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A Coffee Shop/Boutique Percolates to Success After Working with an SBA Resource Partner

Bethany Homrighaus, owner of Starfish and Coffee in Painesville, Ohio

Bethany Homrighaus' background in journalism, art and retail helped her develop skills integral to her entrepreneurial success. In retail she learned the discipline of hard work and the importance of good customer service. As a journalist, Bethany developed the patience and aptitude necessary to be a great researcher and writer--skills that come into play when promoting a business, replying to customer questions or concerns and communicating a company’s vision to investors and other important resources. Yet even with these well-developed skills, Bethany wisely turned to SBA’s resource partner, the Small Business Development Center at Lake County Community College, for assistance to open her business, and it is off toa strong start. Bethany projects sales will give her ample profits in the first year, thanks to her hard work and the SBDC’s help.

Originally from northeast Ohio, Bethany lived in Washington, D.C. for a period and worked at a bead store from 2005 to2009. The combination of her growing interest in unique jewelry and her natural creative abilities led her to create a jewelry line, Beethings Studio Jewelry. In late 2009, Bethany returned to Ohio and by 2010, was participating in art and trade shows with her jewelry line. Her entrepreneurial spirit spurred her to take things to the next level, so she began searching for locations to start her own brick-and-mortar business. Bethany considered many areas and the City of Painesville became more desirableas she became acquainted with city’s sense of community. She first consigned her jewelry in 2009 at a local art gallery and gift shop there and was slowly introduced to various contacts within Painesville’s Economic Development arena. She later joined the Painesville Farmers Market and became part of the Committee for Painesville’s Art in the Park.

By the summer of 2016, a building on Main Street became available and she and her husband, Austin Homrighaus, knew right away it was the building in which to start her new business. Bethany wanted to sell coffee and tea at her shop in addition to retail and the location was already set up with a bar/counter area and seating. But before moving forward Bethany required start-up assistance as well as basic information on commercial lending since the building itself, which had a 2nd floor residential apartment and an unfinished third floor, was also for sale. She just had to decide whether to lease or consider buying the building. Business Advisor Jim Gray and Assistant Angela Clements Cattell at Lakeland met with Bethany and discussed creating an LLC for her business. Bethany and her husband were operating as sole proprietors and Angela referred them to one of the many CPAs the SBDC works with to get clarification on the advantages and disadvantages of each. Jim, Angela and Bethany addressed other items such as an occupancy permit, vendor’s license, food permits, and other start-up requirements, including costs. They examined operation hours and different income streams including jewelry making classes. Regarding marketing, Jim and Angela advised on the importance of joining various small business groups, attending entrepreneurial networking events, social media, and the significance of exterior signageas it takes an average of seven times (marketing rule of seven) for someone to pass by and notice a new business before taking action and becoming a customer. They also reviewed who Bethany’s customers would be, including attracting Lake Erie College students with Wi-Fi and other items such as incense, candles and greeting cards.

As for the building, they discussed the costs associated with owning the building and potential rental income for the 2nd floor apartment and renovations for a possible 3rdfloor studio, and after careful consideration, Bethany and her husband decided to lease the first floor of the building. By October 14, 2016, Bethany Homrighaus realized her dream and Starfish and Coffee opened to the public. She works there full timeand plans on hiring part-time help; for now her family volunteers to assist in some of the day-to-day operations. As stated on Starfish and Coffee’s website, the shop has “an eclectic hometown mix of artisan and world-sourced jewelry from Bethany’s Beethings Studio Jewelry collection, as well as crystals, incense, global accessories and home décor, essential oil sprays, hand-pressed buttons and greeting cards...” The café offers locally blended organic teas and delicious pastries. Bethany's husband, Austin, moved his successful business from Chesterland to Painesville, and now uses the back space of the building for his business, Lake Erie Acupuncture. Jim and Angela continue to check on Bethany regarding Starfish and Coffee and offer any assistance she needs. As explained by Bethany, 'The main thing I received from Jim and Angela was confidence in moving forward with my new business. I know I can still go back for advice anytime. They are easy to reach.'

As of March 2017, Starfish and Coffee is doing very well. The customer base has certainly grown and Bethany promotes the shop with many evening workshops and live music on weekends. She continues to expand her outreach and involvement with the Downtown Painesville Organization and the City of Painesville. Her husband's acupuncture business is very steady as well and helps to increase traffic and sales. Bethany's advice to other entrepreneurs when starting a business is: 'Do as much as you can yourself to save money. Be resourceful and don't invest in useless things for your business. Continue to talk to other successful entrepreneurs in the area. Look for mentors and advisors like those from the Small Business Development Center. Above all, be flexible.' The Small Business Development Center atLakeland Community College is a great resource whose business advisors emphasize market analysis and overall business planning that will continue to change as a business grows. Bethany Homrighaus truly understands the amount of research and planning ittakes when starting and managing a business, and her hard work has paid off through the success of Starfish and Coffee.

During National Small Business Week 2017, the SBDC at Lakeland Community College was recognized for its outstanding work with the SBA SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award for Northern Ohio.

Company Name: 
Starfish and Coffee
Painesville, Ohio