Brandon and I had a dream in 2007 to start a coffee shop. In 2008 we wrote the business plan and started working toward it. This was going to be a unique place that functioned more like a nonprofit community center but supported itself from the sale of coffee and pastries instead of donations. We worked our tails off, and in 2011, we opened the doors to the public with a grand opening and everything. The whole idea behind starting this venture is our mission in life to make the world a better place both for the people within our community and around the world. We wanted to prove that you could have a local and global positive impact at the same time.
As with most new businesses, it was a hard start. We worked long hours, and our personal profit and take-home pay were only the tips from the tip jar, for about two years. Absolutely, we were making a difference for others but didn’t even think about how much we might be on the edge of poverty ourselves. Plus, the long hours and little pay didn’t help when we went through the hardest six months of our lives. We had a cat die, my mom had a severe stroke, Brandon’s grandma died, I had a miscarriage, and Brandon had to go to the ER for appendicitis and get his appendix removed. It almost broke our marriage. Thankfully, we had good friends who helped us stay together but just barely.
Sadly, the thought of dividing the debt and business was unthinkable, so that could’ve been what kept our marriage intact for now. But we knew it wouldn’t for long. We started finding ways to have space for ourselves outside the business. At first, it was a weekly date night. Then it was a morning of solitude. Those small actions started helping us realize we needed to take care of ourselves, but it was a longroad ahead to get to a stable place.
Remember, we were still living on tips, so I actually took a w2 job to make ends meet. Looking back at my journal from that time, I was stressed and sick (literally vomiting) from the pressure. But we kept putting one foot in front of the other, believing the tides would turn.
In 2013, we started doing some documentary screenings to build community, talk about world change and hopefully, make some money. On July 23, 2013, the documentary we watched changed our lives forever. Our friend Mark who had an office down the hall from our coffee shop picked the doc and hosted the discussion afterward. When the credits rolled at the end, I was furious with him that he never told us what this doc shared.
We sat down with Mark and figured out what we needed to do based on the knowledge we just gained. We finally had a financial strategy beyond just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping the tides would turn.
The financial strategy we used involved setting aside money on a monthly basis for our long-term needs but keeping it accessible for any emergencies. I remember when we started, we had six months of those monthly amounts in our savings account. If we couldn’t increase our income by the time those six months were over, we wouldn’t be able to stick to the strategy. It turned out to be exactly what we needed to get clarity and priority with all the other parts of our spending, saving, and income producing. Especially, when we hit our first emergency and opportunity all at once.
It was the year Brandon turned 40. I had told him five years earlier that I would take him anywhere in the world he wanted to go for his 40th birthday. It would be his reward for all the hard work he’s been putting in. We decided to go to Ireland at Christmas, when we usually close the business for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We used the savings we’d been diligently adding to every month to purchase the tickets in July and got a great deal.
Then, at the end of July, we got several calls from our staff while at the gym after putting in our full day's work. I finally answered while on the treadmill and heard the barista say the place was flooding. I didn’t believe him at first, but he texted me a video and started heading to the locker room. I got the video as I walk/ran home in the rain. Sure enough, the place was getting soaked. By the time we got there, most of the place had water that covered my ankles. We did what we could to move and protect our stuff.
As you might imagine, we had to close and had a significant loss of revenue. Yet, we still had bills to pay.
Thankfully, we still had cash in that savings and didn’t need to go graveling to the bank for a loan or go into credit card debt to make it through. Turns out, I was a couple weeks pregnant during that time too. We found out in early September. The trip to Ireland became our baby moon. We came back, and on January 2, we sold our business.
Since then, we've continued to work on our mission of making a local and global impact while maintaining a healthy lifestyle for ourselves. Today, we look for new ways to take a step in a better direction with our time, energy, and our money. There's no more "Just put one foot in front of the other." Instead it's "What step would be best to take now?"
Amanda and Brandon