Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Teresa Pilarz, Founder and Chief Caffeinator of Espresso Elevado, located in Plymouth, MI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Espresso Elevado (E2) is an artisan coffee roaster and brew bar specializing in fair trade and organically-grown beans roasted in small batches. Since we opened in 2011, E2 has been an unconventional and artistic alternative to chain stores. Aside from freshly roasted beans, customers come for our hand-poured brews and innovative espresso drinks made from syrups and sauces that we handcraft from natural and organic ingredients.
We have a diverse and dedicated customer base of locals and folks that come from surrounding areas to visit us as a destination. We regularly attract travelers who read our reviews, as well as people looking for European-style espresso drinks. We also roast and ship beans nationwide and for a variety of wholesale accounts.
Tell us about yourself
I’m Teresa Pilarz, Founder and Chief Caffeinator. I once had a fortune cookie that said, “Follow the dream that keeps coming back,” and coffee became that dream for me shortly after my first Barista gig right out of college. That experience working at an independent coffee shop solidified my intent to open my own shop one day. I spent the next 20 years working in business, traveling the world, teaching, and saving money until I was ready to implement my grand plan.
My greatest motivator is the freedom that entrepreneurship provides. Freedom over my time and energy, the ability to work when, where, and how I choose.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We are a CAUSE-driven business, which means that each day we strive to be Connected, Artistic, Unconventional, Sustainable, and Elevated. Working with a common purpose unites our staff and also helps with business decision-making. If it doesn’t align with our CAUSE, it’s not something I pursue. So, my biggest accomplishment is creating a sustainable small business that matters to the community and has stood the test of time.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
With freedom comes responsibility; you can’t just walk away at the end of the day. Being a small business owner is a lifestyle choice. With good systems, things typically hum along, and life is great! When there is a breakdown, though — such as an equipment failure or someone on our team gets sick — it ultimately is on the owner. I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night, had vacations interrupted, and made many emergency trips to the shop when I’m busy elsewhere. Sure, you can scale up, so those things are someone else’s responsibility, but bigger business owners just have responsibilities and challenges that are more global in nature.
I wouldn’t trade it, though! I’m fiercely independent, and individual freedom trumps everything for me. We have so many opportunities in this country to build businesses that earn income and also do good in the world. That unlimited potential is very inspiring!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Plan for it and save for it. A well-written business plan, capital cost sheet, and break-even analysis are primarily for YOU so that you have a complete vision and understanding of your business. Saving is not glam, but it’s better than depending on investors or being super indebted.
- Implement solid systems. Without systems, your business won’t function well and will surely never function without you. I highly recommend reading the E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.
- Realize that your staff is your most important customer; without them, you are screwed. Hire intentionally, train well, and give them the tools they need to do the job well. Take care of them, and they will take care of the paying customers.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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