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Serving Something Fresh

April 13, 2006

Serving Something Fresh

Former men’s tennis standout Mark Ottinger is the founder and CEO of Ugly Mug Coffee Co.

By Scott MacDonald

Success on and off the tennis court is something that Mark Ottinger has enjoyed during the course of his life. Ottinger, a 1994 graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in history, technology and science, has taken his success off the court to a new level. After receiving his masters degree in Biblical studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Ottinger started Ugly Mug Coffee to help service college students in Memphis, Tenn.

“I loved coffee and I wanted to create a company that could use the business to make in roads into the third-world countries,” said Ottinger. “Our goal at Ugly Mug Coffee Co. is to create a freshly roasted high-end coffee (100 percent organically grown and fair-trade) and at the same time give back to the coffee growing regions of the world.”

Ottinger and his company also use his business to give back to communities. “In 2005 we partnered with Grower’s First to build a community center in a coffee growing country as well as deliver medical supplies to village hospitals, food, clothing as well as wheelchairs,” said Ottinger.

His Humanitarian efforts do not stop there. Ottinger and his wife Tona are also passionate about children. Mark and Tona have three adopted special needs international children-Camden (5), Mia (4) and Dax (18 months) and are in the process of adopting a fourth.

“People ask why adoption, because we love kids, we’ve always wanted to adopt and just being obedient to the call we feel God has placed on our life,” said Ottinger.

In addition to his company’s humanitarian efforts, Ugly Mug Coffee Co. has achieved financial success as well. In its first year of coffee sales, Ugly Mug sold about 500 pounds. Last year it sold about 100,000 pounds. Most recently, the company signed on to be the exclusive roaster of Elvis Coffee and has partnered with Elvis Presley Enterprises.

“We are expanding into new markets pretty heavily this year,” said Ottinger. “We will be in the Atlanta market this fall at Publix and Kroger as well as through various office coffee accounts. We’ll be in over 1,500 grocery stores by the end of the year, we just signed national licensing agreement for Ugly Mug Coffee stores, kiosks and carts to start popping up inside libraries, bookstores, college campuses, churches, etc.”

With the growth of the company brings more financial windfall, but that’s not what concerns Ottinger.

“The fun part is the growth in business means we get to help more families in coffee growing regions this year.”

A standout tennis player at Tech, Ottinger was part of a NCAA Regional championship team that made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. He was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree and a three-time ACC champion.

“Tech tennis during my first three years was in the rebuilding stage,” said Ottinger. “Ending my senior year as NCAA Regional champs with a birth to the NCAA Tournament was fun.”

Ottinger played most of his senior season with a stress fracture in his foot and managed a 13-13 record as the No. 4 singles player. He finished his career with 67 career singles victories and 64 doubles victories. What he learned on the court helped him achieve his success off the court.

“What I’ve brought to my profession is the ability to work harder then any one else out there,” said Ottinger. “To keep the big picture in focus and not to get discouraged by the setbacks that everyone faces. The ability to handle wins and loses the same.”

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