On episode five of STANDOUTS, an Only Co. Production, we sat down with Sam Wake, Founder and Owner of Kids & Cobras: a small coffee and moto lifestyle company focused on finding ways to speak to people’s hearts and help them find purpose, passion, and a zest for life — all the while inviting them to slow down, drink a good cup of coffee, and have meaningful conversations with those they care about.
Check out the full episode here, and keep reading for a summary of our chat below:
After moving to Portland, OR from rural Indiana, Sam Wake and his family found themselves growing more and more interested in starting something of their own. Having lived in Portland for only a short amount of time, he couldn’t help but notice the city’s emphatic niche for coffee.
With no prior experience in starting a company, let alone running a business, Sam created what originally started out as a lifestyle apparel business. The brand quickly evolved as his interest in coffee continued to grow, and he ended up teaching himself the ins and outs of coffee roasting — researching all about the product, where to get it, and how to make a fresh, quality bag of beans.
It wasn’t just the smell or taste of coffee that intrigued Sam to use it as a focal point of their new business. It was the culture, intention, and way of life behind it that spoke to him. Sam explains the meaning behind the name Kids and Cobras, stating that “and” is probably one of his favorite words, as it connects things — even if they are polar opposites. Hence “Kids,” something so innocent, and “Cobras,” something so dangerous. Even though the name reveals nothing explicitly about what they offer, it holds a deeper, methodical meaning behind their core values as company. He states, “as humans, we live in the ‘and’ — the ‘and’ referring to the space between life and death. How we manage the ‘and’ determines what our life looks like.”
Fast forward six years: Kids & Cobras is making most of their “and” as a small business serving up some of the finest coffee in Portland, while cultivating community through inspirational storytelling, content creation, and shared interests.
In a city immensely saturated with coffee businesses, you may be wondering how Kids & Cobras manages to differentiate themselves from their competitors. When listening to Sam speak about his business, it’s quite clear how they find a way to do so: by understanding that, to a majority of customers, coffee is an invitation. It’s a way we connect with other people, it’s an opportunity to pause and have deeper conversations, and it’s ultimately a pathway to culture and community. While Kids & Cobras does sell coffee as their product, their heartbeat is focused on these deeper, more meaningful, intangible things.
One way they’ve continued to stand out within their marketplace was the invention of their Slow Mag, a small, printed magazine that they include in their monthly subscriptions, that comes from Sam’s creative lens in life. Through photography, design, and copywriting, Kids & Cobras’ Slow Mag captures the brand by telling their ideal customers’ stories — inspiring readers to chase more than a mundane, boring life. Plus, the magazine doubles as a way to distribute their marketing initiatives and materials, giving them a lot of reach for their small business.
When asking Sam for a piece of advice for those looking to start their own businesses or brands, he emphasized the importance of taking that first step. Especially when it comes to something you’re passionate about, the unknowns are enough to hold you back from ever making an intentional move forward. At the end of the day, you’re not going to have all of the answers, or all of your ducks in a row. If you know what you’re about, what you bring to the world, and what problems you want to solve — the rest will come to fruition as long as you invest your time, be patient, and find joy through the journey.
“There is more courage in your tank than danger ahead. Live from that space.” - Sam Wake
If you’ve read this far and had either of these two thoughts:
PLEASE REACH OUT! We look forward to connecting with you.
During our chat with Rob, we talked about how his path in economics during college ultimately led him to becoming CEO of a finance company.