We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelsea Richmond Tyler Ellis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelsea Richmond, how do you think about risk?
Risk has actually been part of our lives for a quite a while, years before we even had the thought of Captain + Stoker being a reality for us. It started when we realized how bored with life we were back in the summer of 2016. We were working jobs that were not going anywhere, and it was simply too comfortable. So we decided to buy a 1987 Mallard Sprinter RV, renovate it, sold everything we had, and left in March of 2017. We sold everything we had with zero plans moving forward, and the risk felt GOOD. It felt like we were starting fresh, we rid of everything society pushed on to us over the years. We had no plans, just to have fun and enjoy each others company (including our dog and cat). After about a year of traveling, we of course ran out of money and had to figure something out. After some searching for the right place to live, we ended up in Monterey. We got the same type of jobs that we had before traveling, and quickly realized how lame that felt all over again. Now what? Well, some serious change actually.. We ended up meeting some rich people who wanted us to run their soon-to-be coffee shop. Neither of us even drank coffee, which made this potential career change even more ridiculous. We also had no idea how to run a business.. what were we thinking? Long story short, we helped build and start this new coffee shop. After a few months of working our asses off for (what felt like) nothing that was promised, we were blind sided. We were told C+S was closing right then and there, and we were jobless. We couldn’t understand how this could be when everyday felt so incredible? Our community was thriving, and we found a new purpose that we never imagined was in our futures. Turns out, it was as simple as rich people just not wanting to actually put in the work.. they were bored and wanted to move on already. This just wasn’t the right move for us, so we decided to try to possibly take over the business and keep it going. After about a week, we figured it out with them. Suddenly we were business owners, and then 4 days after that we had to learn how to roast coffee and set up all the boring stuff like licenses and payroll for opening day. We had NO idea what we were doing, but why not at least try?! Turns out, all of these risks we took ended up working for the best. Now we have an incredible community that has our backs, and helps us feel confident in creating even more new spaces for them. We had no idea what we were doing, but it got all of us somewhere incredible. We even took this risk taking a step further this past summer, we spoke out about anything and everything going on with social justice issues, including some very local issues. Speaking our truth was more important than making profit, and turns out once again that taking risks ends up working out for the best. There was some slight worry about losing customers due to voicing our opinions, but it went the opposite direction! We gained so many incredible customers, and we are so proud to use our platform for good. The name Captain + Stoker is actually the two positions on a tandem bike. We use this as a philosophy for everything – we work in tandem with our crew, our community and our Earth. All of these things play a huge role in the success of our business and communities in general. Without a ton of risk taking, Captain + Stoker just wouldn’t be what it is today!
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Kelsea and Danielle are the design team with Captain + Stoker. Kelsea grew up trying to figure out what type of art she loved the most, and honestly never figured it out. Danielle graduated from CSUMB with a degree in web design, so naturally she was a great fit for helping out with our website and such. Once Kelsea + Danielle started working together, they flourished! What one lacked, the other was excellent at. It was truly a match made in heaven. We were always told there was certain way to market a business, but that never really worked for us. We were told nonsense like needing to only use a few fonts, and have one color way at all times.. this just sounded so boring to us. At first we tried to stick to that, but it just didn’t feel creative to us. In 2020 we finally gave up trying to fit a certain mold, and just started creating what felt right in the moment. Now, we have extremely creative limited editions drops every season! Sticking to the old ways of doing things should never be anyones go-to in our opinion. Do what’s fun, what feels most exciting! If you are confident and put your all into your work, the right people will always find it. We sell SO MUCH merch for a coffee shop, and we know its because we are so unique with what we create. Plus, we use a local screen printer – so we keep it in the community which is a huge plus. We always wanted to be more of a lifestyle, not just a coffee shop, and we think we are getting pretty close to that already. We are also interested in being a sort of Redbull vibe, where we sponsor action sports athletes. We have so much planned, and we cannot wait to expand and be able to get as artistic as we possible can!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We are in our 20’s – almost 30’s – and to be completely honest there isn’t a ton to do here in the Monterey bay. Part of our thing with Captain + Stoker is to come up with more types of businesses that bring fun for our locals in our community. Until then though, we certainly do have some favorite places! Monterey is surrounded by the incredibly clear Pacific Ocean, so it’s always a relaxing time searching through the tide pools. We have so many brightly colored starfish, the always elusive octopus (good luck), otters, sea lions, and seals! Finding a good abalone shell washed up on shore is always the best. We have quite a lot of thrift stores and estate sales, so its a great place if you’re into unique finds and have the patience to search. We love taking motorcycle rides down the coast into Big Sur. Ventana is a rad place to stop for lunch – they have incredible cocktails, food, and of course views! Coming back into Monterey, we have two favorite places to eat. Sushi fly for rolls, sake bombs, and a Dj pumping some rad tunes. Or you can hit up Alvarado Street Brewery for sour beer, pub food, and a great outdoor beer garden! We also love hopping over to Carmel-By-The-Sea to see our friend Marie-Clare’s art all around town. She is quickly becoming the resident folk artist, and when you roll up into town you will see her hand painted Carmel Shell! We hope this artistic expression spreads around the Bay, because art makes everyone happy 🙂
Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc. that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
Everything Captain + Stoker comes back to our community. The people who love and support us are the reason we are as successful as we are, and of course how we got through the pandemic. We have always been community driven! We were always throwing latte art throw down parties, bingo + trivia nights, some live music on weekends, and we want to do even more like throw block parties! Live art, bmx + skateboarding jams, anything we can do to get people socializing and off their phones. Finding new ways to bring everyone together will always be our number one goal! Creating a space where anyone and everyone can feel safe is so much more important than whatever profit comes our way. We do not stand for any racism, xenophobia, or anything anti LBGTQIA+ and will always stand up for any minority group that is made to feel less than. There have been many times where we have spoken up about these types of issues, and we receive messages that they are so thankful for being the voice they were too scared to be. Using our platform to help those who dont feel comfortable speaking up feels so incredible to us! We are the voice to our community, and the more we grow, the more we can help them!
Brandon Scott for photos! @hellobrandonscott on instagram