The Profit

'The Profit' transformed this humble and heavily bearded coffee company owner into a brand mascot

When his real estate flips flopped, this bearded entrepreneur began building a specialty coffee empire
When his real estate flips flopped, this bearded entrepreneur began building a specialty coffee empire

Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders is the rare, small business that didn't quite need the full Marcus Lemonis-magic touch to turn its fortunes around. Before it hit The Profit's radar, the California-based, specialty coffee purveyor was actually already in an enviable position: With its popular cafes and wholesale bean business booming, the company was poised for rapid growth. But without a solid inventory system, clear management structure or working capital, owner Steve Sims felt he and his fledgling company wouldn't survive its growing pains.

Sims' humble nature and fear of confrontation was also at odds with the continued health of Bodhi -- disastrous family entanglements and a lack of staff meetings ensured communication at the company was in disarray. For Bodhi to continue to be in the black, it needed a captain capable of steering it to success. Fortunately for Sims and and his staff, Marcus saw the value in Bodhi's brand of specialty coffee and decided to invest.

"I feel like I had grown the business as far as I could with my own resources and capital that I had," says Sims of his decision to work with Marcus. "And I feel like I had kinda hit a wall. And we were profitable. … And I knew we were scalable."

Coffee was uncharted territory for Sims, a former real estate flipper who fell on hard times when the market crashed in 2009. What began as a low stakes gamble on Sumatran "green" (or raw) beans slowly led Sims to morph Bodhi Leaf from a modest coffee importer to a specialty bean wholesaler with two popular California cafes.

With sales in excess of six million per year and 2017 revenue projected to hit nearly $6.5 million, Bodhi's possibilities for expansion were promising -- and Marcus took notice. But a quick internal survey of the business revealed managerial and organizational cracks in Bodhi's facade.

Jeff, Sims' sales manager (and also his wife's cousin), was not only masquerading as 'Vice President' to clients, but also overstepping his bounds and ordering Bodhi's employees around. The issue, brought forcibly to light and subsequently remedied by Marcus, wasn't enough to force Jeff from the company. That is until both Marcus and Sims realized Jeff had struck a disproportionately costly deal with a bean farm run by his girlfriend.

"It had been something that had been brewing with myself and the team for years," says Sims of the difficult decision to fire Jeff. "… It wasn't the right fit."

Once Marcus solved Bodhi's underwhelming sales issue, he turned his attention to the company's other glaring flaw: inventory. By modernizing the warehouse, properly tracking purchases electronically and, as one employee put it, "plugging in formulas to make sure that we were covering our costs," Marcus ensured that Bodhi could now meet the demand that had previously threatened to overwhelm the business and Sims.

"In the past, I couldn't buy enough coffee," says Sims. "I sold more coffee than I could buy. Now with Marcus I'm able to buy enough coffee to grow and take this company to other levels. … Because of Marcus, we definitely have the proper inventory which was always a big struggle for us."

With Bodhi's operations in order, Marcus made one final, but crucial (and somewhat controversial) change to the brand. Seizing on the local community allure of high-end coffee, The Profit's 'Turnaround King' sought to expand Bodhi's cafes and wholesale operations to Chicago under a new, more approachable brand that toted Sims, with his fiery, ZZ Top-ish beard, as its mascot: Redbeard.

Sims initially bristled at the idea: "I want to be that humble guy. I don't want to be someone coming across as arrogant." But once he and the team got a glimpse of the design and marketing efforts Marcus had executed in Chicago, they quickly warmed to this new, regional brand banner.

It's only been a few short months since Sims brought The Profit onboard as partner, but already his team, who've now been granted equity stakes as a gift from Marcus, is aware of the sweeping, positive effect he's had on the future of Bodhi and Redbeard. And Sims, who initially "didn't really have faith in cutting that [partnership] deal," now has nothing but praise for Marcus.

"I can't thank him enough," says a teary-eyed Sims. "I feel like him trusting in me the way he has and just letting me be creative and grow this business like I've always wanted to — I can't thank him enough."