For those of us in search of a work-life balance, 33-year-old Marc DeCaul is a great example of how to turn one’s passion into a career.
Having spent most of his youth either on a bike or in the sea, Marc now serves as board chairman of the Grenada Sailing Week and race director of the island’s annual Tri De Spice competition, one of an increasing number of triathlon events in the Caribbean.
In 2013, together with business partner Darryl Kotyk, he opened Mocha Spoke, the True Blue bicycle cafe where visitors can combine a freshly-brewed cup of coffee with a bike tour. Sustainability is at the core of the business, proving that profit doesn’t always have to come at the expense of the environment.
The bicycle cafe is constructed from old shipping containers, all food packaging is biodegradable and even the tables are recycled (crafted from old bicycle parts)! Mocha Spoke has had an impressive first year, proving popular with both tourists in search of something other than sun, sand and sea as well as the SGU crowd in need of a caffeine fix.
Although he’s had spells away from Grenada, for Marc, the way of life on the island is unparalleled. “There is a lot to be said about immersing yourself in nature to feel at peace and there is so much of that in Grenada,” he explains.
“For me experiencing nature is all about a sail at sunset, a swim in the crystal clear Caribbean Sea or just watching it from a perch in the sand, spear-fishing for my own dinner, hanging out at a waterfall with friends, the list could go on forever. If I really want to get away, a trip up the Grenadines is like no other. Why would I leave?”
What prompted you to launch a triathlon in Grenada?
I can’t really take credit for launching the triathlon. It was started in the mid 80’s by the Slingers. They did an amazing job of putting on a weekend of triathlon events every January. My outdoor lifestyle landed me a spot in one of the races in the mid-nineties, when I was 11 or 12, and I continued to take part each year until I left. My brothers had also taken it up and continued to race after I left.
My parents have always been super supportive of everything we have done, they became very involved in the event and added in specific events for youth, as the normal races really were too long for my youngest brothers. They eventually took over the event completely.
I had a pretty bad triathlon experience when I first left Grenada; I got hypothermia. When I finally got over that, I started taking it quite seriously. I eventually ended up on an elite team in Australia and later on in Canada. I raced at the Commonwealth Games, PanAm Games, CAC Games, and various world cup races in all corners of the globe.
By the time I came back to Grenada, I had a fair bit of experience of world class events. I started out with helping my parents put on the event and eventually took over but still with their endless help.
It seems like a big leap of faith to launch bicycle cafe, Mocha Spoke, in Grenada – an island with few cyclists and even fewer coffee shops. What convinced you the concept would take off and what have you learned from the experience?
I wasn’t sure it would take off, but you have to take risks. Because of the Tri de Spice, there are more and more triathletes around, many of whom I now coach and all with an ever-increasing need to maintain their current bikes, as well as make upgrades.
As well as triathlon, there is also a strong cycling team with similar demands and a large population on mountain and BMX bikes. Ultimately it’s all cycling, whether recreational or competitive, and I knew its development and specifically the development of the sport of triathlon, was severely limited without the all-important resource of a bike shop.
Rather than waiting for the market to develop and then try take advantage of it, I wanted to create the foundation for the sport, provide the tools needed for the sport to thrive and to be the driving force behind getting more people on bikes and getting the athletes on better bikes. I knew I had to come up with a way to make that sustainable, so I decided to combine it with a cafe.
Coffee is synonymous with cyclists around the world, most group rides start at coffee shops with good reason so I started with that. I added some healthy food and desserts to the menu and the perfect cycling cafe was born; the candy store in front selling cycling at the back. It allowed me to start creating a bike culture in a financially sustainable way. It looked good on paper. I figured if I created a place I wanted to go to then others might want to go there as well.
It has been about two and a half years since the idea was born, and we have been open for about one and a half years and so far it has been fairly successful. Most athletes will tell you, you learn a lot more from the races you lose, so maybe the success has robbed me of some learning. At the same time it hasn’t been a free ride, it has been an endless amount of work and effort.
I have had to learn to adapt to the market changes, if I was too rigid on my idea of Mocha Spoke, it may not have been as successful. I have made many changes from my original idea and that’s ok. You also can’t be afraid to take risks, I took a (somewhat calculated) gamble, quit my job and borrowed money, to start Mocha Spoke and it worked. I still take risks within Mocha Spoke now, trying new products or ideas and not all of them have been successful, the lesson is that’s ok too.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
I can’t think of a specific challenge, I’ve tried so many things in life, in sport and in business and all came with their own challenges. Challenges are everywhere and they are all relative. I think most people’s biggest challenge is themselves.
In mountain biking, they always say look where you want to go not where you don’t want go. The people that focus on the rock next to the trail tend to hit it and fall off, those that focus on the gap tend to get through, the rock is only a challenge if you hit it. It’s the same with everything, look for the gaps.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
It can’t be done. I think those four words are the most commonly issued and least accurate bit of advice. Not only is it inaccurate in just about every circumstance, it seems to have the most influence when people hear it.