Two years ago Anne Eakes launched The Busy Bean with a leap of faith, a leap that landed her at the regional office of the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in South Boston.
She considers it the best business decision she’s made for her coffee shop in South Boston’s downtown district.
“I did my homework,” Eakes explains. “So when a downtown business opportunity came along, I went to South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab and Destination Downtown Executive Director Tamara Vest to ask them if they thought it was a good idea. They are the ones who sent me to Longwood SBDC Regional Director Lin Hite.”
Eakes, who had opened an online home décor business her senior year at Averett University, was excited but nervous about expanding her business in a downtown location.
After her first meeting with SBDC, however, Eakes felt more informed and confident.
“I went to Lin Hite with a whole binder full of questions,” she says. “Lin gave me advice on a lot of things as well as information on people I could contact.”
Hite advised Eakes to target a specific market, to “find something you’re good at that other businesses don’t have.”
That something was coffee. The business Eakes planned to purchase had previously been a coffee shop — the only one in South Boston.
“We targeted coffee,” Eakes explains. “Then I thought, why not combine my love of home décor and handmade items with coffee.”
Eakes added attractive home décor displays for customers to enjoy along with their coffee — a combination that proved a success.
With an average customer flow of 60 to 150 per day, The Busy Bean was also a good name for the new business.
“On any given day I’ll have day traders, men and women’s Bible study groups, students or professors, and young moms with babies meeting for a play date,” Eakes explains. “My vision for this business was to create an atmosphere where friends could meet and visit and feel free to stay awhile.”
Thanks to advice from SBDC, that vision’s come to life.
“At an SBDC seminar I attended, we were taught to focus on customers,” Eakes says. “Now I train my baristas to pay attention to the little things, like greeting customers by name and remembering what they always order.”
As increasing business confirms, it was sound advice.
“The South Boston community has really embraced us,” Eakes comments. “To be honest, I haven’t experienced a real challenge yet.”
The prospect for more business continues to come The Busy Bean’s way. The SOVA Innovation Hub, future home of Mid-Atlantic Broadband and Microsoft TechSpark Virginia, is currently under construction directly across Wilborn Avenue.
“We’ve already been contacted about supplying coffee for both floors of the new building,” Eakes says.
Eakes currently employs nine.
“I never would have dreamed of owning a shop in my own hometown,” Eakes says. “I believe anyone can succeed in a small town, but you have to do your homework — that’s why I went to SBDC.”
“Owning my own business is a dream come true,” Eakes says.
Even the best of dreams, Eakes adds, requires a supporting cast.
“It was SBDC that got me off to a such a good start,” she concludes. “SBDC is still there for me. I’m confident as long as I know I can call on them.”