How One Local Business Owner is Building a Community… and a Thriving Business
As we take a step back to look at what is important these days, would it be fair to say that building a strong, interactive community carries some weight? The founders and the team at Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst, IL think so. So much so, it was a major driving force behind their decision to start the business 3 years ago.
Melissa Villanueva and her now husband, Angelo, met not long before the business they became mutually passionate about launched into coffee house lore. Melissa, then in her early 20’s, had been working the traditional corporate job like so many of us do right out of college. There she was, performing well, building someone else’s dream. Feeling a bit unfulfilled, and a tug deep down inside to get to know herself better, Melissa decided to travel to her ancestral country of the Philippines. Not a surprising move by a philosophy major…
During her time in the Philippines discovering her roots and rediscovering herself, Melissa took note of the strong sense of community deeply instilled in the towns and neighborhoods she explored. She witnessed first hand the strength that an emotionally connected community exudes through the attitudes and actions of those residing within. In a country routinely plagued by devastating typhoons, Filipinos have an almost innate attraction to maintaining a strong community that ultimately provides resilience to handle any storm.
Armed with an overwhelming feeling that she wanted to instill this everlasting community vibe in her own backyard, Melissa packed her bags and came home. Knowing that businesses possess an inherent ability to impact their customers, surroundings, communities and beyond, Melissa thought long and hard about what type of business she could create at a grassroots level to make an impact.
As with just about any startup business, defining the mission is often the first step. With her newly discovered inspiration, the mission was simple to convey: to create and empower authentic community spaces. Now, where and how to implement it… So, what long time indulgence staple (and for many of us, a requirement) do people often tend to sit down to, converse over, and have memorable meaningful discussions and where do they do it? Coffee and coffee shops.
Idea for delivering on the mission? Check. Next hurdle? Melissa’s first thought was, “but, I don’t know the first thing about creating great coffee or running a coffee shop.” Obvious next step, put ideas down on paper and formulate the beginnings of a startup business plan. Oh, and check out Craigslist for used espresso machines to start to tinker around with and hone the barista craft. With most great ideas, and along with the hard work comes the need for a little luck. And, that’s just what Melissa got in her search for finding that espresso machine. What she found instead was an existing local coffee shop business for sale.
“We were terrified, but had a sinking feeling this was the right thing to do."
In a leap of strategic faith and with her then boyfriend, Angelo, by her side, they set up a meeting with the current owner of the coffee shop to talk about purchasing the business. As Melissa put it, “we were terrified, but had a sinking feeling this was the right thing to do.” They all sat down together and chatted through important questions. Like, why is the business for sale? What are some of the challenges being faced? Melissa and Angelo left that meeting with a lot to consider. They spent the next few days digging deep to find the courage to move forward with a vision they were passionate about through a business they had no history in. Passion won.
Working through the Early Stage Company
Hitting the fast forward button a little bit here… Melissa and Angelo, built their team and created a company culture that truly embodied the essence of their mission. “We want to create spaces where people feel welcome,” Melissa said. During the early stages of the company, Melissa accentuated that warm feeling by often making bacon and eggs in the morning for her team members. Uh…, yes, please! Nowadays she admits, it’s hard to find time to crack that many eggs for her growing team and burgeoning business. That said, Melissa believes it’s crucial to be present with your team and those you are working with. Losing that camaraderie with a team you’ve built is a sure fire way to break down the fabric that helps to bind your success. “This is one of the business challenges we face,” stated Melissa.
“We want to create spaces where people feel welcome!”
To further the community mission, the Brewpoint team partnered with the local Elmhurst Public Library where they offer up some cool extracurriculars like teaching people how to stitch and knit - all done right at Brewpoint’s original location. One of Brewpoint’s team members started a book club as well. This helped to pave the way for the opening of the Lexicon Cafe managed by Brewpoint at the Elmhurst Public Library. It also provides a little reading fuel for all those voracious readers out there! They’ve got a board game night too that’s a big hit! Every Thursday night from 630 - 9pm you can pop in and join the fun. Bottom line, Melissa is delivering on her mission to create and empower authentic community space.
The original Brewpoint Coffee shop and the Lexicon Cafe appear to be just the tip for Melissa and the Brewpoint team. They just started renovation on a 3rd location in Elmhurst that will include a roastary. Melissa said, “Our aim is to wholesale our coffee beans and products to other coffee shop owners in hopes they’ll too find a way to empower authentic community spaces”.
“We decided we wanted to leave the world a little bit better than before we had came into it”.
Advice to other Startup Founders
While they are growing fast, Melissa still maintains the mindset of what got the business to where it is today - never forgetting the reason for the venture and truly connecting with those who helped to build it.
“Have confidence in yourself,” said Melissa. “Other people have taken risks in business and been successful, so can you,” she said. Melissa said she takes time to meditate to remind herself in her mission, in her and her team, and that good things are worth fighting for in this world. Solid advice.
Melissa ended by saying, “We decided we wanted to leave the world a little bit better than before we had came into it”.
Written by Matt Scales