Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Brian McMenamin, Managing Partner of Mello Beans Coffee, located in Virginia Beach, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a roast-to-order coffee company focused on building a community around coffee. We provide world-class coffee products to thousands of different people annually. Our full-service mobile coffee shop was hand built in 2021, serving the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. Our customers enjoy great coffee and espresso drinks. We are privileged to be able to serve them.
Tell us about yourself
I first started roasting my own coffee and sharing it with friends. Educating them on the benefits of freshly roasted coffee that you cannot find sitting on the shelves. The taste speaks for itself. No bitter aftertaste, just smooth Mello coffee. My biggest motivation is the independence to make decisions, whether right or wrong; I learn something new every time.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being able to take a 1995 Ford Van and converting it into a mobile coffee shop. That coffee shop served over 8k people in 2022, sponsored a little league baseball team, and was 100% compostable. Being the only mobile coffee truck in the area has been a bit of a challenge to try to coordinate and build out a support network. The food truck industry is a community in and of itself. The coffee community is another amazing group of people. We are fortunate to be a part of both.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
All the different elements come into play. Scheduling events, staff, accounting, business licenses, permitting, and product inventory. I never anticipated that it would be as involved in so many different elements. A lot of lessons were learned, but overall, it has been worth it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Understand your market, your product fit, and have a story. Our story grows every day with all the customers that we teach. We were entirely self-funded and still are, so it has been a struggle from a financial perspective.
- Build a team. Despite what you may think, you cannot do it all yourself. My family and I bear a lot of the burden for the behind-the-scenes work, but our team of accountants, lawyers, baristas, mechanics, electricians, and plumbers are the backbone of our operation. Build the team and take care of them. People want to be a part of something more than just a job.
- Word of mouth is the best marketing. It is super challenging at first. We said "Yes" to every opportunity we could find, but that is not sustainable. At some point, you will need to find opportunities that are worthwhile and hold on to those. Build relationships, and people will keep your business growing without having to pay an outrageous amount of money for marketing.
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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