While I was a fan of all three finalists, my personal finalist-favorite, Death Wish Coffee of Round Lake, New York, won this year’s “Small Business, Big Game” competition sponsored by Intuit QuickBooks.

On SmallBusiness.com | Story about this year’s ten finalists
On SmallBusiness.com | Story about this year’s top three finalists
On SmallBusiness.com | Interview with Death Wish Coffee Owner, Mike Brown

The grand prize is being featured in a $5 million, 30-second commercial during the CBS telecast of Super Bowl 50 on February 7. The prize also included production of the big-budget, no-holds-barred TV commercial (below) that features a Viking ship filled with actors numbering about three-times the employee-count at Death Wish Coffee. Considering the cost of production and airtime, the value of being featured in such a spot is easily over $6 million and is likely one of the most valuable contests ever won by a small business. (Not counting being acquihired by Google.)

The guy smiling in the photo below is Mike Brown, owner of Death Wish Coffee and leader of the fun crew who works there.


Here’s the killer Super Bowl commercial

Not since the famous 1984 Apple Super Bowl commercial has there been such a dramatic portrayal of a small upstart company out to conquer the world.

Just in case you think I was exaggerating about the number of actors being more than the number of employees at Death Wish Coffee, here is a staff photo from a few months ago. I’m sure they’ll be needing to scale up production after a Super Bowl ad.


So How is the Coffee?

As I wrote in October, I conducted some personal research on Death Wish Coffee in preparation of SmallBusiness.com’s coverage of the competition. I brewed a cup before my daily 6 a.m. walk with my two dogs. By 15 minutes into the walk, the dogs were begging me to slow down. Imagine brewing coffee with Red Bull to wash down a NoDoz tablet and you’ll begin to understand the magical powers of Death Wish Coffee.

Surprisingly, the coffee has a smooth, gentle taste; the opposite of what I was expecting from a product that has a skull and crossbones as its logo.

Within a few days, I became addicted (in a positive way) to Death Wish Coffee and had to email Teah Teriele, the manager of marketing and shipping, “Are people as surprised as I am that a coffee called Death Wish tastes pleasant? What do people think it’s going to taste like?”

“Most probably, they expect something similar to tar. We make it our mission to shock people with how good it is,” she replied.

Teah’s answer reminded me why I love small businesses.

Photos: Death Wish Coffee, Intuit

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