Mikey Williams and Donovyn Collins
Black Seed Burger Cult
Gabriel Flores 0:00
Hello, everyone and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I have two guests, Mikey Williams and Donovan Collins, which I must admit, are two co owners of I'm gonna say, my favorite burger place ever like right now. Favorite hands down favorite burgers like Black Sea burger cold. Gentlemen, how are you guys doing? Good. Thank you. Thank you so much. First and foremost for coming on the show today. I'm being honest. So I'm not I'm not pulling your chains. favorite burger spot. So I want to kind of get into the burger spot first. But first I'm gonna kind of introduce the world Mikey. I'm gonna go with you just introduce the world and Mikey a quick little bio. Who is Mikey Williams.
Mikey Williams 0:45
It's a tough one. No one really wants to talk about themselves. So
Gabriel Flores 0:49
it's very true.
Mikey Williams 0:51
44 year old dude living in Portland. kohner restaurant.
Gabriel Flores 0:56
I like it. So did you grew up in Portland?
Mikey Williams 0:59
I did not. I moved here 16 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona.
Gabriel Flores 1:02
Donovyn Collins 1:04
I'm saying about 440 year old buck. Yeah, I'm from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania moved here. 16 years ago met Mikey. And we ran. ran with what we're doing.
Gabriel Flores 1:18
How did you guys meet?
Donovyn Collins 1:19
We met at our previous job. What was that we used to work for Sizzle Pie.
Gabriel Flores 1:24
Oh, okay. So did you guys kind of take? How did you guys kind of go with the idea from Sizzle Pie to Blackseed vertical?
Mikey Williams 1:32
We kind of learned the ins and outs of how to run a restaurant, how to open restaurants, you know, things like that, you know, as much as we could we felt we knew what we were doing. We still kind of do. But I mean, obviously there's always more that you think you know, but you obviously don't know. So we add another Co Co owner friend might another Mikey reach out and you know, kind of pitch an idea, you know, and he really believed in what we could do and kind of teamed up and went ahead and opened the restaurant.
Gabriel Flores 2:00
Nice. So for the for the listeners at home. What is Blackseed vertical
Donovyn Collins 2:06
sum for everybody. We wanted to make a space where no one was excluded. So that's why everything on the menu can be made. However you like vegan, gluten free. Well, mostly gluten free. But just there's not one thing that can't be meat, vegan veggie. It can all be whatever you want. Yeah. Yeah, we just want to a place that's comfortable that anyone can go to and not feel like they had to ask for special instructions. Yeah, so just everything's up for grabs. You know?
Mikey Williams 2:39
Yeah, I wanted also to, we felt like with a lot of, you know, Portland, everyone's got vegan veggie options, but a lot of burger spots. You know, everything's still cooked on the same flat top, same fryers, everything. So we wanted to we also got to, you know, the separate, vegan, flat top vegan fryer. Wow, that way everything's completely you know, there's no cross contamination and that way, you can get your vegan burger. It's not cooked in any burger juice.
Gabriel Flores 3:05
And that's a big point. I think, you know, people misconstrue that. Like, that's kind of a big thing, because they like it to be separated. From there. I have a lot of vegan friends myself. And I actually when I'm barbecuing, I make sure there's like a special spot on the grill. And I'm not putting me not because they prefer not to have that meat juice on it. Yeah. Now why was it important to have a kind of a space like this that was so welcoming?
Donovyn Collins 3:27
Because everybody's worth the same? You know? Like, there's no can't be like, Oh, do like fuck off. Like, we only have dairy cheese or whatever. So we try to just everybody gets what they their needs are, you know, are met. Yeah, no, I get it.
Mikey Williams 3:47
We travel a lot together on the road for our past job, a lot of other states and go on to eat together. Obviously, we both have different diets. So we were always looking for a place that we can both go to. So it's wanted to make sure that we were able to offer that.
Gabriel Flores 4:02
So why burgers Why not pizza? Why not? Pasta? Why not something else?
Mikey Williams 4:06
Burgers are fun, man.
Gabriel Flores 4:12
I like it. I think that that might be pizza is the gateway drug to burgers. I think I liked that one. So so let's let's talk about kind of how words how did it start? How did how did backseat burger start?
Donovyn Collins 4:25
Um, it's just started with an idea that we didn't want bosses anymore. And I'm talking to our buddy Mikey, who was part owner. We just wanted to do something that was 100% What exactly what we wanted to do. And, you know, burgers, you know,
Mikey Williams 4:50
our other part we have another partner and John He is well loved burgers as well. I mean, it was completely new concept to me. I mean, I've obviously eaten burgers but you know had been in the pizza game for so long. You know, so it's exciting to kind of go with something fresh. And after meeting up with Donovan, he's like the kitchen wizard with as far as recipes and stuff and kind of come up with whatever. Just, you know, tasted this, this and this and like, Okay, this I think we have something here. So
Gabriel Flores 5:15
do you feel there's a lot of similarities between the world of pizza in the world of burgers?
Mikey Williams 5:21
So much? Yeah, I mean, you fold a piece of pizza and you got a sandwich as well.
Gabriel Flores 5:24
It's very true. So when you guys started this business, so you know, for the listeners at home, you know, this is a show about business. Did you guys kind of go LLC? S Corp. C Corp. How did you guys start to decide to start the business?
Donovyn Collins 5:36
We did, LLC.
Gabriel Flores 5:38
Nice. And how long have you guys been in business?
Donovyn Collins 5:40
Next week will be two years.
Gabriel Flores 5:42
Nice. Nice. So now did you guys How'd you guys do funding, grassroot funding? Do you guys actually go out for help? Or us all funded by yourself all funded? Wow. Yeah. How was how was that? Was that difficult?
Mikey Williams 5:55
Yes. It's it's difficult either way. Yeah. But it was definitely I mean, you always think your dollars gonna go farther than it does. And then no matter what the build out equipment this that there's always a hiccup or something you're just not expecting.
Gabriel Flores 6:11
Now, is this your guys's first business? It is? Yes. What are some of the surprises that you guys seen?
Donovyn Collins 6:17
The cost? Yeah. Yeah, it's I mean, it's hard. Anybody that opens their own business. They have a lot of there's a lot of them. You can't really foresee the cost of what it's going to end up being at the end of it when you're open. And that was probably the toughest part. And then obviously, the pandemic, you know, like that. That almost killed us.
Gabriel Flores 6:44
Yeah, you guys started right. During that time, right,
Mikey Williams 6:46
started about four and a half to five months before it happened. Wow. So it was that March, we looked at the numbers, and we're kind of like, wow, like, for new business. Like we're actually really getting some steam starting to do well think this is going to happen? Right. And two weeks later, everything shut down.
Donovyn Collins 7:05
Wow. Yeah, and lose, we had to let all our employees go. And that was heartbreaking. And then Mikey, and I have just been the only two people there, like, almost 80 hours a week.
Mikey Williams 7:18
Until we just hired someone last week.
Gabriel Flores 7:22
And that's, that's since March of 2020. It has just been YouTube. Yes. And your guys are six days a week? Yes. Well, we
Mikey Williams 7:30
usually actually seven, because Mondays we'll go in and do the financials and try to you know, rifle through all the bills, all the emails, you know, and everything like that, we'll try to do it at the end of the night. And sometimes you're just too burnt out. But you know, some of it is still gotta be done.
Gabriel Flores 7:45
Yeah, what, you know, one of the things I tend to talk about often is, you know, hear from these entrepreneurs is the difficulty of running their own business, because you're kind of by yourself. But you kind of have each other how has that helped through this process?
Mikey Williams 8:01
It's got its ups and downs. I mean, I wouldn't want to work with anybody but Donovan, you know, so clearly, you're six feet apart in the kitchen, where no matter how well you know, somebody, or how good of friends you are, you're gonna butt heads regardless, you're you're exhausted, you're stressed, you have no idea what's going on. And so, you know, we take the ups and the downs, and just at the end of the day, we got to go over what our issues were, deal with it and move on and realize, like, it's gonna benefit us both in the long run. And this is what we want to be doing no matter what we knew there's gonna be issues with it, as everybody should know, going into opening anything, there's going to be struggles you don't know. And you just gotta be able to communicate well,
Gabriel Flores 8:39
yeah. You know, one of the things you guys we're kind of in an area where, especially burgers and Portland, where it's high competition, how do you guys how did you guys differentiate what you're doing? To become known? Very, you know, very known.
Donovyn Collins 8:57
I mean, I think that we don't believe that we're a competition. You know, we try to be different. Yeah. But we don't, you know, flaunt it. But it's nice that when people do come in, they're like, you know, like, What the fuck? Like, how can I get vegan bacon on whatever, you know. And it's actually good. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, we're right across the street from a few burger places, which is weird. It's like the McDonald's Burger King competition. We never think of those places as competition. We're just at another restaurant. You know, like, they don't have what we have. So what they do, yeah, so they're not, they're not in the on the line. You know,
Mikey Williams 9:38
it's definitely tough during the pandemic, because I think what is the first six months, almost everybody on Mississippi shut down except for the burger places. So it was just us three burger spots that were open. So that was definitely even more of a like, hey, how do we work this out to where we have something that other people don't offer? So I think a lot of too, you know, with Donnie and ours, like recipe background and making most things from scratch. And then with our vegan burgers, we didn't just opt out and go with the Impossible Burger, as everybody does, we kind of got a product that we couldn't make and mold our own burgers from and make it our own. So that way, you know, keep it completely different. And he sourced out our buttons to be made locally every day. So
Gabriel Flores 10:21
wow, that's, that's, I'm not gonna lie. your guys's burgers are delicious. I can't overstate this enough. You know, and that's one of the things I was trying to how, how to differentiate yourself, you know, the other burger spots? Because I would imagine it's so difficult sometimes. But you're doing it in such a organic way, where you're just kind of being true to yourself. And that in itself is creating your differentiator. It seems like
Donovyn Collins 10:48
Yeah, I mean, we're just two guys that know we like Yeah. And, you know, like, you don't have like a secret sauce. Sort of, we have our killer Diller sauce, which is better than ranch. It's delicious. We don't there's no ranch in the building ever. We do a we do a it's a vegan, gluten free. House sauce killer Diller. And that's kind of another pivoting point. We're like, we need to bottle this and sell it. In the past, we have tried to do this with another company and didn't work out. And then Mikey went ahead and found out how to just do it. We banged it out in like six weeks. And it's still like, still out there just tight.
Mikey Williams 11:36
Now we get a lot of inspiration from other burger places. Obviously, you know, you try something. You don't want to completely copy what someone else is doing. Right? Try something like, Oh, let me do my take on how I would do this. Like, I want to use what they did on this but add this to this. Make it a little bit different.
Gabriel Flores 11:51
Yeah, so do you guys currently bottle the your sauce? We do? And you guys are selling at retail? Or is it still only there at this store?
Donovyn Collins 11:59
It's at the shop? Excuse me? It's, it's at our shop, they sell it at Scotties pizza parlor. And red sauce pizza just started carrying it. Oh, sorry. It's they're gonna eventually start selling bottles as well.
Mikey Williams 12:12
We'd like to move it into retail. Yeah, you know, it's like, you don't want to take that first step too hard. Because it could either tank or it could go out of control. Which with that problem, where do you spend your time? Do I focus on bottling this? Or do I focus on actually still running?
Gabriel Flores 12:28
That is a very, very great point. And that's such a smart, smart point, especially for the listeners at home, to understand not to take on everything at once. Right? There's a process and it sounds like you guys kind of took that process and stride. Especially during the pandemic. How was staying open. During that time on you. You're kind of like your psyche. I'd imagine you guys were just working constantly had you guys kind of go get through that.
Donovyn Collins 12:53
It was tough. Like, like no shit. Like it was really hard. It still is.
Gabriel Flores 12:59
Yeah, yep. Yeah, we're still in it. Right?
Mikey Williams 13:01
It was tracking days, weeks months.
Donovyn Collins 13:04
Yeah, it's it's really weird. Yeah, it was
Mikey Williams 13:06
really difficult as well. Because with me, I mean, as you've been to the restaurant, it's we were perfectly set up for takeout where you come in the breakfast side of the restaurant. And we have the table. So you just walk in, but at the same time, we're in the kitchen the entire time. So people walking by Mississippi walked by and see an empty restaurant on the inside. So the majority of people thought we were closed the entire time, then we'd have sign saying we're open but more people are visual want to see people they don't read signs, no matter where you put them. It was difficult for so many people that live in the building above us to say I'm glad you're finally reopen. We've never closed. You know, we've been here every day. So it's just that was the hardest struggle trying to get educated people like we are open Yeah, we're not here just hanging out. The blinds are up for no reason. We're in the back cooking. So it's hopefully gonna get easier. we reopen the lobby yesterday.
Gabriel Flores 13:57
Nice. Nice. And
Mikey Williams 13:58
Gabriel Flores 14:00
yeah, in fact, you know, that's kind of let's get into that a little bit. Let's let's get into the branding a little bit. So I want to talk about the the black seed burger cold logo, which is kind of cool. What does that represent?
Donovyn Collins 14:12
Which one the there's the burger guy and then the burger. The burger guy? Yeah. So that's Mike, you might be able to answer that one better.
Mikey Williams 14:19
Yeah. Mikey Kennedy Bostock. He does Vostok art, he designed that he's just been amazing graphic design guide him as well as John have always, they've always done like, the graphic is for the restaurant. And like he came up with that concept. I think he drew it and instantly it wasn't like, oh, let's go back to the drawing board. We should try this. It was just like, that's it. That's the best thing I've ever seen. And he took that one step and was like, you know, I know a neon sign place that can pull this off. And to my surprise, they actually did. I actually had doubts in because you know, you take an art piece and then trying to put it into another format and it doesn't always translate and that wouldn't really work. It's I mean, it's the greatest thing you walk down. No matter how stressed out I am in the day, I pull up to the shop and see that I'm in a better mood.
Gabriel Flores 15:10
I like it's a for those folks at home that have not been able to see this, this hamburger kind of thing. You got a burger guy, burger guy
Mikey Williams 15:20
is a throwback from like an old 70s Like biker kind of graphic of, you know, some weird little creature flipping Yep,
Gabriel Flores 15:27
it's cool. I'm gonna, I'm gonna save the listeners the entire details, because I am getting encourage them to actually go and check it out in person. And while you're there, actually grab a burger because they're so delicious. So you know, going through this process, and this is your first, your first business, you said? What advice? Would you have individuals that are thinking of going into starting their own business? What advice would you have for them?
Donovyn Collins 15:51
Just know what you want to do. For like, various, you know, like, don't don't have as your idea, and then follow through with it. Also, just get ready to hit the fucking bumps, you know? Yeah,
Mikey Williams 16:05
make as little compromises as you can. I mean, you always have to in business somewhere, but stay true to what you want to do No, going into this, that you're not opening a restaurant and you're sitting at home and office collecting money a couple months later, if you're not in the kitchen, if you're not at the restaurant actually doing physical work, the first couple years, people might think it might you know, one year I'm good, no, you're gonna be there all the time. If you want to. least keep it true to what you want to do. You need to be there and you can step away. And the minute you step away, things start to change if it's out of your control, but just stay focused on what you want to do and why you did it. You might fail at it. But that doesn't mean you're a failure. Yeah, it's just it's tough to do a business. But just keep sticking at it and just work. You got to work your ass off.
Gabriel Flores 16:50
Would you guys do anything different?
Mikey Williams 16:55
Somewhat, I mean, we came from a place that had so many employees. So when we went into this, we only had seven to eight. Probably could have scaled that back a little bit going in until you know, you can tweak it out and pandemics really well. It also made me a better cook. So now I know like what we can shave off and how to save because I mean, any restaurant payroll is your biggest expense. Yeah. So anywhere you can help with that, you know, just be willing to do the work.
Donovyn Collins 17:27
Yeah, I mean, yeah, don't don't think the shits gonna make itself you know, like, you have to be there to do it. So,
Gabriel Flores 17:33
yeah, what did you know, looking back on everything? What advice would you would you guys give your younger selves, before you kind of ventured into this business?
Donovyn Collins 17:45
That's a tough one. Great.
Mikey Williams 17:49
I've tried to say things that I think I would say but I, I don't want to be too like egotistical or what I think I learned a lot of what I didn't need to do or what I shouldn't do from working at Sizzle Pie. It kind of humbled me to be like, I'm a very opinionated and vocalized person, which is not always a good thing in business, especially if you're the one talking to the customer. You may have your opinions, but you do have to bite your tongue because not everybody is on the same page as you. But just going into and being accepting, you know what other people say and but the still sticking to what you want to do. Just you know, just write it out. It's not going to always be easy.
Donovyn Collins 18:26
Yeah, on that one, I, anybody that wants to open anything at the service industry, you have to put on an act sometimes when you're dealing with a person that's very, very, either disrespectful, or, you know, whatever, he can't kick everybody out. Yeah. So it's kind of fun to play with them. And, like, you know, kill them with kindness kind of thing. Oh, I love it. i That's my thing. That's the best. And then, and then they think they left victory, but really, a goofs, you know, whatever, like, but people like that are everywhere.
Mikey Williams 19:01
It was so hard during the pandemic, we had to bite our tongues a lot, because we didn't really put it out there that were the owners. You know, obviously, a lot of people once the pandemic came, and they figured it out after you know, all they saw was us. And then a lot of we got a lot of flack because we randomly be closed. But you know, we were burned out. Yeah, to have to take personal days. And a lot of people were like, Oh, you're lazy, you know, like, your boss should fire you. You guys need to start showing up like, well, we are the bosses we were working everyday once. I think more people saw that. It's like wait, it is just us trying to keep this going. Then people were they completely want at their own was so kind and so nice for the beginning. And I'm not taking away anything from anybody. Everybody, you know, is in a stressful situation. So I just don't think people knew how to communicate to others. So I think there was a lot of venting from both sides. Everybody doing this to talk to people. So customer service was a very hard thing to be in.
Gabriel Flores 19:54
Yeah, and that's a great point for the listeners at home. Burnout, like burnout is a big issue. You know, we're all burnt out, I think you look at every industry, you look at health care, you look at the food industry, you look at any industry across the board on the economic spectrum, and we're burnt out, right? We're all very, very tired. And so it's a great opportunity just to really take a moment be nice to each other be kind, there's folks were busting their butt to like, you guys. Right? You guys were busting your butt to just bring us a mill. That's it. Simple mill. And a thank you goes a long way. Right? Understanding that we don't know the other person shoes that I always talked about this in customer service training, right? When you when you wake up, you don't put on the ugliest outfit and then blame the world for what you look like. Right? You just can't do it. Right? You just can't do it. Everybody has a bad day. And it tends to be first thing in the morning, right? Either you spilled coffee on yourself, you're got stuck in traffic and you're late for work or something always happens bad the first thing, right. But again, you can't blame the world for what you look like kind of thing. But this pandemic has taught us one thing is we got to be kind of one of the like, we're all struggling. We're all burnt out. We're all tired. We just have to be better about being kind of one another because I again, I'm going to state it again. I absolutely love the burgers. I want to continue to see you guys around so much. So how can how can we help? How can we get the name out there for the folks that are interested in Blackseed Burkle? Where can they follow you on the socials? Where can they find your guyses location?
Donovyn Collins 21:31
I mean, just check us out. I mean, we had a website Blackseed burchell.com. Right. Like that. Yeah, I don't know. We're not We're not like gearheads on the net, you know, yep. But, you know, our bandwidth is pretty large.
Mikey Williams 21:49
Social media a little more. Yeah.
Donovyn Collins 21:52
But yeah, we're just, um,
Mikey Williams 21:54
we're on Mississippi. 3746, North Mississippi, in between beach and failing.
Donovyn Collins 21:58
Holy smokes. There you go. Those direct, I like it.
Mikey Williams 22:03
Our numbers 971-544-7277 You can reach us there.
Gabriel Flores 22:08
And again, this is open for everybody. Vegans. Just not just a hamburger for folks that don't want vegan food, right?
Donovyn Collins 22:15
Yeah. Just everybody. Yeah, just let us know what you want and we'll make it. But yeah, very. Everything. There's no gluten aside from our bread, and then our vegan bacon vegan sausage. But other than that everything could be being vegan, gluten free, meaty, veggie, whatever, you know,
Mikey Williams 22:35
Donovan making the gluten free fried chicken I thought was a game changer for
Gabriel Flores 22:41
people the most Yeah, I'm not gonna lie when I saw that. I was like, what? That that's no way and it's delicious.
Mikey Williams 22:46
It's very simple to do. I mean, we're not going to reveal all the secrets.
Donovyn Collins 22:50
Don't do it. Yeah, we have gluten free fried chicken.
Gabriel Flores 22:53
It's solid. Come on down over on Mississippi, North Mississippi. Tell them gave Cynthia I'm not sure what it's fine. I can get you anything but there's gonna be like okay, cool. You heard podcast
Mikey Williams 23:07
stepping into here that I decided right off the bat. You're a trustworthy person because you do drink Coca Cola class
Gabriel Flores 23:18
this is where the button heads comes in. Next week. Can't trust
Donovyn Collins 23:25
Oh, we also now we're talking about soda. RC is the best Oh, yeah. Okay, so we we got an RC fountain. Fair enough. RC is Yeah, so you know Fuck yo. RC is the king.
Gabriel Flores 23:41
I will I will give you that RC is kind of this shit right there. Although I tend to if I'm gonna do Pepsi products could be Mountain Dew. Yeah, do man that Madhu man get extreme. I'm gonna get extreme. I'm gonna get some I'm gonna like do some do and play like Final Fantasy seven on the ps4. I swear to God, I'm a nerd out. Was that the Midwest? No. Born and raised here in Oregon.
Mikey Williams 23:59
Yeah, Mountain Dew. You always seem to be from the Midwest.
Gabriel Flores 24:03
I tried to surge back in the day when it came out.
Donovyn Collins 24:05
Oh, I remember that. Yeah, that wasn't good. Yeah, no, it needs knee deep in a cool cannon mountain. Do
Gabriel Flores 24:11
ya do my he was coming out like neon green surge. I don't know what that was going on. That's what I kept telling him. But don't worry about the vitamins dag it's fine. And surge. So again, folks at home check out Blackseed burgle guys, thank you again so much for coming over and talking about your company. I'm again very big fan. I hope that you guys continue to be successful. Folks at home please come check them out Black Sea burger called Mikey Donvan. Thank you guys. Check out Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Have a great night. Thank you. Thank you