Axons Unleashed Podcast: From Serving The Country to Serving Coffee

Michael Lorrigan is the Founder and Managing Director of The Two14 Coffee Company, aptly named after the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, which he served in for nearly a decade. 

Hear Michael’s amazing story unfold as he makes his journey from an Armored Corps Officer in Afghanistan to a cafe in Chermside and more as he dials into a ripper chat with Robbie and Dan. It’s filled with commendable elements of Mick’s determination, character and the will to keep going, no matter the odds against him!

 
 
 
 
 
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Episode Transcription:

Announcer:
Axons Unleashed.

Robbie Turner:
Hey, ladies and gents. I’m Robbie, I’m joined today here with Dan and I’ve got the one, the only, the man, the myth and legend himself, Micky Lorrigan from Two 14 Cafe Coffee Company. How are you, mate?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, very well, guys. Thanks for having me.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, our absolute pleasure. We’re just in here shooting the shit before, and yeah, we’ve all got a bunch of history, a bunch of mutual friends, so I’m really looking forward to having our listeners now, our veteran and our Defence community learn more about you and what’s going on in your company. But yeah, most importantly, how we know each other as well.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, absolutely.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, [inaudible 00:00:43].

Dan Irwin:
Mate, it’s always really easy to tell when Robbie’s got a fondness in his heart for someone because he always gives them the same intros, like, “The man, the myth, the legend,” and here we go.

Robbie Turner:
I don’t think I’ve ever said that about you.

Dan Irwin:
No, you haven’t. It’s been noted once or twice, mate, that I get left out from that perspective, but it is what it is.

Robbie Turner:
Good. Hey, let’s jump straight into it. So Two 14 Coffee, mate, just give everyone a quick little, like if I’ve met you in the elevator, we’ve got 30 seconds, who are you, what do you do?

Micky Lorrigan:
We’re a veteran-based organisation that uses coffee for a cause. Every coffee we sell, we find some way to give back to the veteran community, whether that’s through mental health assistance or financial assistance or a variety of other ways. Yeah, we do what we can for the veteran community

Robbie Turner:
Mate, it’s so good, everyone loves a decent brew. For those that may or may not have seen on our LinkedIn… or not our LinkedIn page, but the Soldier On LinkedIn page, I did another awesome little video for you guys. I didn’t have my lemon spread on the video because it was at 5:14 in the morning, I’m like, “No one needs to see that, that early in the morning,” but I was feeling so good after having a quick little coffee. I’m just holding up the screen right now for those watching on YouTube.

Dan Irwin:
How’s the plug, mate? Still got it going-

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, yeah.

Dan Irwin:
… and ready to go from that perspective.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, so just take us back to the start, when did you join the military? Why did you join the military? You may not have seen, I had H. Hennessy on here a little while ago anyway, and so we went back through his history. But yeah, tell us all about that, mate, because everyone listens with a lot of fondness about “oh, wonder why that guy or girl would join the military and how can I relate to story as well”, Mick?

Micky Lorrigan:
Well, look, we don’t have a lot of military history in our family or anything like that. I mean, my grandfather and things like that over in England did a little bit of time but none of my immediate family initially. So when I was growing up, it was all about rugby league. I was going to be the next best State of Origin player for Queensland, just like most little kids.

Dan Irwin:
[crosstalk 00:02:47] now I know that you grew up in Queensland, mate, because that’s every Queensland kid’s dream is to play State of Origin like Wally did back in the day and [crosstalk 00:02:54]-

Robbie Turner:
Queenslander! Where did you grow up mate?

Micky Lorrigan:
What’s that, mate? Sorry.

Robbie Turner:
Where did you grow up?

Micky Lorrigan:
Northside, Brisbane. Yeah, so [Mirunda 00:03:03] Downs, played footy for Pine Rivers and then for the Redcliffe Dolphins. [crosstalk 00:03:08]-

Robbie Turner:
Look out, name-dropping already.

Dan Irwin:
Mate, when you were playing for Pine Rivers, we would’ve been enemies, but yeah, I was with the Dolphins myself for quite a significant chunk of time too.

Robbie Turner:
And no doubt you’re still hoping that Wayne Bennett’s got your phone number then for next year?

Micky Lorrigan:
Mate, I’m a bit too broken now to go back.

Robbie Turner:
We all are, mate, we all are.

Micky Lorrigan:
But yes, look, I copped a torn ACL when I was about 15, 16, right in that prime time where selectors are looking for their talent. And I was good, but I wasn’t going to be State of Origin good. And you throw an injury into there and you just become a bit of a liability. So after that, mate, bit of a reality check and had to work out what the next direction would be. And at that point, my brother had recently joined the Air Force so that created a military connection for me which gave me a little bit of focus as to what I wanted to do.

Micky Lorrigan:
I applied for university, I did all of those good things, and realised that I was one of the worst students ever because the last thing I wanted to do was sit reading a book. So, I wanted to do something physical which led me down the path of the military. So when I did my application process, my brother had gone in as an officer. Again, my goal was I was going in as a rifleman, then I was going to become special forces and a special forces sniper, go from what that one kid’s dream to the next kid’s dream. [crosstalk 00:04:41]-

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, that was all in the space of three months from entry to special forces sniper too, obviously.

Micky Lorrigan:
Ah, of course, of course. As you leave Kapooka, you have that dream of the SAS commander coming up to you and saying, “Mate, you’re so good at basic training, why don’t you come straight over?”

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, “I can see through these other 200 people standing next to you but you, sir, the one I want to take with me.”

Micky Lorrigan:
You are [inaudible 00:05:02]. No, so once I did a little bit of research, I saw where my strengths lie and decided to become an officer, which is where I met you.

Robbie Turner:
Me, yes.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yes. I think I first met you as sir.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, probably.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Yeah, you were one of my instructors in the second class, if I recall.

Robbie Turner:
What year was that? Tell us the listeners about when that was.

Micky Lorrigan:
I think it was about 2006. January 2006 I joined, graduated mid-2007 it would’ve been, yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah. I was actually still working at the commandant’s headquarters building at that stage. And I certainly, yeah, I remember I was one of the only SOCOMD guys there so I certainly came up there… had to come up the hill, I should say, and did a heap of guest speaking and visitor lecturing, or whatever else. So yeah, it was good. And it’s very well documented my story as well. Having not gone through Duntroon as a cadet to be back there as one of the instructors was a weird, unique, exhilarating, scary posting at the same time.

Micky Lorrigan:
Well, certainly you brought a lot of energy to the instruction that’s for sure. I mean, it was hard enough keeping your eyes open for half of those lessons but certainly didn’t have those issues with you.

Robbie Turner:
Thanks, mate, appreciated.

Dan Irwin:
I was going to say, a question without notice of what were your first impressions of RT back then as Instructor RT? Because it’s very rare that we actually get someone on here that knew him in that portion of his life because it was a very small chunk of time. But I think you’d have to agree, Mick, he’s probably made a very large impact on a lot of people at the same time he was there, right?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Well, look, as a cadet, mate, there’s a certain mystique around a bright green beret and a sandy beret. You get told that these guys are the best of the best, and quite frankly they are, so when you get the opportunity to actually come face to face with one, it can be reasonably intimidating, especially as a cadet. You are a cadet and they are… I think you were a captain at the time, if I recall.

Robbie Turner:
Yep.

Micky Lorrigan:
A captain and a special forces, when you’re a cadet they’re like God.

Robbie Turner:
You’re making me blush, brother, you’re making me blush.

Micky Lorrigan :
Ah, mate, that’s the reality though.

Robbie Turner:
Dan nearly choked on his water.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, I was spitting my water out with laughter, while Robbie, he’s trying to flex in the background as well, just like, yeah, it kind of felt that way back then.

Robbie Turner:
And for all these other people listening around here, listen closely to this man, he knows what he’s talking about.

Micky Lorrigan:
But, look, it’s not so much the individual as so much as the mystique that comes around the different units. Certainly, you get informed that these guys are genuinely that good, and so when you get that opportunity, you tune in. You tune in and listen. And that’s what we did, and that was, as I said to you before, that was the extra energy that you brought to that instructional piece where you could go from an education officer who is… who do their best, and then you get a special forces captain coming in telling you what’s real. So you certainly stood up and listened.

Robbie Turner:
I don’t mind telling you a story here and there. No GST applied, by the way, the truth is the truth. Apart from all that, mate, I really appreciate the feedback, makes me feel good for no particular reason. What was some of the things you liked about Duntroon though? Putting yourself through Australia’s leading leadership organisation to then pop out the other end, and yeah, just what were the things you found the most fun? What was the things you found the most challenging? And ultimately, where did you go and how’d your career kick off from there?

Micky Lorrigan:
I don’t think you appreciate it as much as you should while you’re there, I think that’s the case for most things you do, right? But certainly the comradeship that you get there is just second to none. You living in each other’s pockets, you’re in the trenches together out in the exercises for lack of a better expression.

Robbie Turner:
Literally.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. So, the comradeship, I could literally go anywhere in Australia right now and it’d be very unlikely that I couldn’t ring someone up and ask them to stay at their house, it’d be unlikely. The academic side of things is always where I’ve struggled, and not because I don’t have the ability, but just I don’t have the concentration for it, it’s not something I enjoy. But the constant field exercises that you do at RMC, I mean, you spend what, six, seven months outfield of the 18 months. That’s where I really enjoyed myself and felt like I excelled a bit more in that leadership and actual physical scope of works.

Robbie Turner:
It certainly was eyeopening for me because as you would appreciate, Mick, the most important relationship a young officer’s going to have is that with his or her senior NCOs. And having done better part of four years as a senior NCO I was able to pass on some of those energetic stories that I was saying you, mate, came from my viewpoint. It was almost like I was a mold in your life, like I’m now telling you what it’s like to be a senior NCO, even though they’ve got an internal rank structure at Duntroon, et cetera.

Robbie Turner:
So yeah, certainly it was pretty cool to sort of pass on some of those stories for you to make sure that you guys were getting the best out of it. And it was insightful to me to know because I saw, as the saying goes… Apologies, if I’m going to offend anyone here, again. I saw plenty of shitty-nosed young officers get spattered at Duntroon as a junior NCO and senior NCO, going, “How the fuck did this guy or girl get through that organization to have a zero idea how much scrutiny and how much effort you all needed to put into going through that place?”

Micky Lorrigan:
I was extremely lucky, mate. So when I graduated, went down to [RABC 00:10:36], I had an awesome group of guys down there. [crosstalk 00:10:38]-

Robbie Turner:
Where did you go? Which corps?

Micky Lorrigan:
RABBC down at Puckapunyal or Armoured [crosstalk 00:10:38]-

Robbie Turner:
I know that, I’m asking for everyone else. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s like, “Already told you, fuckface.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m asking for everyone else.” Yes, right-ho, down at Pucka.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yep, Cavalry Armoured Corps. So you do your six months, RABC officer basic course down in Puckapunyal, and I got exposed to some exceptional senior NCOs down there. I was really, really lucky. And then we were basically told down there, whoever graduates top three is going to A Squadron 2/14, and those three officers would go to Afghanistan.

Micky Lorrigan:
So that gave me something to strive for and as I said, I wasn’t necessarily as academically proficient as some of these other guys so I was having to work a lot harder on the academic piece. Which, while some of them were out drinking, I was sitting in my office, or sitting in my bedroom I should say, just studying because I just couldn’t retain the information. Where I excelled was when we went and got in the vehicles and got out into the field, then I really were able to step up. But I had to combine all of these things and one of… trying to… that weakness, that academic weakness there I really had to work hard on.

Dan Irwin:
That would’ve been a pretty big carrot that got put in front of you as well when they said, “Hey, you’re going to 2/14, and by the way that doubles up and you get to go on a trip to Afghanistan,” like straight out of the college. How much of a carrot did that do? And how much did that really energise the course that you were on to basically get everyone to push each other to those highest levels?

Micky Lorrigan:
Mate, I mentioned playing for the Queensland and the State of Origin, going to Afghanistan is the equivalent in the military. Look, I’m not sitting here saying I was excited to go to war or anything, but certainly when you playing a footy game you don’t want to sit on the bench either, you really want to get out there and do your job. And that’s the way I looked at it. I joined the military to serve my country and the best way for me to serve my country was to deploy to Afghanistan at the time.

Robbie Turner:
Not at Shoalwater Bay?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, not Shoalwater. And yeah, so how big a carrot was it? The world’s fucking biggest carrot, mate. And I wanted that, I wanted it bad. And fortunately, I managed to graduate in a position where I was put into 2 Troop in A Squadron.

Micky Lorrigan:
And this is where I got even more fortunate. I walk in as a really young guy, I’m only 21 at the time, I think, and get put face-to-face with a troop sergeant who was 6’4″, baldheaded, 100-odd kilos, was the captain of the rugby team, is an absolute fucking beast. But was also awesome, awesome guy. And all of my NCOs in the unit had at least two Iraq deployments. Because the guys at the time were getting smashed back to back because the cavalry guys were going Timor, Iraq, Timor, Iraq, just getting smashed. So there was only three people in my troop that hadn’t deployed at least once, and that was me and two RIOs that had just rocked up so everyone else was so experienced. Being a leader in an environment of leaders, it becomes a lot easier.

Robbie Turner:
And that would’ve been talking about concepts and having context of what they’ve done overseas, which they’re now bringing back home with them to improve our own TTPs and SOPs, and the like. And then you’re like, “I don’t have any of that context.”

Micky Lorrigan:
That’s right. My sergeant said to me, he goes, “Look, boss, you are the lieutenant but this is my troop until it’s yours.” He goes, “Shut your mouth, learn, listen, prove that you can be a leader and then I’ll hand it over.”

Robbie Turner:
So good.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, and I really respect him for that and Grant [Ruski 00:14:33] and I, he’s an RSM now, him and I get on like a house on fire now. I was a young kid, I was fucking terrified, no matter what anyone tells you. You’re rocking up as a young kid and you’re expected to lead these guys who have got multiple deployments. How do you do that? You only do that if you’ve got a good mentor and my mentor is my troop sergeant.

Robbie Turner:
So good to hear. Yeah. What about you, Dan? Have you got any specific stories to tell about an awesome senior NCO that was able to give you that same sort of mentoring?

Dan Irwin:
Well, being in RAEME I had a slightly different scenario where, yeah, I’d have my troop sergeant, at the end of the day, I had my ASM. And even in the Cav construct, obviously, you guys have got your squadron ACEs, and then you’ve got the reggie ACEs as well. The ASMs as they’d get in the Cav world, they’re pretty much fine to operate independently, so automatically they get this snotty-nosed LT turn up and they’re like… pretty much babysit this dude, and make sure he doesn’t fuck too many things up. And you pretty much get this ASM, and the ASMs can either really run with that and run their own show, or they can actually bring you in and mentor you and help you and generate what should be a really, really helpful, I suppose, mid-ranking officer, I suppose, as a captain is when you probably start to really understand how the RAEME world works.

Dan Irwin:
So I was probably in my really early years as a captain, I suppose, is when I first got those really strong WO1s, generally speaking. And having a relationship where you’re meant to be in command of a 55-year-old WO1 that’s been in the military for 25 years, that’s a very unique experience and like you were just speaking about, Mick. Like “it’s my troop until I tell you otherwise, or until you earn it”, basically.

Dan Irwin:
Was it the same for you? I felt like it was probably a point in time where it really did transition from being okay, there’s this WO1 ASM that really drives things, to it being like, okay, maybe there’s a bit of a shared responsibility there that you both have your own hats that you wear within the organisation, and you both have your own strengths and weaknesses that you can play towards that.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Oh, certainly, mate, there was definitely a transition. And for us, it had to happen quite quickly, so when we rocked up to the unit… Now A squadron at the time, the command was all hand-picked because we were going to Afghan so I had an unbelievable OC, an unbelievable 2IC. The squadron sergeant major, Mick Joliffe, he was just one of the hugest men I’ve ever seen in my life, but just an unbelievable mentor as well. So I was surrounded by really, really good people. So in those sorts of environments, you learn fast. Or you don’t learn at all and you get left behind.

Micky Lorrigan:
And so, yes, we got there and we were straight outfield for months and months, then we were back and then we were on mission readiness exercises for Afghan and things. And I think I spent about two months at home in that first year out of 10, and then going to Afghan for another 10 months after that. So in that two-year period, I spent about four months at home.

Micky Lorrigan:
But going back to your original question, there was a definite shift in responsibilities towards the end. And it was only once I saw that the sergeant was comfortable that I could not fuck it up [crosstalk 00:17:59]-

Robbie Turner:
Too many times.

Micky Lorrigan:
[crosstalk 00:18:00]. Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you’ve got to fuck up sometimes to learn, right? But yeah, definitely, but we became… Cav organisations work slightly different anyway. I think as far as the leadership style goes it’s very similar to a special forces type mentality where each vehicle’s got its own commander, we can work autonomously and we’re working kilometres apart at some stages so everyone’s got to have their own ability to lead. And so that’s the thing there where it’s a unit of leaders really.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, mate. And, Dan, you and I’ve done that here at Axon, this whole left seat, right seat. And then you’ve mentored Dane as he’s come on to be a coach, and we’re going to bring another superstar into the business again next year. It’s a complete evolution. Our job as leaders is to develop other people into being leaders.

Micky Lorrigan:
That’s right, absolutely.

Robbie Turner:
End of story. That’s it. And I love the fact that I can go away for days and weeks at a time now in the business, knowing full well that I’ve grown and mentored and taught and provided feedback and nurtured other people in the business that can now do the job just as well as what I could, probably even better. So it’s a great, huge amount of peace of mind for me as far as that goes.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, no, absolutely, it’s the most important thing.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah. Tell us about… Let’s just skip past the middle of your military style there because this is not the life and times of Mick Lorrigan, it’s all about 2/14 and you being able to transition out. When did you first think about getting out the military? Just tell us all about your transition.

Micky Lorrigan:
So in Afghan I had a boss named Justin Roderick, he’s was an ex [crosstalk 00:19:41]-

Robbie Turner:
I know him. Yep.

Micky Lorrigan:
Oh, you know him. So you know he’s a good guy. When I came back from Afghan, my goal was to join the special forces, I trained really hard for it, and a week out I snapped my wrist. Yeah, the old classic story, 30 weeks of training down the drain. And I mean, you know just as well as anyone, Robbie, that the amount of commitment it takes to join, you’ve got to be committed. And after that amount of effort, I just didn’t have the commitment to have a crack the year after. I just didn’t, got pretty disheartened, got put into an ops captain role and spent my time doing paperwork, writing risk assessments so people could do runs around Southbank, shit that thousands of people do every day. I had to write risk assessments for spider bite and fucking snakes coming out while they’re [crosstalk 00:20:33]-

Robbie Turner:
Commonly known as SO3 shit jobs.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, correct, correct. That’s exactly what it was. So because I’d made that decision to go for SF, I missed out on the squadron 2IC position and all that sort of stuff. So I was a bit disheartened and Justin Roderick was working over in Broome and he offered me a position working with him as a contractor. And that started my transition out of the military. So I was doing month on, month off, and in the times where I was back, I was kind of a full-time reservist almost. [crosstalk 00:21:04]-

Robbie Turner:
Right.

Micky Lorrigan:
… the best of both worlds a little bit. Did that, then came back working with [Emiratees 00:21:12], and that gave me a bit of interest in moving over to the UAE, which is what I did. Moved over to Abu Dhabi for a couple years, did a bit of contract. It was there that I met a girl who was a flight attendant, her name is Sarah, she’s an Irish girl. So when we’re coming back into Australia to get her visa and things like that sorted, we decided we’d buy a cafe which would give her a means of income and it would make it easier to get the visa. So we bought a cafe, came back over to Australia, it was called Scuzi Cafe. We came over there, we were working in that together.

Micky Lorrigan:
And honestly, I just had this epiphany. I was washing dishes out the back, no one was pissing me off, no one was bothering me. And I just all of had sudden went, “God, I like this. I like the fact that I’m here by myself, there’s no pressure.” I mean, the worst thing that could happen is some Karen could say to me that a meal was shit or a coffee wasn’t hot enough, but that was the worst outcome. And I went, “God, the pressure…” It just felt like all the pressure in that moment lifted off, and I realised that that sort of customer service and being around people was something that I wanted to do moving forward.

Robbie Turner:
Wow, that’s a good story, mate. Yeah, I like. I mean, it’s interesting that you spent so much of your time back here, month on month off, with a leg back over the other side of the fence. The majority of people we speak to, and you’re a classic example, quite frankly, nothing… You being, I just pointed at Dan, by the way. Nothing ire occurred between you and your chain of command when you got out. You weren’t the shit for anything, it was a discharge on own request, followed all the bouncing ball, et cetera, et cetera. But even I witnessed the way that they treated you and the way that you felt, like you’ve effectively, you just turned your back on each other and just go the other way like a gunfight, and you never, ever turn back again. But it was interesting that you maintain a bit of a foothold in there and you are, obviously, still enjoying it in certain way, shape or form.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. And that was for years, mate, I did chop-time as a reservist time at Brisbane recruiting for a couple of years there. Yeah, I was really enjoying that. Because the work that I was doing it really allowed me to do a lot of reservist time so I figured… I was enjoying keeping my foot in the door and I was helping on the women and army project when it first started trying to recruit more diverse people into the military, which was quite enjoyable.

Robbie Turner:
What year was that? Just so we can place what year we’re talking.

Micky Lorrigan:
Probably 2013, 2014 era, yeah, off the top of my head. And that was quite interesting. There was some really mind-blowing moments I had when I was at recruiting where, if I may, one in particular was about… We went to an all-girls school, I won’t mention which one. And I was the only male in an auditorium of females. So the recruitment team were all females except for me, and it was an all-girls school. So they are asked a question about sexual harassment and sexual assault. How many of you in here have experienced it? Mate, if I didn’t see 90% of the hands go up, you’d call me a liar. And I went… My mind was blown straight away. No, can’t possibly be.

Micky Lorrigan:
And then more questions came out to see just how specific it was. And I was absolutely blown away by just how bad it was. And so from there I realised, well, we got to do something about this to help recruit these women into good jobs, and really create mentor programs and things like that. So with the team leader we created… well, she mainly created these really great mentorship programs to give these girls leadership skills, and resilience skills, and teach them how to really stand up for themselves when something like that went down. God, it was so mind-blowing, it really was.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, mate, that’s… And even then that’s just the ones that had the courage to put their hand up, to be fair. That’s the first thing that sprung to mind, I bet there was plenty more that didn’t even want to put their hand up.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Yeah. I straight up couldn’t believe it. So I know I digress from the Two 14 side of things.

Robbie Turner:
No, no, no, it’s fine, mate. It’s the whole picture of who you are. So from the transition of that then, so how did that all kick in?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, so I was walking from the cafe that we owned up to the bathroom, and it just happened to be another cafe that had gone under. They were a franchise from over in WA and the main ones there had gone down so this one had gone down. So I just rang the centre manager up and said, “Hey, can I have it?” And he goes, “Yeah, all right. No worries.” So it was just like that. I couldn’t even make coffee at that point. So about, oh, probably eight weeks later we opened the first Cafe Two 14 and I owned two cafes and didn’t know how to make a coffee.

Dan Irwin:
So what shopping centre was this one in? Where is [crosstalk 00:26:29]. Strathpine’s the original Cafe Two 14.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.

Robbie Turner:
Is it still there now?

Micky Lorrigan:
It is. It is, yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Have you got the sign out the front… origin or started in 2015, or whatever it was?

Micky Lorrigan:
No, no, I should do that, but no, there’s nothing like that there.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, it’ll be 10 years down the track and people are like, “Wow, these guys have been around for a little while.” So there you go, there’s a little tip from me to you get your little sign out the front, mate.

Dan Irwin:
It’s a freebie.

Micky Lorrigan:
Not a bad idea.

Dan Irwin:
If you didn’t want the advice, you got it anyway.

Robbie Turner:
I’ve been doing that to you for years.

Dan Irwin:
Mate, there’s lots of feedback gets given, whether it gets taken is another question. So where did it go from there? Obviously, you’ve gone from 100% growth overnight, what’s next after that? Because you, obviously, must to gone on a pretty big trajectory to get to where you are now so just run us through that, I suppose.

Micky Lorrigan:
So my missus at the time, Sarah… So we’re no longer together, but we’re still really close friends. She’s a franchisee now at one of the locations. She was the operations manager for years even though we were separated. But she suggested to me, she goes, “Why don’t we just take a pause, sleep on our next move?” “No. No, fuck that, let’s just go hell for leather because why wouldn’t you?” So, what, six months later we had another cafe over in Capalaba, which… We didn’t even know the processes down for one cafe let alone three at the time. Just making it up as I go. I could make coffee at this point though, fortunately.

Robbie Turner:
But you didn’t need to be the lead barista, mate, because you can’t be in three places at once.

Micky Lorrigan:
And at that point I started to realise, “Well, hang on a second, maybe you’ve just bitten off a little bit more than you can chew.” Because I was still working-

Dan Irwin:
Is this a thing like you always get promoted to one rank above your ceiling? You’ve got three cafes, maybe you should have stopped at two.

Micky Lorrigan:
Maybe I should have stopped at three. And then so I put another one in in Chermside. Westfield Chermside. I saw an opportunity there and I went to them with a plan and they said, “Oh look, we’re looking for a brand, we’re not looking just to put up an independent in there,” at the time. So that’s why I actually put the one in a Capalaba to say, “Hey, well, we are a brand. We’re not an independent anymore.” So that excuse doesn’t fly.

Micky Lorrigan:
So I found this little dry cleaner that had gone out of business up the Coles’ end of the shopping centre. And there were two other cafes up there, but I noticed that… I sat there for days and watched the flow of traffic coming in, and there’s a bus terminal entrance where everyone was walking in and hugging the wall. And they happened to just keep walking past this dry cleaner that was now empty. So I came to them with a business plan, said, “Let me put a little cafe in here.” Which they did, in the end, they caved and let me put it in. So we started capturing all of that foot traffic coming in.

Micky Lorrigan:
Unfortunately for the other two businesses that actually put both of them out of business. Which wasn’t my intent, but it is what it is. And for almost two years, we were the only cafe down that end of the centre. A new one’s just opened recently. But that gave us enough money to then put another one, a big one down the opposite end of the shopping centre. Now, for people who don’t understand how big that shopping centre is, you’re talking almost a kilometre from end to end internal. So you got to make a real conscious effort to go to one or the other end, you know what I mean? So it was worthwhile. And in that process, we discussed with them, well, let’s put a massive playground in, put a big cafe in right out the front of JB Hi-Fi and rebel. Which they did.

Micky Lorrigan:
That was at the end of 2019. So we opened, I think about the 17th of December, which was great. Christmas was awesome. And then two weeks later, COVID, bang. And that’s when it all started to get hard.

Robbie Turner:
What do you mean by that? So obviously, everyone’s got their own experience and their own lens and their own prism that they’ve now lived through COVID. And certainly in the building and construction industry where we’re really starting to see it hit in multiple facets now. When you say it got hard, what does that mean, mate? How did it specifically impact you guys?

Micky Lorrigan:
Well, there was a lot of fear around it as you know, and so people were staying home. So the foot traffic that you would expect just totally disappeared. We were fairly resilient to it at Capalaba and down the original end of Chermside because we were out in front of the Coles. And in fact, there were times there when people were panic buying that our revenue went through the roof. But for a location like the one I put out the front of JB Hi-Fi, they closed the playground, the little office complex that was in there closed, the gym closed. People were going to and from JB Hi-Fi as quickly as they possibly could. There was no dwell time, people weren’t floating around, no one was browsing, so the cafes just got completely ignored. So we lost 87% of our revenue disappeared overnight.

Robbie Turner:
That is huge. And how did that make you feel? Because as I’ve put in plenty of other podcasts, and we’d all recognise how this works. As a leader in the military, our job is to raise, train, sustain, equip, maintain morale, all that stuff. As a leader to have that optimum form, storm, norm, perform, adjourn dynamics there… Feel like I’m bloody back instructing you, mate, so I apologise. But no, that’s how it all works, right? But you don’t have to pay them. There’s no money that exchanges hands. In the real world as business owners, Mick, we need to do all that and we need to pay our staff, and keep the lights on, and manage cash flow. So there’s a different level of responsibility that comes our way to make all that happen.

Robbie Turner:
87% of revenue ceasing in very short period of time is significant in anyone’s eyes. It doesn’t matter about the dollar figure, it’s about the percentage. That’s the first thing that rings to mind straight away. I’m like, “Fuck, that would hurt most people if that occurred.” So I’m really interested to know how you got through it.

Micky Lorrigan:
So, if you can imagine rent in the premier shopping centre isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s not cheap in any shopping centre. So rent didn’t stop. We lost a lot of food initially, there was probably 10, $15,000 worth of food that was initially lost. Because we didn’t know what was going to happen so we didn’t want to just hand the food away just in case somebody goes, “Oh no, lockdown’s over tomorrow.” Now, look, no one knew what the hell [crosstalk 00:33:07]-

Robbie Turner:
Changing on a daily basis, yeah.

Micky Lorrigan:
Right, that’s right. And that was no fault of anyone really. It was unprecedented, we all understand that. So I decided, and it was a managerial decision that I stand by because I can look at myself in the mirror, but I decided to keep everybody on the payroll that I could to keep them so they could still eat. Most of my workforce are casual kids, or uni students, or young parents that need the extra money to cover their rent and things. So we did what we could to keep them on for as long as we could until I just had to make a decision at one point and just go, look.. It’s like the first aid principle, don’t [inaudible 00:33:50] yourself first. If I’m not here at the end of this then no one’s got a job. So I had to make the decision and we made phone calls to around about 40 people and said, “Sorry, guys, we’ve got no more hours for you.” It was a bit of a shit day, that’s for sure.

Robbie Turner:
I bet. Yeah. I think I know the answer to this question, but I’m interested to know anyway, what was the generic responses that you got?

Micky Lorrigan:
Oh, look, “we understand” was generally what people said. Very few of them, in fact none, none, not a single one went… well, blew up about it. They all just went, “Yeah, we get it. We know you did the best you could.” And so we then, we kept on little programs. Like if you bought a bag of coffee, we were giving 10 bucks of that bag to one of our employees that had lost their jobs. And we tried to come up with different methods to give money to our people. But it was few and far between. There was no money coming in.

Micky Lorrigan:
The lockdown initially was an absolute killer. We recovered reasonably when the big lockdown lifted, we got a lot of our revenue back and then, obviously, JobKeeper came into play, and then there were rebates for rent and things like that. So that kept us going. The JobKeeper program was hugely beneficial. But if I’m honest, it’s been this year that’s been the really hard one for us with snap lockdowns. The snap lockdown were the killer. So, you’d have at 10:00 AM “by four o’clock this afternoon, you’ve got to be closed”, so there goes 10 grand worth of food straight up, bang.

Micky Lorrigan:
Then you’ve got to buy that food back again. Then you’ve got another 14 days after your 3-day lockdown where people actually start coming back out of their houses again. And then seven days later, bang, snap lockdown. And you repeat the process. And that kept repeating monthly, bang, bang, bang. And so after a while, you get to a point where you’re trying to minimise everything so you’re not providing the quality that you want to provide, you’re not doing anything because you just don’t know what to do. So this year’s been an absolute killer.

Micky Lorrigan:
One thing we are proud of though is Sarah, who was the girl that I mentioned earlier. Every time we had a lockdown, she was organising the food to be delivered to DV shelters.

Robbie Turner:
I was just about to ask, where did all that food go?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. It went to the domestic violence shelters, the women in domestic violence shelters. Yeah, we did a lot of that. We also created a program called the “no one left behind meal”, which was a pay it forward system that people could get online and purchase food. And we could start handing it out to those people that weren’t making any money.

Micky Lorrigan:
The program worked so successfully initially, and people were so generous that we had to ask them to stop because we were getting so much money coming in that we couldn’t hand out the food fast enough. And it wasn’t a charity for us, we wanted to do something nice for others. And people were just so generous, we couldn’t keep up with it.

Micky Lorrigan:
But yeah, mate, that’s the challenges we’ve had, has been based around the governance of Queensland. The snap lockdowns, the inconsistencies, all of these things have created a real issue for small business.

Robbie Turner:
I find it fascinating. Thank you for sharing all that. I find it fascinating that in a time of need for Two 14 Cafe and/or coffee empire, you guys were struggling but you were trying to find ways of helping other people. Mate, that’s fucking, it’s just magic. It was really, really good to hear.

Micky Lorrigan:
That’s what you do, mate. That’s the whole reason I got into this was to help veterans, and helping anyone through COVID became the thing. Everyone needed help. Very few people I knew weren’t doing it tough at some stage, whether it was their mental health, or financially, and all these things. It wasn’t about getting through COVID, it was about being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of it and say, “Did I do the best I could for as many people as I could? Well, yes, I did.”

Micky Lorrigan:
And don’t get me wrong, there were times there where I was fucking fetal position in the corner, going, “This is bullshit, I’m fucked. All of this work and it’s all going down the toilet.” And look, quite frankly, mate, we’re not out the woodworks yet. Financially, we are still sitting on the edge and we will sit on the edge now for probably another two or three years. And if anything doesn’t go our way, we’re in real trouble. And that’s just the fact of having a hospitality business at the moment.

Robbie Turner:
And you’re still donating to veteran charities now. That statement alone should just resonate with every person about the character of you and the organisation that you’ve got, is that you are… to use one of my… you’re coming into land every month from a cash flow perspective, whether that is or isn’t occurring, and you’re still donating money to veteran charities. Your why and your purpose and why you’ve even started the business must be that strong that it’s just pulling you in that direction that no matter what’s going on in your own backyard, you’re not going to stop contributing.

Micky Lorrigan:
I’ve got to try. That’s the thing. What’s the worst they can do to me really? The absolute worst case scenario is I go bankrupt, right? That’s the worst case scenario, and then I spend five to seven years twiddling my thumbs until I’m ready to go at it again. No one’s shooting at me. [crosstalk 00:39:33]-

Robbie Turner:
We say that here too. No one’s going to die today.

Micky Lorrigan:
That’s right. I’ve got a extremely supportive partner, I’m not short of a place to live, I’ve got enough food to get by, I’ve got enough to drink piss every weekend. You know what I mean? What’s the worst they can do. I will try, and try, and try, and keep going until there is nothing left to keep doing.

Dan Irwin:
It’s bloody brilliant, mate. I mean, as RT was saying it’s really remarkable that you still found someone to support. And it almost sounds like it harked back on your early days when you were doing that recruiting choco-time where you found that bit of purpose where you… the diversification was going on in the military and you had a bit of an eyes wide open moment. And then you come flipside and you see 10 years later, you’re like, “You know what? I’ve got this opportunity to give back also into this DV shelter.” So that obviously came from Sarah, but what is also going on, I suppose, from your side on the giving back to the veteran community? Who are you teamed up with? What are you doing? And just give us an idea of some of those programs, mate, that you’re still bleeding through.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, right. So we rebranded about four weeks ago to the Two 14 Coffee Company. So the cafes are called Cafe Two 14 and we’ve rebranded Two 14 Coffee Co. The cafes are still staying the same but the… Thanks, mate. [crosstalk 00:41:01]-

Dan Irwin:
That’s a shameless plug if you’re on YouTube, by the way. [crosstalk 00:41:03] He’s got the beans out and ready to go.

Robbie Turner:
Helping veterans move forward. Love it.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, that’s our motto. So 2/14, 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, the motto is Forward. So we adopted Forward, or Helping Veterans Move Forward as our motto. The cafes are actually the green and white of the unit patch colours. And now we’ve got all these different blends. Well, since we’ve rebranded about four or five weeks ago, we’ve actually raised about $2,500 for various veteran partners.

Micky Lorrigan:
So currently we’re supporting Soldier On, as you can see in the one in front of you, it’s actually called the Veteran Support Blend. So a huge percentage of the revenue that we get from that gets donated through to Soldier On. We’re also working with Run Army at the moment, which is a Legacy partner. Run Army is a charity that’s encouraging people to get more help or get healthier, healthier through physical exercise. And so we’ve got a Run Army Support Blend as well, which all the proceeds go to towards Legacy, or some of the proceeds go towards Legacy, a huge part. And we’ve also created The Pineapple Expresso. So The Pineapple Express-

Robbie Turner:
Chief of Army won’t be happy that you’re supporting them, mate.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Well, the Chief of Army can get on board because it’s doing a lot of [crosstalk 00:42:33]-

Dan Irwin:
I was going to add Chief of the Army can get something else.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, I didn’t know what you were going to say in the back-end then. But you know what? Chief of the Army, if you’re listening at the moment, make sure you get on board with Cafe Two 14 or Two 14 Coffee Company.

Micky Lorrigan:
Well, look, I know they’re not happy being called out, and The Pineapple Express calls out a lot of people. But The Pineapple Expresso, a huge chunk of money is going to them for their mental health advocacy programs. So, you can like what they want, or you can just do the… Sorry, you can hate what they’re doing, or you can just do the right thing and then they won’t have anything to write about.

Robbie Turner:
Exactly.

Micky Lorrigan:
It’s pretty simple.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, no, that’s brilliant. All right, so that’s across Soldier On, basically you got a Legacy partner and probably, I’d say that The Pineapple Express is quickly becoming a very contemporary brand name that you’re in the support of there as well. And that’s just all within your different blends now that you basically put out that are for sale through internet. How do you actually get your hands on that?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah. Through our website. So two14coffee.com.au. So it’s T-W-O, the letters, and then 14, the numbers, coffee.com.au. You can jump on there, get on the shop, t-shirts and keep cups, and all of the good stuff. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, all the normal places.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, absolutely. And what’s next? As we find ourselves wanting for a bit of a time, what’s next for Two 14? You said, “All right, over the next couple of years, we’re teetering on the edge and we’re going to be doing our darndest and we’re going to be here forever,” basically, until someone pushes you off the ledge. But what’s next in the big plans for you? What’s the big scheme of things with the rebrands just being completed? You’ve obviously got some scheme or maneuver up your sleeve.

Robbie Turner:
I was actually going to say, you starting to build your own ledge and get some traction to move up, that’d be the better outcome.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, well, yeah, that’s what we’re aiming for. [crosstalk 00:44:23]-

Robbie Turner:
Go for it, mate. That’s good.

Micky Lorrigan:
Well, look, two years ago I would’ve told you 100% this is my plan moving forward. We had it all mapped out, certainly didn’t add pandemic to my risk management plan.

Dan Irwin:
Maybe if you’d been more dedicated as an ops captain you would’ve had pandemic down there and [crosstalk 00:44:40]-

Robbie Turner:
No.

Micky Lorrigan:
Mate, never crossed my mind. Never crossed my mind. Look, so we’ve also got Two 14 Recruitment. So we’ve got the recruitment company which is helping recruit veterans into jobs as well. So our focus at the moment is just on helping veterans. So making enough money to financially provide for some of these mental health advocacy programs. And then the recruitment side of things is about trying to veterans into jobs. So here’s another plug for that two14recruitment.com.au, if you’re looking for work, jump on there and we’ll help you out.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, it all goes towards it, dude. This is our podcast. I mean, at the end of the day, veteran entrepreneurship in transition and supporting veteran charities and networks, and ultimately, as long as the majority of that effort, and the majority of those dollars, and the majority going to those people that are of most need, we’re in the right place, mate.

Micky Lorrigan:
For sure.

Robbie Turner:
We have a few people from the sidelines have a crack at us as well. And I’m like, “Listen, unless you’re donating tens of thousands of dollars a year to veteran charities, shut the fuck up.” No one’s got a leg to stand on, bro, unless you… You can chirp all you want from the sidelines, but actions speak louder than words, I think that’s how the saying goes.

Micky Lorrigan:
I totally agree. And it was funny, even last year someone decided to send me a message saying, “Oi, fuckwit, you’re only doing these donations for tax benefits.” And I was like, “Who says that shit?” Who wakes up in the morning and goes, “You know what? I’m going to get on to a guy that’s trying to do his best to help others and call him a fuckwit.” Who does that?

Robbie Turner:
Other fuckwits, that’s who it is.

Dan Irwin:
I was going to say, there’s plenty of class acts in the world, man, and I don’t think that’s one of them. But I mean, it obviously goes to show that you’re part of, I suppose what I would say is a larger part of the veteran community that’s really starting to try and get behind each other, and try and generate that traction, and the support that everyone needs. Dare I say it, as part of a real community, especially as we transition out, right? Is that something that’s important to you, mate, is the support upon transition?

Micky Lorrigan:
Yes. I think there’s a fair bit of work that needs to be done in regards to veteran organisations. I think a number of ESOs that are out there at the moment that are getting huge amounts of funding and things like that, maybe needs to be realigned in one direction, and to make that direction about actually helping the people they’re supposed to be. I think what I’ve experienced from veteran business owners is that they’re out to help veterans and to look after each other. I’ve certainly experienced that myself. So I do get a sense of community from the veteran world. I mean, there’s certainly a lot of positive engagement. But yeah, I think there’s some work to be done as far as some of the larger ESOs, and realigning them to really stop empire building and start helping out the people they swore to.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, I had a real quick chat to you on the phone, which is the first and only time we’ve spoken since you remember me at Duntroon, and you were one of 700 blokes here so I apologise I don’t remember you specifically, and you obviously look very different now anyway.

Dan Irwin:
He obviously didn’t finish high enough on the order of merit down there, mate.

Robbie Turner:
And when you were telling me this story about the ESOs, ex-service organisations for those that don’t know the acronym, how many ex-service organisations exist? Because I was blown away when you told me how many.

Micky Lorrigan:
So from my understanding there’s more than 3,500. And [crosstalk 00:48:27]-

Dan Irwin:
Sorry, doing what?

Robbie Turner:
Yeah.

Micky Lorrigan:
It’s a great question.

Dan Irwin:
That’s a bit of a challenge out there to those ESOs who are earning some big biggies, when veterans are asking, “What are you doing?” Maybe you should look inside.

Robbie Turner:
And just quickly, I said to you, noting what you know about ESOs, you don’t classify Axon as an ESO, do you?

Micky Lorrigan:
No, you’re a commercial business if I understand correctly, yeah.

Robbie Turner:
That’s right.

Micky Lorrigan:
So no. No, I don’t. I don’t. No, look, don’t get me wrong, okay? There are plenty of ESOs out there doing the right thing. [crosstalk 00:49:00]-

Robbie Turner:
Yes, absolutely.

Micky Lorrigan:
And I’m not suggesting that they all need to be aligned and doing the same thing, but I just think that the direction needs to be the same, and that direction should be to help veterans. And helping veterans as an ESO shouldn’t be about helping yourself because you’re a veteran, in my opinion. That’s just how I see it at the moment. And I think there’s plenty of room to move or to realign some of these people in the right direction.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, at the end of the day, buddy, we all have our own observations and opinions there, and if that’s how you feel about things then, yeah. But I was just surprised as you scrunched your face up a little bit, 3,500 ESOs.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, look, I could be wrong. That’s a number that got given to me a little while back, so it may have increased or decreased at this stage.

Robbie Turner:
There you go, yeah. It’s more than 3,500 though [crosstalk 00:49:54] so there’s probably a couple of thousand or so.

Robbie Turner:
Mate, we’ve done about 30 or 40 podcasts now and I’ve got to say, that was probably one of the more impactful ones from my perspective there. And, Mick, let me just reply and say the way you’ve carried yourself, and the way you have grown yourself, and what you have achieved so far, and what you continue to achieve, and your mindset, and your outlook, and your very selfless nature about what you’re doing, is bloody commendable, dude. Yeah, I hope you are feeling very proud about what you’re doing, and you were in the trenches back in the day, and guess what, you’re still there now.

Micky Lorrigan:
Certainly feels like [crosstalk 00:50:28]-

Robbie Turner:
No, but it’s that grit, and that determination, and that will to win. The military taught us not to lose.

Micky Lorrigan:
It’s true.

Robbie Turner:
And sure as shit, we’ve all had our own challenges, separating from the military, and generating our own businesses, and having relationships and marriages fail in and out, whatever it’s going to be, we’ve all got our own shit going on. But generally, when you adopt that mindset and those principles that the military was able to pass onto you during your more formative years, either in and out of a formal training institution with the rest of your mentors and everything, you’d generally get through it if you truly bring those into current worlds, in my opinion anyway.

Micky Lorrigan:
Yeah, yeah. And I’m mean, that’s what I’m trying to do, mate. And someone’s going to have to drag me kicking and screaming all the way down to the depths of hell because I’m not going anywhere at this stage. And it’s just, it’s pleasing to know that there’s other veteran businesses out there that are supportive as you guys have been to us. And I know there’s plenty of others out there that are really trying to strive to do the same thing, so it’s nice to know.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, mate, good stuff.

Dan Irwin:
That’s awesome, mate. It’s been bloody brilliant to have you here today, buddy. Thanks for being able to take some time out of your growing empire of Two 14 Coffee Company, mate, and looking forward to some massive things coming the next few years.

Micky Lorrigan:
Thanks for having me, guys.

Robbie Turner:
Thanks, Mick. See you next time, buddy.

Dan Irwin:
Cheers, buddy. Bye.

 

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