Josiah “Bo” Nelson is the co-founder of Thou Mayest, a coffee company in Kansas City. The main coffeehouse and bar is currently under construction and will tentatively open late next month.
Nelson is a native Kansas Citian, who has small business in his blood. He grew up working at his family’s business, Family Tree Nursery.
“My dad always taught me to do what you’re passionate about,” Nelson said. “Passion can’t be faked. Do what you love, and the money will come. Don’t do things because you are motivated for the money, do them because you have deep love for something and you can’t not do it.”
After playing many roles in the family business, Nelson decided to start his own company.
“This all got started with my business partner Bill and I. I was helping manage our wholesale growing operation at Family Tree Nursery,” Nelson said. “He was working out there, and he started roasting coffee beans…. I just wanted to know more…. We’d sit in our garage and roast coffee on a little home roaster, like six ounces at a time…. We would give it out to friends, but we’d also be sipping on it.”
Eventually that turned into what is now Thou Mayest. Nelson says that he wears a lot of hats in his current venture.
“I am the co-founder and operator and roaster and general contractor and head bean dude and whatever else you want to call me,” Nelson said.
Nelson says that Thou Mayest gets its name from a passage in John Steinbeck’s novel “East of Eden.” His business partner had read the book and told Nelson to read it as well, saying that he came up with the name for the then hypothetical coffee company they wanted to start. Nelson finished the book, and, independent of each other, they both choose the same phrase as the name for the business.
“It’s kind of a weird and quirky name,” Nelson said. “A lot of people ask ‘What are you guys? Some sort of right-wing, conservative, Christian organization?’ ‘No, we are just literate. We like to read, we’re nerds.’”
Nelson says that, in the near future, the company will be focused on subscription-based revenue models and “reaching more people with the freshest coffee possible.”
Nelson also has some more unconventional ideas for the coffee company that may or may not ever be a part of the business model.
“We’ve talked about some sort of coffee cannons that we can launch over the crowd off the sky deck,” Nelson said. “We have so many ideas: we’ve talked about mobile roasting. I was looking at a Greyhound Bus for a while to follow the MAX bus. Why would you get on this bus when you can get on this bus? It’s like a mobile coffee shop while it’s driving. We have all sorts of wild ideas, harnessing those and making them into reality is what we are working on now.”