In just one year, Wild Goose Meeting House co-founder Yemi Mobolade has become an icon among the city’s young entrepreneurs. The downtown coffee shop/restaurant/wine bar/library he started with business partner Russ Ware in November 2013 has enjoyed wild success, which Mobolade attributes to the business’ strong ties to its community. The 35-year-old Nigeria native, a self-described community developer, sees the Goose as an extension of the home he has tried to create since moving to the Springs four years ago. He grabbed a cup with the Business Journal this week and spoke about his mission, his love of the Pikes Peak Region and what’s next for “the Goose.”
Where are you from originally?
That’s always a tricky question, because I’m from everywhere. My country of origin is Nigeria. Then my family moved to London and lived there for a while before moving to the U.S. before moving back to Nigeria in 1986. I finished my education there and we moved to Indiana in 1996. I’ve been in the U.S. ever since. I went to college in Indiana and was there 14 years, so that is the place that feels like the closest thing to home for me.
Can you tell us a bit about your education and professional background?
I went to college for computer science and business and spent about six years in the business world. One of the things I discovered in college is that I’m good in leadership roles — I’m a natural leader and a good networker. … Then my natural talents in music took me to the church world and I became a sort of music and worship arts director for a couple of large churches. … Eventually I grew tired of the large church environment and felt that there was more to who I was. So there I was with my business background and training and then the other half of my career in the church world, and I was really wondering what was next. Something that I really hadn’t tapped into was my entrepreneurial wiring. I’ve always desired to help make my community and my city a better place. Some of that comes from nature while some of that comes from nurture. So I decided to explore that side of who I was.
And that exploration is what brought you here?
Yes. I wanted to be in the West, in more of a progressive environment. So I left Indiana, moved to California and spent a year there. After that I moved to Colorado and I absolutely fell in love with the place. This is me: mountains, outdoors, all of it. On the first day it was instantly home. So I moved here to take a risk — I was tired of working for places and decided to create one — with the intent not only to start a business but to start a church. … One of the church’s messages was to bless the city, and an expression of that was to create the kind of place where we would want to be. I felt like Colorado Springs was in dire need of the same sort of cultural expression that occurs in the next wave cafés — a public space for the community. … We really wanted to make our city a better place through both economic development and cultural expression.
Do you think Colorado Springs provides a good environment for what you’ve done as a young entrepreneur?
Absolutely. There is no place I’d rather be than here in the Springs. I am drawn to cities and places that are on the cusp of revolution. I know a lot of young people want to move to Seattle or Portland, but that’s just not who I am. Many of those places already have it. … I really don’t feel like a business owner, I feel like a community developer. In terms of building and developing community in Colorado Springs, this city is in its prime. I think it is the best Front Range city in Colorado and also the best-kept secret, not only in Colorado but in the country. If this is going to be home, we’re going to create around what we have and make it the home that we want it to be. As a young professional, there is a plethora of opportunities. The challenge is more about whether we’ll have the time to accomplish what we want to. It will work, but part of the struggle is convincing people here that it will work and that we are ready for it. The ideas and the potential are endless.
How have you seen the culture here change in four years?
I’ve been here four years now. For the first two years, it seemed like the businesses stayed all the same. In this short amount of time (the past two years) it is mind-blowing the amount of small businesses and things that have just exploded. I love it because a lot of people will say, “Colorado Springs is where Austin or Seattle was 20 years ago.” … And there is a lot more coming that I am seeing, and it is so awesome.
How do you view the Goose’s role in the community?
There is the tangible and the intangible. The tangible is that I hope the Wild Goose is successful so that we can do more … and so that we can open something of that same nature. It might not be the Wild Goose. It might be some totally new business concept. I also hope we are successful so that we can show other potential angel investors that they need to invest in this city because of its rich future. … The intangible is that it is successful so that we can raise the bar and raise the value of our downtown.
What are your plans or aspirations for the future of the Goose?
We have been approached to do something with the new public market and at the old train station as well. Russ and I are not sure whether it will be at both of them or one of them or even if it will look like the Goose. We’re very interested in creating a cultural expression that benefits the community and at the same time provides economic development, but I don’t think we want to form a chain. … We might not open another Goose, but whatever it is will be excellent, will serve the city, will serve as that cultural expression and will serve economic development — that is something you can count on.