Local business owners Christopher Wood and Doug Lee made the most of their undergraduate years at the University of Southern Mississippi, thanks to one genius business idea – a trailer serving spiked snow cones.
Getting a taste of entrepreneurship, they hopped from one campus event to the next, reveling in their newfound freedom, all while making enough money for rent and ramen. As they soon discovered, their first business venture was a launching pad, and their careers in coffee were about to take off.
“Before I knew it, Doug and I both got jobs at a local drive-thru coffee shop, learned the trade, moved to Chattanooga and eventually opened one ourselves,” Wood says. “Chattanooga was the perfect spot for us considering its beautiful locale and strong support of local businesses.”
Inspired by their latest success, the two friends set their next idea into motion, opening (be) caffeinated, a convenient drive-thru coffee shop with a local flavor.
“One of our goals is to be as local as possible. We buy our espresso from Mad Priest and drip coffee from Velo and Goodman’s,” Wood says.
A quick Google search of Chattanooga’s local coffee shops will not disappoint you. From North Shore to Southside, the city brims with coffee creatives bringing their own flavor and flair to the cafe scene. That’s why Wood and Lee went a different direction with (be) caffeinated.
Geared toward convenience, the to-go model could not be more ideal during the pandemic.
“Because we are drive-thru, we can serve different demographics of people, who cannot always enjoy what a sit-down cafe has to offer. Our customers are parents who don't want to unbuckle their kids, students cramming for tests and even first responders on their way to work,” Wood says.
Just a year into their business, the coffee shop has already expanded. This time they went back to college, where they started, to open a Chattanooga State Community College location.
“Lucky enough, we were able to do a trial run in Chatt State’s cafeteria to see if there was a demand for it,” Wood says. “When I was in college, I always enjoyed hanging out at local coffee shops on campus. So, I want to give those students that same experience.”
The business partnership has come full circle since its humble beginnings, influencing other young entrepreneurs looking to turn their dream into a reality. As members of CO.STARTERS' June Cohort, the founders offer some wisdom.
“It’s is going to be hard sometimes, but remember: you made this thing. If it succeeds, you made it succeed. And if it fails, move on to the next one with new knowledge and lessons learned,” Wood says.
A third (be) caffeinated location is already under consideration. Wood and Lee eventually plan to expand to other cities, while maintaining their focus on local ingredients.