We’re all familiar with the “pay it forward” concept–when the person ahead of you in line buys your cup of coffee. That $4 gesture can make your morning a little brighter and your smile a little bigger. There’s plenty of other ways to improve the lives of people around you, and it often starts with simply being kind. Megan Harden and Alex Pikul, cousins and Texas Coffee School Coffeepreneurs®, built their entire coffee business on this idea: introducing Fairhope, Alabama’s new Kind Cafe.
“Kind Cafe started with the idea that being kind is one of the simplest ways you can impact someone else’s day,” Megan shares. “Post-pandemic, I think a lot of us were looking for ways to reconnect. With the requirements that the coronavirus put on all of us in our day to day lives, it was hard to go out in public and feel anything other than robotic. We wanted to create a space that, when it was safe, made each person feel seen.”
With the Kind Cafe’s soft opening just a few weeks ago, Megan and Alex are learning to launch a successful cafe. Read more about their journey to create a generous and thriving coffee (and bagel) business.
Building a Coffee Business Concept Around Kindness
At Texas Coffee School, we place a heavy emphasis on a coffee shop owner’s why. A successful coffee business creates a unique business concept that helps build a solid brand and create community for a successful coffee shop.
Megan and Alex agreed on their why early on: that you never know what may be going on in a person’s life, but if you can have a positive impact, it can change the trajectory of their day. Over time, it could change the way they see the world.
“Having built this brand from scratch, knowing that we wanted to be able to spread as much kindness as possible, really guided our decisions as far as how we wanted the interior to look, what questions we would ask potential employees in interviews, and how we would present ourselves on social media,” Alex explains. “Knowing our why has become a compass for each decision we make.”
The company has been building anticipation since March. The cousin duo persevered through the construction process, developing the concept, and fine-tuning the product. And they incorporated the theme of kindness in their interactions with customers, employees, and local nonprofits.
“These first few days being open have been really exciting!” says Megan. “Finally opening and having all the people we’ve been interacting with virtually stop by has been really rewarding. Our employees have also really enjoyed being here, even during the busier periods of the day. So it’s nice to reaffirm some of the ideas we had about what this place would be early on.”
From Teaching and Software Sales to being Coffeepreneurs®
Megan and Alex were among the 44% of U.S. workers who planned to make a job change after the pandemic. Megan had experience managing a local business while attending college and then began teaching at a school in Colorado. She loved teaching but dreamed of owning her own business and using her creativity and problem-solving skills. Alex, on the other hand, spent nine years in corporate software sales and marketing. Come 2020, he yearned for a more purposeful life outside of only being in sales for the money. Alex had always had a passion for coffee, and a business partnership with his cousin was the perfect new endeavor.
The two offer very different, yet complementary, skill sets. Alex is the coffee guru who attended Texas Coffee School’s 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class. He also handles the shop’s public relations, point-of-sale (POS) system, and SEO. Megan curated the cafe’s interior aesthetic and manages social media and merchandise. She attended our 2-Day Barista Training Class to supplement her skills.
As Megan put it, “If I can wake up every morning for the rest of my life and go to work at this little cafe, I’ll be happy. And I’m not even a morning person!”
Fostering Community in a Small Town
Opening a coffee shop in a small town meant that Megan and Alex had to invest in relationship-building with three key audiences: customers, employees, and nonprofits.
A successful coffee shop owner knows that the coffee business means meeting a social need in society. To win, or even survive, in the competition of coffee chains down the road, customer satisfaction should be everybody’s business. Those few moments of service delivery are your shop’s make or break moment when reputation is either confirmed or denied. Guests come to buy coffee, but they also come to buy an experience. Focusing on a kind interaction with each customer will allow Kind Cafe’s new visitors to develop into regulars.
Kind Cafe is also placing an emphasis on employees–or the “Kind Crew,” as they call their baristas. Megan explains that she wants Kind Cafe to be a place where employees enjoy working and can foster their passions. A new rewards program exists for employees where they receive paid time off to volunteer with local nonprofits. Megan and Alex also host a one-on-one meeting with each employee every 30 days to keep the lines of communication open.
Lastly, the two owners raise awareness for local nonprofits, a goal the community has 100% supported. Every month, they choose a nonprofit to highlight and donate a portion of store profits to. Kind Cafe also hosts a table in the store to sell goods from local nonprofits. “We believe that if we focus on our employees, make a great product, and always make our best effort to be more than the sum of our product, we can make a big impact on the world,” Megan shares.
The Role of Coffee Education
Megan and Alex’s hard work, generous spirits, and coffee education are paying off with the success of Kind Cafe. As for the classes they took at Texas Coffee School,
“The information we learned was super helpful because it gave us a guideline for how to make and present great coffee,” says Megan. “It was an immersive experience that helped us to understand coffee in a way that we did not before. But I think what we got most from the experience was a network of other Coffeepreneurs® that we can always ask for help or bounce ideas off of. We keep up with Window Seat Coffee, Mango Tree Coffee, and many others that we went through class with, and their mentorships have been tremendous help in opening our own cafe.”
To see a list of upcoming classes and earn your own coffee education, visit https://texascoffeeschool.com/coffee-classes/!