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A path less traveled takes Foothills vendor and his mule into cold-coffee business

Trailhead member Matt Bishop is a serial entrepreneur who took a unique path from the military to management consulting before making the leap into entrepreneurship. He has explored opportunities in software and outdoor accessories, and today he owns Café Mulé, a cold-brew coffee company whose functional mascot is a mule named Richard.

The seeds for Matt’s entrepreneurial journey were planted in the military. After serving on active duty for almost seven years, Matt did a stint in management consulting. He quickly learned corporate life wasn’t for him. “The gravity and fulfillment of being the ultimate decision maker on critical missions was hard to match in the civilian world,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur provides the sense of ownership and unbridled challenge I was seeking.”

Matt’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2013 in Boise, where he and his wife moved after their military careers. His first startup was a software company he cofounded with a former Army teammate. Eight months and a few product iterations later, they realized their idea would not work.

His second idea came from his wife’s passion for long-distance trail running. Matt noted her dissatisfaction with existing hydration solutions. He identified opportunities for improvement, bought a commercial sewing machine and started making hydration-pack prototypes. One was used in a 100-mile ultramarathon in Hawaii. He submitted two patents. He attempted to license them, but the large players wouldn’t sign up.

Matt did not give up. “Entrepreneurship is a path where failure and setbacks are the norm,” he says. “For me, the challenge of overcoming these odds and being able to decide where to take the business provide the greatest fulfillment.”

Before settling on his next idea, Matt decided to deliver “Trailside Coffee” events using a pack mule to facilitate serving coffee in the Boise Foothills. These events quickly built a following. He often had over 100 visitors. Many wanted to buy his coffee. That led Matt to bottle his cold-brew coffee. Café Mulé is now carried in 10 locations.

Café Mulé has been rewarding for Matt. “It’s been gratifying on many levels. It’s built a community I never could have imagined from the outset. The support we receive from our trailside patrons and the knowledge and sharing we have received have been invaluable. I’m excited to keep that going and growing.”

Raino Zoller,, is the executive director of Trailhead, which helps start and scale businesses and projects. This column appears in the March 15-April 18, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).