Australia – Day 03

Day 03

I woke up to my dad face timing me, forgetting about the time difference. It was 7:30am, so not too bad. The sun was coming up over the estuary, and I decided to stay awake and start breakfast. My go-to has been instant coffee, cereal and a banana. It keeps me going for long enough that I can make it to lunch. I packed up and left without seeing anyone else up and about yet.

Today was a power driving day, as I wanted to make it to Mandie’s before it got too late. The clouds rolled in, and it started raining heavily so not a great day for sightseeing anyway. I put a podcast on and drove north.

The pacific highway followed a river valley through hours of sugar cane fields. Mandie has told me that soon they will harvest it and burn the rest of the fields. That will be quite a sight to see.

I met up with her at about 1:30pm and we went into “Bruns” (New Brunswick Heads)for a late lunch of Mint, Pea & Halloumi Cheese fritters with bacon and chili jam. It was delicious. After a quick walk around town — it is one square block, we headed back for a lazy afternoon and evening of Orange is the new Black, catching up conversation and take out thai food. We ended up talking late, and then I parked the van right outside in her driveway to make a little guest house.

Her home overlooks a valley, and is full of parrots. Sounds embedded below.

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Australia – Day 02

Day Two

I was in no rush to leave Mungo National Park, and ended up hanging out long enough for the rangers to come by and collect the park fee. $14 AUD wasn’t a bad price to pay, but if I had been 15 min quicker, I would have gotten it for free.

The main highway has clearly marked “Tourist Routes”, and I continue to take them. They have better views, go through small towns, and are generally more interesting. One of them led me to The Grandis, the tallest tree in New South Wales. A massive Eucalyptus tree deep in the woods down a dirt road. It is over 400 years old.


I saw a sign for the “Billabong Koala Zoo – Pet a Koala” and could not resist. I was the only guy in there without kids, but it was amazing. They had Koalas, which I got to pet, and: Kangaroos, birds of all kinds, emus, crocs, snakes, lizards, red pandas and more. I learned a lot about Australian wildlife, including the name of the bird that stole my cheese. The Laughing Kookaburra.

After the park I hopped over to Port Macquarie for lunch on the beach, and rode the unicycle around the ocean walk. People are always very surprised to see it.

The afternoon found me making my way to Gumma Reserve State park. It is a campground on a tidal estuary system, and very tranquil. At $10 a night, people have set up long term camps here (you can stay for a month at a time) and are friendly with each other.

I ended up sitting around a fire with two retired couples both on long journeys. One couple was from Tasmania, the other Victoria. Tasmania has the same reputation as the deep south in the states. (Inbred, backwater, behind the times)

On of the guys had caught a sting ray that day, and he fried it up in a cast iron skillet over the fire. We enjoyed it with roasted veggies for dinner. It was tasty, but not the best thing I have ever had, and full of little bones.

Australians are not Politically Correct, and it was fun listening to a group of 65-70 years olds running their mouths, trash talking and being crass. One of the ladies was in the middle of reading “50 Shades of Grey” and obsessed would be putting it mildly. I think there should be an age restriction on that series.

I am now off north to meet up with Mandie Kilotat near Byron Bay and will stay there for a few nights. Jason will be flying in to an airport near there and I will pick him up.


Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, cheese, wine & a book next to a tidal estuary. Perfect.

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Australia – Day 01

First night in the camper in Australia!

Left Sydney around noon/1:00 and drove a few hours north, taking the scenic “tourist routes” and just enjoying the first time being alone in almost a week. I stopped and did some food shopping and got gas before leaving the main roads and heading down a small coastal road to this small national park.

I am on a narrow 200 meter wide strip of land between the ocean and a lake. I can hear the bass notes of the waves off in the distance but haven’t hiked through the woods to get there yet. I will in the morning.

I found this place simply by looking on wikicamp (an excellent wiki camping app here in AU) for camps in interesting geographical areas. I knew nothing about it other than it was probably interesting because of the lake/ocean juxtaposition. So far so good, there are only four of us here and we are pretty spread out.

A lady and her husband are in an old camper, and I said hello. The woman, Joe, came over to invite me to use their fire and as we were talking, a bird blasted across the table and stole cheese from me WHILE I WAS CUTTING IT. Those things are bold. I recorded their sound and will put it online.

Bay Area Water Bubble

We really are in a horrible drought. As Mandy and I look for land, this becomes more and more apparent. Lakes are low, boats are on the ground, and rivers are only trickles.

In the Bay Area, we don’t notice it as much because our water supply is still flowing, and many landlords pay for water.

Towns in California are running out of water, as this video shows with great emotion.


Interview Candidates


For a while now I have been doing interviews of business leaders in my network. The longevity and popularity of these articles has surprised me, and one of them even helped the subject get considered for Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.

I am currently looking for more people to interview. If you know someone you think would be a good candidate, please get in touch. I generally think the best candidates are small business leaders who are doing an excellent job of growing their organization, but are not currently getting a great deal of press.

Companies that grow by word-of-mouth are the most interesting to me, because it shows that their clients like the business enough to recommend to their peers.

Do you know someone who I should talk to? If so please send me their information by email [ben (at) benhanna (dot) com] and I’ll gladly get in touch.

Interview: Ken Hernandez of Collective Green SF


Ken Hernandez started his catering company, Collective Green SF, two-and-a-half years ago. He now serves almost 400 people a day, and just doubled his capacity. He cooks over 100 lbs of Bacon a week!


Ben Hanna: If somebody asks “What is Collective Green?” What is your answer?

Ken Hernandez: We’re a holistic gourmet catering company. I define that as sustainable, healthy great food, with a twist. We had to learn how to take normal food and make it healthier, but still make it taste good.

Ben Hanna: What put you on the track of what you’re doing now?

Ken Hernandez: A lot of the pushing, to be honest, came from Jason Sanders. He’s said “I think you should do this.” and he fully supported me in what I was doing. Because, essentially I was an employee at Couchsurfing, so I was supposed to be focused on CouchSurfing but he really let me have some lee way to figure out what I was doing and restructure my arrangement. That really, really helped a lot. But, I remember doing a catering gig for someone else after being at Couchsurfing. Then, I realized that it felt really good that I could cater for two companies. I thought it was going to be a two company thing.

Ben Hanna: How many companies are you working for now?

Ken Hernandez: Right now, we have about 10 companies, but overall we’ve cooked for about, I’d say 50 companies throughout the years. Both in events and lunches. We have cooked for Anchor Brewing, Instagram, Anyperk, Apple, Beats, Camp Grounded, CrowdFlower, Couchsurfing, Heroku, Lookout, MetaMarkets, Lumnia, UpShift and others.

Ben Hanna: Where are you at right now with staffing and how do you handle that? How many people per team you’re working on?
Read the rest »

Sky Report

What will the sky look like tonight? Use this to see if it is a good time to go star gazing!

Click the image to get details on what the colors mean, and to see your own city. Blue / darker blocks are better for the Sky section.

Interview: David Boone of Boonation Custom Cycles

David Boone has opened up the most local of bike shops out of his garage in Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood. On the bike route, he offers personal service for bikes that need a tune-up, and he builds custom set-ups for people who know they want something better than a cheap bike from Craigslist. You can find him on facebook or by email:

Ben Hanna: So how long that you have been working on bikes out of this shop?

David Boone: A little over two years. The only reason I have a consistent record is because of when I started my Facebook page. It was August, so it’s been a couple of years. I was doing it as kind of a side gig before I started doing it full time.

Ben Hanna: What did you do before you started doing this?

David Boone: I was working as an outside trader for Urban Ore, driving the truck around with another guy.

Ben Hanna: Have you always been working on bikes or has it been a hobby?

David Boone: I have always been mechanically inclined but working on bikes using these tools isn’t something I had a mind to do. It hasn’t always been something that I have been crazy about.

Ben Hanna: It wasn’t always something that was going to be your business.

David Boone: Yeah.

Ben Hanna: Do you like it more now that you are doing it more and have gotten into it?

David Boone: Yeah, it took me while when I first started it up and started offering services to get the hang of it. There are lots of problems that can exist within a bike and lot of it just takes experience to know how to solve them. I’m pretty intuitive with my mechanical mind, but some of the things just need experience. The bike is not shifting right! The bike is not shifting right can mean a lot of different things.

Ben Hanna: How do you people find about you? Just walking by or biking by?

David Boone: Living on the bike road has been the best thing for this business. Once I put up my sign, it actually is enough for them to see as they ride by.

David Boone: So what I want to do from there is just take it from here and have a sign here, have a sign down at 55th and Genoa, and then have a sign right here at the intersection of Market and 57th and Adeline. A lot of bikers come through that area, especially coming up and down Adeline. So then, just direct the traffic in this vicinity to this location, and really… I think that’ll…

Ben Hanna: Build a little local traffic. People are coming by anyway.

David Boone: Yeah, I think that’ll be enough. I don’t think I need to go too far out there. There’s plenty of bike shops, and I don’t claim to be the best, or anything. I just…

Ben Hanna: Like to be here doing it?

David Boone: Yeah. [laughs]

Ben Hanna: Which really is all that really matters, in a lot of the cases.

David Boone: Yeah. It’s a service.

Ben Hanna: People like to shake hands with the person who’s going to be working on their bike.

Ben Hanna: Two years ago you opened, when did you go full time?
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Interview: Erin Cochran on Cooking and Starting a Business


Erin Cochran has been working with food since she was 14. From start-ups in Istanbul to fine dining in The Mission District, she has done some of everything. She runs C&B Bottling with her wife out of their home in San Francisco, and is in the process of starting her own restaurant / farm.


Ben Hanna: How did you originally get interested in food and cooking? How did that start?

Erin Cochran: I feel like I just sort of fell into it actually. My first job I got as a counter girl, that was my actual title, at a pasta restaurant that was right up the street from where we lived when I was a teenager. I was 14 and I went and told them I was 16 and got a job because I really wanted a job. I got that one specifically because that one was within walking distance of my house and I didn’t have to drive, because clearly I couldn’t. I worked the counter and took money and whatever else.

All the boys would smoke pot during the day.  If I worked the shifts when they were smoking, then they were more than happy to let me do the cooking as well so that they could just not do anything. Those were my favorite shifts by far. It was super fun to go back there and try to figure out how to make these different pasta dishes which at the time seemed very complicated with a lot of cooking involved. I realize now that they weren’t really.  Apart from a few weird jobs along the way — in New York I ran a magazine for a year because I got too burned out on cooking —  I never left because I liked it so much. And that’s how I got started. I just stuck with it.

Ben Hanna: Do you have any formal education in cooking?

Erin Cochran: I’ve had an unbelievable amount of jobs. I can’t remember them all, actually. I worked at a ton of different restaurants. During college I was going to school for hospitality management and was the kitchen manager of this brew pub. Of all my classes in hospitality management, the only ones that I really liked were the cooking classes, the food prep classes. All of the other business classes I did but I didn’t really enjoy. One day I was talking to my dad and said “This is the only thing I really like doing, I wonder if I should just go to culinary school?” He said “Maybe you should,” and then I applied and got in and quit school and moved to Vermont.

Ben Hanna: How long was culinary school? How long did that last for?

Erin Cochran: Two years. The school that I went to was New England Culinary, and they do a six months on campus, six months internship off campus. Six months on, six months off so it is a two full years, but you are only on campus for a year.

Ben Hanna: Did you focus on a specific type of food preparation or specific aspect of cooking?
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Interview: Justin Cutter of Compass Green


Justin runs Compass Green — a school garden on wheels.  It is a fully functional greenhouse built in the back of an 18ft. box truck that grows vegetables, grains, and herbs and is powered by waste vegetable oil.  He travels the country teaching students. I talked with him about some of the ins and out of his business.


Ben Hanna: How many students are you serving a year right now?

Justin Cutter: This year, I taught 10,000 students, which is my goal since I started Compass Green – to be teaching 10,000 students with one truck per year. 

Ben Hanna: How did the idea for Compass Green kick off?

Justin Cutter: I had been working with John Jeavons, this world-famous agriculturalist, to help start a program called the Green Belt Team with the goal to train people to go to developing nations and start sustainability centers.

After doing that, I felt like I wanted to do something for agriculture in my own country. I started traveling to colleges and teaching workshops on Biointensive sustainable agriculture, which is just a kick ass system that is super productive and super sustainable.

When I was part of that I would also give this presentation on our global food situation and what our choices about food are doing to our bodies and our planet. How it can be incredibly positive, but right now we’re on a pretty bad track.

Those would be open to the public and some were very well attended. There are all people who are already interested in sustainability and I saw pretty quickly that I was falling into these traps of preaching to the choir, which is a very enjoyable thing to do but not very productive. I realized that if I’m actually going to make any difference in sustainability in the US, then I would have to reach the people who:

1) Did not have access to this kind of thing.

2) Who were also “just” interested… The people who saw a poster for a talk about food sustainability or anything with the word ‘sustainable’ in it. People who would just not want to go because it would trigger some kind of trippy tree-hugger sentiment that they didn’t want to be a part of.

Around that time, one of my old high school buddies called me with this idea to turn a truck into a greenhouse. He was thinking of going to farmer’s market and stuff like that and knew that I was in agriculture and so that’s why he brought it up to me. 

To me, I instantly felt like it was a fantastic idea but instead of using it as a way for us to have an adventure in itself and it seems like an amazing way to have an adventure and really reach people who would not, otherwise, be exposed to this kind of education and teach them about sustainability.

The truck would serve both as a vehicle to get to those places but also as a really cool interest piece that would capture the attention and imagination of the audiences, regardless whether they were already interested in gardening or sustainability or anything like that.

From there, we just ran with it. Started up in Brooklyn, New York in 2011.

Ben Hanna: You guys actually started by funding yourselves with a Kickstarter, right?

Justin Cutter: We did, yeah. Kickstarter was very crucial for us. We didn’t have any money and we weren’t interested in going into major debt to get us off the ground so we did a Kickstarter campaign and were successful in meeting our goal of $27,000. That was enough to buy the truck and retrofit it into a mobile greenhouse that can also be run off of vegetable waste vegetable oil.

Ben Hanna: How are you funded now? What’s your primary source of income?
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