Every Tuesday, we highlight entrepreneurs and leaders that are not only making a name for their selves, but are also showing generosity in unique ways. The individuals we choose are ones that have inspired us to continue doing what we love and are shining examples of what Take Heart Apparel Co. stands for as an organization. These individuals have shown the ability to be enterprising and generous and are not only changing the lives of those around them, but even of those all across the world. They are community leaders and world changers.
This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Strother and Isaac Neale at Kingdom Coffee and Cycles in Downtown Springfield, MO. Take Heart Apparel Co. doesn’t have an official office space or storefront, but Kingdom is definitely the closest thing to it. We spend most of our free time there and even have our products sold in their bike shop. We can’t thank them enough for their friendship and the wisdom they continually invest in us. We’re excited to share with you an exclusive interview with Kingdom’s founders, Jason Strother and Isaac Neale.
How did Kingdom Coffee and Cycles get started?
Jason: Well, actually, it got started as “The Hub Coffee & Cycles”
How did that begin?
J: The Hub started conceptually February 15, 2009 in a Starbucks. That’s where the dream was conceived. A coffee shop and a bike shop. Two businesses, seemingly different, consummating as one. 303 days later, the doors were open. December 7th, 2009, The Hub Bikes and Beans, LLC was open for business.
Bikes and beans?
J: That’s our LLC name
Isaac: You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to create a unique LLC name. We’ve got a state full of businesses.
So how did things move from being “The Hub” to “Kingdom”?
I: We just had a lot of discontentment from the Lord in the present situation, location, and identity. It all came to a head when we found out our landlord was selling our location. We said, “We can either shut down or we can become something new.” So we decided to pursue something new until the door was shut and it just never got shut. We rebranded, we moved locations, we built out a new space. That was a period where we knew that were gonna move, I think right around December 7th, which was our anniversary, but ended up leaving the new building by the end of the month and being set up in our new space within three months.
What was some of the inspiration behind the new name?
J: Well, we really felt there just needed to be a maturing. Five years had gone by and we felt we just needed to be more direct. We’re called to release the kingdom on earth and to manifest heaven on earth in every way. But we didn’t want to be that cliché Christian coffee shop, though. Generally, Christian coffee shops are kind of known for having a bad atmosphere and bad coffee and just not really doing things well. We want to do everything with excellence, though. We said, “We want to be a kingdom-oriented coffee shop” because everything in the kingdom of heaven is the best, nothing is lacking. If you want something of excellence, it will be in the kingdom of heaven. So we just decided to call it “Kingdom” and kind of set a standard for ourselves in our business practices, in our quality, but even more than that we believe that the kingdom of heaven is coming. Isaiah 11 says it, Habakkuk 2:14 says, “The whole earth will be covered with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” We believe that the hope of glory that is residing in us will release the knowledge of His glory through His children. So we want to create a physical atmosphere where the presence of the Lord can actually manifest – where we invite His presence every day. We’re interested in offering the best coffee and the best bike service, but more importantly, creating a place for the King
Where do you guys draw inspiration and wisdom from in leading a business as Christians?
I: We were fortunate to have a lot of really strong, awesome business people in our church who have been great in sharing wisdom with us. We also believe that if you’re living the type of life that you should be, it should come pretty naturally. Deal honestly and deal fairly with people and you’ll do alright. You know, if our business fails, then it’s not a big deal for us, but if we distort the image of God, being representatives and ambassadors of Him, that’s a way bigger deal. That’s the standard that we hold ourselves to. Fortunately, that coincides with good business practices for the most part.
J: The hope of glory, or the spirit of truth, is living inside of you which will reveal to you all truths and things to come. You know, I think that includes business practices. We have no business degrees. Between the three of us, we don’t even have a single college degree.
I: I’m almost there.
J: Isaac’s close.
I: I almost got an Associate Degree
J: I bring down the average. But really, Jesus knows how to run a perfect business. He can reveal to me everything about running a successful business and I believe that 100%.
Being such an openly Christian coffee shop, have you ever received any opposition from customers?
I: A little bit, but not as much as I would have expected. We’ve had a couple of people come in and voice their discontentment.
J: In 2 Corinthians 2 it actually talks about how there is a spiritual “aroma” that comes off of you. “To those leading to life, it smells sweet, but to those leading to death it smells like death.”We had an interesting experience where a woman came in and was ready to order and went, “Aw, oh my, what is that smell? I was gonna get a coffee, but I can’t take it anymore. It smells terrible in here. Just give me a muffin, I have to leave right now” and she ran out. I asked the guy behind her, “Is there anything that smells weird in here?” and he was like “No, not at all.” Weird stuff like that happens.
I: Mundane stuff, too. Sometimes people come in and ask what the name is about and we say “The kingdom of God.” I had one guy say, “I was afraid of that.” and he just walked out.
J: At the same time, though, we get a lot of people who just have no knowledge of Jesus and they’ll be here every day and they’ll just sit and hang out.
I: Like we said, people are attracted to excellence. If you’re doing things poorly in a poor environment in the name of Jesus, you’re going to get Christians because they’re your captive audience. But the kingdom attracts all people because it is excellence and that’s one of the greatest tools of outreach that we can use.
What are some of the future plans that you guys have for Kingdom or perhaps other things?
I: We want to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, that’s the most important thing. Everything we do is just a conduit to that.
J: I think there’s no limit to what the possibilities are. Like if we’re faithful to this, the increase is unbelievable for the kingdom. Yeah, who knows? My heart is to set up storehouses for the kingdom and apostolic resource centers.
Could you share some of the vision you have for the nonprofit you guys have started working on?
I: So the vision is to develop a nonprofit that basically establishes what we’re doing here in other countries as a means for ministry, employing local people who are believers as lighthouses to their communities, both local and on a larger scale. That’s the idea right now that we’re pursuing and we’ll what comes of it. Similar to how we started this shop, we’ll just go until Jesus tells us “No.” because we believe that we are His ambassadors, which means He has given us His full power and authority.
J: The actual shops won’t be nonprofits, though. The nonprofit will be a seed bank for for-profit businesses.
I: Yeah, we would help them get started and they would run themselves.
What has been your favorite experience while doing Kingdom or The Hub?
I: I would say mine has not been a single experience. It’s any time I get to talk about the word of God. We have a lot of people who hang out here and they’ll have questions about the word. That’s what I really like.
J: I got to experience my first creative miracle from a kid who got saved at the shop. That was cool! That was one of the most exciting things for me. He’s one of our friends now—one of our little buddies. He came to the shop totally atheist and then a few months later he just got wrecked. His statement was “I’ll believe anything you tell me right now.” Then, a few days later, I got to pray for his shrunken foot and it grew back while I was pray for him. It was pretty awesome.
Who’s your favorite roaster?
I: It differs.
J: All of the roasters we have right now are putting out great coffee. Sometimes some are really exciting.
I: That’s the great thing about being a multi-roster coffee shop. If some start consistently putting out bad coffee, we stop ordering. If we hear about someone we really want to try, then we try them.
Where did you have the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?
I:I think it’s hard to distill a cup of coffee down into just the flavor. It’s about the entire experience from ordering, to preparation, to receiving it, tasting it, enjoying the whole cup. I would say that probably my favorite café is Café Streets in Chicago.
J:I made myself the best cup of cappuccino I’ve ever had about three weeks ago.
I: I remember him saying this.
J: I said it! Also, one of my favorite things about the shop or experiences here is talking to bible college students. This definitely one of my favorite things; people indoctrinated with religion.
I: They have the spirit of religion on them and they are going to fix the world.
J: …yeah, they are going to start a thirty-thousand-member church and really make a difference. Those are my favorite kids to talk to. I also like telling kids to drop out of college. (Jason told Jesse to drop out of college and he did a week later.)
What advice would you have for someone who wants to open an intentional business with a charity or a cause in mind?
I: This might sound silly, but just do it! Everybody has a reason why you should do it or a reason why you should wait, or a reason why you need this amount to do it, or why you need this much experience, or why you need to go to college. It’s just like why people delay going into the ministry. “Well if I just had a degree. Well if I was just trained enough”…or whatever. There are a million reasons why not to do it. Focus on what you have, what you are able to do right and do that. We didn’t have enough money to start a shop, much less two shops. We started two shops on about a third of what the Specialty Coffee Association recommends you use to start one shop. We just wanted to do it. This is what we have and this is what we’re going to do.
J: Don’t do it on your own wisdom or your own intellect because it’ll fail. It will fail on your own intellect. I believe though, that you should act on your dreams because I believe the kingdom of heaven will manifest itself through the dreams of His children. I think that the fulfillment of the dreams of His children is a great desire of His. The thing is that you shouldn’t settle for a lesser desire. One of the enemy’s best tactics of defeating the children is to get them to be fulfilled the lesser. For example you say, “I want to open a business” and the enemy says, “well, you know, just be fulfilled with this much and just work in that type of business.” There are a hundred things we could pull up in the Bible to look at that, but people are scared to give their dreams to the Lord. They say, “I don’t want to do that because then I’ll get sent to the bush of Africa and I’ll have to eat spiders” and they say all these things, but that’s not the case at all.
He is a perfect, righteous and good father. He says, “if you give me these dreams and desires I will increase them to where to want them even worse and make them so big to where they seem unfulfillable” and then he’ll fulfill them even greater than you could have ever imagined it. That’s what the kingdom of heaven looks like. It’s much bigger than what you think. He can do much greater than what you could think or ask for. That’s what Ephesians says, and that’s true, and He wants to co-labor with you. He wants the romance of it and the romance is you putting in your will and giving your will to him. Don’t let your dreams be settled for less. Don’t let anyone deflate your dreams. If you give your desires to Him, that desire is going to burn hot in you and then he is going to fulfill it. He’s always faithful. Don’t let your experiences tell you differently because your experiences don’t define the truth. Truth is defined in Jesus. Then your experiences can parallel with that.