Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elizabeth Reece, Owner of Star City Coffee, located in Lafayette, IN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Star City Coffee sells direct-trade specialty coffee and tea beverages. Our customers are generally grad students, business people, and residents of downtown.
Tell us about yourself
During my business undergrad, I thought about opening my own coffee shop. Despite years of planning and research, nothing quite seemed to be the right fit. In 2017 I worked as a kitchen designer, where I met the owners of a small coffee shop. I was so curious about the business that the owner gave me his card and asked me if I was interested in buying the business. I seized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and six months from that meeting, I took ownership of Star City Coffee.
The decision was a true leap of faith. I was fortunate to own my home, so I used it to buy the business. In the beginning, I was motivated to succeed just to prove I could, and losing my home may have had a bit to do with it too. As time passed, I developed relationships with my customers and community.
Eventually, my two sons began working for me, first as baristas and now they help run the shop. I am grateful for every day I get to spend with my sons. I never thought they would take such an interest in the business, but since they started, they have helped the business thrive beyond anything I could do on my own. They are my partners, and I am motivated to succeed so that they will also. The three of us have developed a family beyond ourselves and have a true connection with our customers. Besides our passion for giving our customers the best product we can, we also value the connections we have made and the welcoming atmosphere we have worked hard to provide.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm honestly proud that I have made it to the five-year mark. I have never owned a business, and the fact that I have made it through many mistakes and, of course, COVID, is a huge accomplishment in my book.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
My uncle had warned me that owning a restaurant would consume my time and wanted me to make sure I understood what I was getting into. At the time, I thought, of course, it was hard work, but I could do it. I can only equate his words of caution to giving birth. You know it will hurt, but until you go through it, you don't KNOW how much it actually does hurt.
I have had a love/hate relationship with my business from the beginning. It truly takes someone who loves what they do to continue to do it. It is hard work, a lot of stress and worries, and it can be truly terrifying when situations arise that you have no idea how to handle. It can be very lonely. When I feel like this, I have to remember that this was my dream, and it comes with the bad as well as the good.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My advice is not anything any business-minded person has not already been told.
- Although expensive, hiring a good attorney, accountant, and marketing firm will pay off in the long run. They will save you time and money because they already know the ins and outs of their field.
- Only work with people who make your life easier. It is hard enough to run a business without fighting with people who work for you. This includes employees, vendors, and anyone that you pay. If you have to deal with the stresses that accompany business ownership, you might as well surround yourself with people you enjoy working with.
- Don't get comfortable. As soon as you do, you will fall behind. The business environment is everchanging. You have to constantly be ready to pivot when the unexpected arises.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I am not the same person I was five years ago. I have learned so much about myself and my business. The greatest thing I have learned is that I actually know what I am doing, and I have good instincts. When you start your own business, you have to be confident that you are the expert in your field. You also have to balance that confidence with the fact that you will never be finished learning about your field. What keeps a business thriving is the pursuit of continuous improvement. You will fail, but as long as you learn from that failure, you can chalk it up to an investment in your education.
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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