Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.
Connecting with other small business owners in your community can go beyond networking and referrals. Establish meaningful relationships with other entrepreneurs can also lead to bringing in valuable local suppliers who can help improve your business. This strategy became a critical part of Cincinnati Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse‘s corporate structure.
As a co-owner of the business and a black woman, Taren Kilebrew is very thoughtful when it comes to choosing her business partners, making sure their practices and values align with hers, along with the coffeehouse’s vision of love and spreading inclusion.
“Anything we can specifically get from a small business owner, we will. We’re really looking for women in particular. All of our artwork in the store is by one artist, and it’s a woman. And we know her. We’ we’ve sold a lot of her art, so we’re very intentional that way,” Taren said.
“Even some of our tea is from a woman-owned company. It’s called our Healing Tea. People love it [it]. We thought about health – because we’re older, we’re in our 50s – and we wanted to make sure that as we progress in life, everyone is progressing in life.”
Care and concern for the community is a central principle for Cream + Sugar, which is evident in the many ways they support the people of Cincinnati, including the quality of the food.
“We wanted to make sure with our food, because we love food, that people feel good about eating what they ate. We care about women’s health most of all – diabetes, high blood pressure. And specifically for the black community we just wanted to let people know, ‘Hey, you don’t have to eat meat at every meal.'”
While gently educating her neighborhood about healthy eating options, Taren is also preparing the next generation for business success with an active coffeehouse internship program to help young people find their entrepreneurial spirit. The location of the store was even chosen partly because Taren’s business partner used to live nearby and still had family there.
Familiarity sets the tone for the store in this case. To keep that spirit alive, Taren creates a welcoming atmosphere that begins with its staff, some of whom are students at nearby Xavier University.
“It’s all about camaraderie and allowing people to be pretty much the essence of who we are,” she said. “We haven’t had a lot of turnover. And we realize this isn’t anyone’s career. So usually we can keep people on for a year, which is pretty good. And then if we keep them longer, that’s always great.”
The atmosphere has picked up a bit Bailey DixonCincinnati from Yelp community manager, for the first time to Cream + Sugar. “The coffee was fantastic, but any place can serve good coffee,” Bailey said. “Not just any place can make you feel welcome, like everyone is invited and can experience this and be somewhere and enjoy something. So that was the first time I came in here. because the wifi is fast and the food is delicious.”
With a 5-star rating, Cream + Sugar is currently a hit with reviewers. As a small business owner, Taren understands the importance of reviews but tries to keep the positive and critical feedback in perspective.
“I think reviews are important. They can make or break a business. I’ve had a bad review, but I knew where it came from. And at the end of the day, when I see one or two stars, the number is very minimal ,” said Taren, pointing out that even if she gets a 1 or 2 star review, there are dozens more praising her company.
Taking criticism in online reviews with a grain of salt is a healthy strategy, according to Bailey. “I work with entrepreneurs every day. I’ve heard the stories of, ‘Oh, I got a 1-star review,'” she said. [them], look at all these positive reviews. Look at all these great examples of what you do and the people you’ve touched with your products and your services and your food and your story.”
As many entrepreneurs know, start a business comes with its ups and downs, but meeting each challenge can open up new opportunities for growth.
More lessons Taren shared that may be helpful for your small business include:
- Keep your recruiting practices in perspective. When hiring, it helps to remember that this isn’t necessarily a career for your employees. Hire and train accordingly and be prepared for turnover.
- Share positive reviews with employees. Raising morale can be as simple as letting staff know their work is being recognized. Make sure employees know they are valued by sharing positive reviews and other customer feedback with them.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to keep things simple. A streamlined menu allows Taren to focus on quality ingredients and be cost efficient.
- Share what you learn with others. As a black woman, Taren wants to uplift other black women entrepreneurs and pass on things she’s learned over the years. Guiding others and making a positive impact can create a lasting legacy.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Taren and Bailey and subscribe Behind the review for more information from new entrepreneurs and reviewers every Thursday.