Your spirit makes you alive — don’t ignore its voice when it speaks to you, Bo Nelson advised a captive audience gathered to hear how his entrepreneurial experience at Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters has enabled Kansas Citians to reach their highest good.
Nelson read Tuesday from a personal journal he kept during a significant time of self-discovery, as part of the Conquer for Good speaker series — a community growth initiative of Will & Grail, which was revived this week after a year-long hiatus.
“There is a deep dark emptiness inside you. You have seen and experienced this and it is the truth. You, man, are nothing. Your spirit is what makes you anything at all. So take care of it. Spend time with it. Let it guide you,” he read to the crowd at Lifted Spirits Distillery.
Deeply provocative and rich with meaning, such words poured into Nelson’s soul as he gazed into the wilderness atop a mountain he’d climbed in Colorado. It was a manifestation of his life’s passions, revealing themselves as his true calling among the wilderness, he recalled.
“This is your retreat, your source of everything,” he said, reading from his journal. “So use your head, use your hands. Go forth with all your might and carry the torch. Illuminate the world from within. I will show you the path. The doors are open. You are no more. Your physical is done.”
Nelson’s personal and entrepreneurial missions — such as efforts to create meaningful conversations and mantras like “the way is open” — align with the values of Conquer for Good in a serendipitous way, said Mark O’Renick, founder of the social entrepreneurship series.
“We talk a lot about purpose, right? But at the end of the day, what the heck is it? Well, we’ve defined it as making a profound positive impact on lives,” O’Renick said.
O’Renick and his partners at Will & Grail hope to go national with the mission of Conquer for Good — born out of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and an effort tied to conscious capitalism, he said.
“We’re writing a book … [that asks] what’s in the DNA of these people who see a need and go, ‘you know what, somebody should do something about that.’” O’Renick announced Tuesday. “That will be Kansas City’s gift to the world.”
A collaborative effort, Conquer for Good will enlist the help of curious citizens willing to roll up their sleeves and write a collection of stories about community cultivators like Nelson, O’Renick added.
Click here to learn more about Conquer for Good.
Mission unimpossible, conquering for good is a thought that’s put Nelson in a state of meditation, he said.
“What does it mean to ‘conquer’ and what does it mean to ‘be good,’ you know? And how are we able to do both?” Nelson posed to the crowd. “It is incredibly hard. Everything that’s going on in the world around us is trying to deter us from being good.”
Using the idea behind conscious capitalism as a catalyst for conversation, business should be about more than a bottom line, Nelson said with conviction, admitting he too had once been caught up in the American ideal of business as a cash grab.
“I was looking more at balances and spreadsheets and I was like — ’Am I making a connection with this consumer, who’s coming in to get a beverage?’ We just want to make sure that we’re leaving them better than we found them. And that’s about as simple as it gets.”
Blinded by business, Nelson candidly admitted he’d effectively missed out on the five-year success of his former East Crossroads coffee shop, which closed in December, making way for a new Thou Mayest concept.
Click here to read about Nelson’s latest venture, Cafe Equinox.
“I haven’t really been paying attention to what we did,” Nelson opened up, sharing stories from the final of day of business at Thou Mayest. “One of the most impactful [things] that happened was some dude stumbled in, he was like, just crying and like laying on my shoulder and he’s like, ‘Saved my marriage in that room right over there. … If it wasn’t for you guys creating that space, I don’t know if I’d still be married to the love of my life.’ What do you do with that?” he asked, chuckling in awe of the unconscious impact his company had created.
As subsets of entrepreneurs and community builders look to realize their own concept of doing good in Kansas City, Nelson encourages them to think outside of themselves, he said.
“This thing is beyond me,” he said of the way he views Thou Mayest and how entrepreneurs should think of traction within their own companies. “I’m just trying to be a good manager and a good steward of it and to find more ways to have impact on people’s lives –– and you just … get the frick out of the way and let them have that moment with the brand and with the company and let the brand do the work.”
A long-established global business culture in which a company essentially owns its founder must die before entrepreneurs can create brands that work for the good of people — not greed, Nelson said.
“I want this to work for me,” he said. “I’m tired of chasing the cheese, man.”
Conquer for Good will host its next speaker — Stan Hays, CEO of Operation BBQ Relief — at Lifted Spirits on March 26.
Click here to RSVP for the March event.