Santa Monica is a town built for bikes. With abundant protected bike lanes and a total area just shy of 8.5 miles, traversing Santa Monica’s nooks and crannies, seeing all it can offer is an easy task. So, of course, one of its residents started his own business via bicycle.
Most mornings you can catch Michigan-born Jeff Green — clad in something spiffy (sometimes a jumpsuit, sometimes a cardigan, always some hard-to-find Nike sneakers) — pushing along a cart on his bike while blasting hip-hop or soul music. His innocuous paleta-type cart he pushes houses nitro cold brew, nitro matcha tea and kombucha for Green’s venture, The Caffeinated Cloud.
The coffee-on-wheels concept is only in its eighth month of existence, an existence that required a leap of faith from its owner.
Green first had an inkling of the idea for Caffeinated Cloud and, subsequently, a career change, while traveling in Japan.
Walking through hordes of people, many looking unsatisfied in the city, Green had an existential crisis: Is he happy at his current job? What did he like to do? What could he do to make a difference?
Connecting with people and imbuing them with positivity, engaging in sustainability and making and drinking coffee were the things that kept him going. But how does one combine those things into a full-time job?
Upon returning to California, Green would bike around the city, wondering what he could do to escape his 9-5 self-imposed prison.
“I was working at Shinola (in Venice) for a while and liked it, but I knew I didn’t want to be there long-term,” Green said. “Retail is… once you’re in it, it’s tough to get out. I knew I wasn’t going to be happy and needed a change.”
He began to think up the primitive stages of The Caffeinated Cloud. He didn’t want to put another truck on the road and was always on bike, wanted to promote less pollution and increase bike use while encouraging others to do the same.
Green says the idea of a coffee cart on bike had everything he wanted to do, rolled into one idea on wheels. He almost gave up on the idea, taking the leap and quitting his job, before his girlfriend pushed him to take a chance.
“She gave me the confidence I needed,” he said. “She helped me execute my ideas and still continues to do so.”
With renewed focus and unwavering support, Green contacted a custom bike builder in New Mexico to make the unique mini-coffee station on wheels, a “Frankensteining of a lot of parts”, Green says.
He eventually sold his own car and sunk in around $10,000 of his own money and “a million hidden costs that I don’t even want to think about” to start his venture.
After a doodle of a smiling cloud for a logo — and 6-7 months of permit work with the health department — The Caffeinated Cloud was born.
He quit his job to start this new phase of his life in his 30s, filled with an understandable amount of anxiety.
“I made a drastic career change and it was terrifying,” Green says with a laugh. “Left a sure thing: job security, salary, health insurance, benefits, all those things. But if it doesn’t happen now, when will it happen? I had to at least try.”
Instead of the nine to five, Green gets up around five or six a.m. (“No regrets at all” he says about the eye-crust inducing hour) biking to “where the people are” — typically at Food Truck Alley (Pennsylvania, between Colorado and Olympic), at the Pier, Venice, and sometimes West Hollywood.
He puts in over 60 hours a week wearing every hat imaginable for the position– selling coffee, marketing, design, social media manager, etc.
In eight months, Green’s expanded Caffeinated Clouds offerings, adding dog bandanas (with proceeds going to No Kill LA animal shelter), shirts, reusable cups to get rid of plastic and loyalty cards.
He wants to eventually expand his operation, with mobile coffee stations throughout LA and maybe internationally someday.
For now, however, he’s enjoying what he gets out of serving West LA and Santa Monica.
“If I can make someone’s day better with a smile or conversation, I love that. Sounds cheesy, but you never know the type of day someone’s having. That’s the best part of my job, getting that connection. It’s the small things that go a long way.” Like a good cup of coffee.
For more information, visit @thecaffeinatedcloud on Instagram and at www.thecaffeinatedcloud.com