be done for around $ 150,000. But a beverage company? That’s wading into the millions of dollars territory — which is capital that the duo definitely did not have.

To help with the financial burden, they secured partners — who mainly work behind the scenes while Rideout and Prater handle the day-to-day operations. Then in September of 2016, they moved forward with a location for operations.

Dubbed The Cannery and coming in at 2,200 square feet, the facility build-out didn’t really start until January 2017. It took around four months to complete — and cost about half a million dollars.

While the team was waiting on completion of The Cannery construction, they started securing accounts before they even had a canned product to deliver.

“We had a little bit of a following, so we were teasing the idea,” says Rideout. “They were just kind of believing in us.”

And once they were finally ready to launch their canned coffee in April, they had customers waiting for deliveries right off the bat. And thanks to word of mouth, they secured another 20 accounts in the following weeks.

Those 20 accounts quickly turned into 50, and within two months of launching, the caffeinated duo were approaching their biggest pitch yet: Publix supermarkets.

With headquarters just two counties over in Lakeland, Florida, Publix was a good fit for the Made Coffee product. But after only working with local bars, restaurants and speciality grocers, pitching to a giant like Publix was no small feat.

“The learning curve was tough,” says Prater. “Their expectation was for us to already know all of these terms and processes and logistics, so we had to learn it very quickly.”

But their pitch was a success, and Made Coffee found itself in 10 Publix stores in the Tampa Bay area in August 2017. Not only did they have to work with the managers of each location to secure shelf space, Rideout and Prater stocked the shelves on their own.

“It was very early mornings,” says Prater. “But it was a really great experience because you really learn the back end of grocery.”

Making It Day by Day

A man taste test coffee.
Rideout taste tests different batches of roasted coffee. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

In the beginning, Made Coffee was producing around 1,000 to 2,000 cans a day. Now, it’s churning out upwards of 15,000 per day.

Rideout and Prater have been able to run a pretty small production staff due to fast equipment, but their willingness to wear as many hats as it takes to get the job done has also helped.

“Our first couple of production days were bare bones,” says Rideout. “There was a production day that was just Taylor and me.”

“Which is not highly recommended,” Prater counters with a laugh. “But we did it.”

Weekly needs depend on the orders, or pars, but they typically follow the same production schedule: roasting one to four days a week, brewing five days a week, kegging two days a week and packaging one.

Then weekends are usually devoted to demos for potential customers and account visits — to make sure that everyone is happy with the product.

Rideout says he wanted to be involved in every aspect of the business, from delivering cans to visiting accounts to cleaning keg lines to fixing equipment to roasting and brewing coffee. But as Made Coffee continued to grow, taking on new local accounts and increasing its Publix presence, it made sense to bring on a little help.

The company is currently operating with a nine-person staff, but Rideout says that he and Prater still work 14- to 15-hour days on average.

“If there’s a 12-hour day, I feel like we missed something,” he says. “It’s just what has to be done.”

Pouring Over Your Business

A woman pours hot water over roasted coffee to taste test.
Rodriquez prepares cups of coffee to taste test at the company’s cannery. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Taking on the ambitious task of starting a ready-to-drink beverage company didn’t just have challenges on the business side — it took a personal toll on Rideout and Prater as well.

Both were still working full-time jobs when they started the company in 2015, and neither of them switched to Made Coffee full-time until 2017 — Rideout in April and Prater in August.

“From September 2016 to April 2017, all of my photos that I have of the build-out are at night at like 2 or 3 in the morning.” says Rideout. “I was working during the day and then coming over here and basically working… until I just couldn’t anymore.”

Both have only been paying themselves enough to cover their bills. All extra money has gone right back into the company. They’re both in favor of putting money toward equipment that will help them grow.

“I’d never been in debt,” says Rideout. “For the first time in my life, in 34 years, I have debt.”

Prater feels that in order to start your own business, you kind of have to take apart your life. And not just that, you have to be OK with taking apart your life. The long hours and devotion required to get it off the ground demand it.

Rideout agrees. “If you’re not willing to literally work as many hours as you have to and not sleep and be stressed on finances and wonder how you’re going to pay rent… don’t open your own business,” he says.

Brewing Up Growth

Bags of whole bean roasted coffee sit on the shelves at Made Coffee Cannery.
Made Coffee sells bags of whole bean roasted coffee at Publix. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

The long hours Rideout and Prater have put in over the years are paying off — Made Coffee recently achieved a huge milestone.

Previously, their canned cold brew could be found in 256 Publix stores. But as of Oct. 1, every Publix throughout the state of Florida features Made Coffee products. That’s a whopping 831 stores.

Additionally, Made has rolled out two new products in the past few months: bags of Made Coffee whole bean coffee and “Con Leche” cold brew, for the caffeine lovers who can’t tolerate the black stuff without a little cream and sugar.

To cope with the growth, they’ve signed a lease for a new 12,000-square-foot facility that will serve as a distribution hub and will be ready to roll in January of 2019. They’ve also brought on new equipment and staff, with plans to hire more throughout the year.

Prater says they plan on hiring about six remote employees who will manage designated areas throughout the state.

Overall, this next step for Made Coffee will cost an estimated $ 2 million — a far cry from the $ 8,000 in startup costs.

When Prater looks back to the beginning, she feels like she didn’t have any idea how to imagine the level of success they’re at now. But Rideout disagrees; he thinks everything is happening exactly as planned.

“I know that sounds crazy,” he says. “But I always say that if you’re surprised at what’s happening, you didn’t have confidence it could have happened.”

And no matter how big Made Coffee gets, both Prater and Rideout recognize the importance of remembering where they came from: Serving homemade cold brew from behind a bar to locals who believed in their dream.

Kaitlyn Blount is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She only had one, two, six, fourteen coffees when she wrote this. OK, nineteen. But that’s it.

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5 Must-See Goth Anime for Lovers of Darkness

The goth movement has grown from its early days in England’s underground pubs and nightclubs to a full-blown lifestyle, influencing books, fashion, and, of course, anime. Japanese animation is no longer only about bright colors and happy-go-lucky characters. It can also be full of dark characters and settings that will appeal to viewers who are into this subculture. So here are five goth anime series full of dark obsessions.

Ergo Proxy


 goth anime Ergo Proxy

Ergo Proxy takes place in an alternate future where humans and AutoReivs — robots used for everyday tasks — live side by side. Their peaceful coexistence comes to an end, however, when an unknown virus grants the AutoReivs self-awareness, causing them to go crazy and commit several murders. Investigating the murders and the mystery behind the virus is inspector Re-L Mayer. However, the young detective’s investigation will lead her to something much deeper than a bunch of random murders.

Thanks to its washed-out colors and use of a dark landscape to illustrate a dystopian future, the series successfully creates a creepy atmosphere — and a whole lot of suspense — that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Besides that, Ergo Proxy main lead, Re-L — with her pale complexion, all-black dress, and heavy blue eyeshadow — embodies many aspects of goth culture. In a sense, she’s the goth girl deep inside all of us.

Trinity Blood


goth anime Trinity Blood

Religious architecture, dark elements, and, of course, death feature heavily in goth culture — and Trinity Blood delivers on them all. In Gonzo’s supernatural anime, the world has fallen into chaos thanks to the perpetual war between vampires and humans. Even after Armageddon, an event that nearly destroyed the Earth, the battle between the two races still rages. Luckily, working to protect the humans is Abel Nightroad, a traveling priest from the Vatican.

But Abel isn’t your ordinary pastor. He’s actually a Crusnik, a vampire that drinks the blood of vampires. Even though humanity has regained its strength a bit, it seems that a new Armageddon is just around the corner. Leading the latest assault is the group Rosencreutz Orden, led by Abel’s twin, Cain. He and his vampire army seek to rule the world, even if they have to destroy it first.

Darker Than Black


goth anime Darker Than Black

Over a decade ago, two impenetrable fields appeared: Heaven’s Gate in South America and Hell’s Gate in Japan. While various government agencies have conducted countless studies to decipher their secrets or why they’ve appeared, it seems no one has found a clear answer. But one thing is for sure — the gates grant supernatural abilities. Thanks to this, beings called “Contractors” emerge and use their new powers to commit various crimes. Darker Than Black follows Hei, a Contractor for the syndicate and his assistant Yin, a life-like doll, as they work to solve the mystery behind the gates.

Although the anime isn’t full of dark and moody colors, its female protagonist is oh-so goth. Not to mention, her Gothic Lolita assistant, Yin, would make a worthy addition to any anime fan’s figurine collection. From her pale, emotionless expression to her cute purple and black dress, Yin character is the perfect costume for any goth fan to try out this Halloween. (The show also adds a healthy helping of death for good measure.)

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian


goth anime The Mystic Archives of Dantalian

Taking place in England after the Great War, The Mystic Archives of Dantalian follows Huey, who, according to his grandfather’s will, must take custody of Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian — a library that contains forbidden books — and Dalian, a mysterious girl named who lives in the library.

Huey learns that the young child is the guardian of the archives and its countless magical books called “Phantom Books.” Dalian gives Huey a key to unlock the secrets that lie within her. As Dalian’s new key-keeper, Huey helps her investigate supernatural cases involving those in possession of Phantom Books. Using the key, he seals the power of the books they capture to restore order to the areas negatively impacted by them.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian combines fiction, horror, and death to create a gothic tale to that will appeal to fans of terror. Also, the female lead rocks a Victorian-style laced dress, proving herself a goth fashionista.

Gilgamesh


goth anime Gilgamesh

A group of scientists uncovers the tomb of King Gilgamesh and can now build Heaven’s Gate to advance human knowledge. Their discovery brings them recognition and fame — and new enemies who want to destroy their progress, and they’re successful.

Their attack creates a blast that disables electronic equipment and turns the sky into an electromagnetic mirror. It also leads to the birth of supernatural beings. The anime follows siblings Kiyoko and Tatsuya, who become the targets of people with superhuman abilities — as well as the man behind the attack that started this whole mess.

Gilgamesh is more than fighting mysterious men. It’s a thriller that injects borrowed elements from the Babylonian Era into the anime’s dark world. With soft-spoken main leads who barely do anything adventurous and a striking yet dark visual design and unique plot, Gilgamesh is everything a goth series should be.

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