Meet Mark McNees: Pastor, Entrepreneur, Professor and Triathlete

Mark McNees, a Los Angeles native, found himself successful in his mid-twenties running his family business and was best described as “traditional.” Upon discovering his faith at this time, McNees realized he wasn’t truly happy with where his life was. “Learning about the teachings of Christ and the values of that, really changed my own values from ‘how much money can I make’ to ‘how much positive impact can I have with humanity?’”

So that’s what he set out to do, positively impact those around him. Through the help of some friends, he moved to Tallahassee and started Element 3 Church in 2004. It was through E3 that McNees then found the foundation on which RedEye Coffee was built.

He stumbled upon a roaster who did not know how to sell his coffee. From there, McNees grew this concept into a fully functioning business that’s proven to be quite successful with four locations in the Tallahassee area.

What makes RedEye Coffee stick out from its competitors is its motto, “Drink coffee locally, change lives globally.” RedEye donates all of its profits, once deducting the cost of running the business, to charities around the world.

Courtesy: RedEye Coffee

This concept of constantly giving back is definitely something McNees lives his life by. He takes no profit from RedEye and limits himself in how much he keeps from his other profitable jobs. All in all, he donates a vast majority to those in need.

McNees calls himself a “born entrepreneur” although not fully embracing the title of entrepreneur until five years ago. “I was starting companies when I was a kid.” McNees’ first company started around the age of nine as a video game rental. He would rent out his games to classmates, up until the point that the school shut the business down. “I wonder if that actually fanned that flame, what I could’ve done with that.”

This is why McNees takes education, especially as a professor here at Florida State University, so seriously. “I don’t know if it’s the nature of education has changed but there seems to be a lot of emphasis on getting the right answer. Where I guess in my experience, a lot of times there isn’t one right answer. There is a good, better and best answer. Sometimes the right answer may not be the best answer for that circumstance.”

His focus in the classroom is to teach his students real-life skills that are actually useful after graduation. One thing he stresses, in particular, is networking. “One of the big values of a four-year degree is the people you meet.”

Continuing the conversation about entrepreneurship and how it’s changed over the years, McNees discusses the response to entrepreneurship. “When I was growing up, the whole idea was to go find a company to work for and do a good job, get promoted and then retire. We live in a culture now that celebrates entrepreneurs.”

Aside from E3 and RedEye, Marc is also a flourishing author with two books under his name. Although he claims you’re not officially an author until you’ve written three books, he’s currently working on his third, and there is no doubt that he has been successful with his writing.

Courtesy: Goodreads

His first non-fiction book was published in 2011. The book, Immersion: Live the Life God Envisioned, uses his own story of swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco. That’s right, on top of it all, McNees is a triathlon athlete. His story from that experience serves as the analogy in which he teaches the reader how to fully embrace their faith and their God-given plan. 

While working on his third book, teaching students here at FSU, running RedEye Coffee and much more, McNees looks forward to the future. “I’m always looking for a new challenge, but what would be super excited is hearing from these startup businesses started by my students. To just sit on the Board and help them grow their companies would be a thrill.”