I started a new business this year. Well. I took over a business from a friend. Two friends. They had this little café. They were moving away and wanted the café to continue.
They asked me if I would step in. I said yes.
How much backstory do you need? It’s a vegan café in a little Midwest meat-and-potatoes community. It operates out of a church basement. It’s pay-what-you-can. It came with a fully-equipped kitchen (circa 1940) and very low overhead, which is good, because when I agreed to take over I had no money.
As in, none.
But I really, really wanted to run my own business again. It had been four years since I’d closed my last business — a little café, coincidentally — four years of working for low pay for other people while I tried to figure out what to do with the remaining decades of my one precious life.
Running another café was not something I was considering. It was so far from being something I was considering that a few weeks before I agreed to take over this one, I’d had a conversation with another friend in which I stated categorically that I did not want my next business to be a food business.
At least I made the gods laugh.
Four years is a long time to wonder what’s next. Sometimes we need to be pushed along the path. I’m reminded of that question, asked of another woman, in another city: “What is your useful skill in a tangible situation?”
Me? I can cook.
Plus, I saw untapped potential, and that gets me every time. I look at a space and think, “If this were my business, here’s what I’d do.” I saw opportunity.
I also saw my friends working 12-hour days there and barely scratching out a living. That part gave me pause. That, and the church thing. Because I’m not a church person.
But the café had a loyal following. A few dozen regulars, a few dozen more who wandered in from time to time. I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
And the affiliation with the church was in the form of a percent-of-gross lease. A simple business relationship. I could work with that.
So I changed the name, changed the hours, prettied up the space. Cleaned and organized the kitchen. Worked out a plan of sorts. Brought my 21-year-old kid on board to help get things going. Started cooking.
For the last 31 days of 2017, I’m going to share the story of this café with you. Because I think it’s a pretty good story, and we need good stories, and it’s unfolding in this unlikely place, which might give you inspiration if you live in an unlikely place, or have no money to start a business but really, really want to, or don’t know what to do with what remains of your own precious life.
Or all of the above.
I’m barely a year into it, so it’s all a work in progress.
Everything that matters a work in progress.
photo credit: Daniel Knight Photography