Coffee Shop in West Point Keeps Brewing Up Hospitality With PPP Loan from SBA

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Back in the olden days, a painted red door on a house meant that inside was a place where you can seek refuge. And that’s exactly what Red Door Coffee owner Lynsi Steed wants her customers to experience – “a place that is inviting and comfortable and inclusive to everyone,” she says. Red Door Coffee has long been a fixture in the small, rural town of West Point, Nebraska. When it came up for sale, Steed saw it as the perfect opportunity to take her life-long love of baking into a brick-and-mortar business. She never realized that she had an entrepreneurial spirit, but after “working all the years for all kinds of people in all kinds of places, [I} came to find out that I’m a ‘can’t do it your way’ type of person.” Steed decided to take some classes at a local community college and decided to start selling her baked goods out of her house to get money to pay for those classes. And with the baking came the eating, which introduced some health issues to the household. When she learned Red Door Coffee was for sale, she knew it was time to jump. “I didn’t want to give up baking, so I figured out a way to do what I loved to do. I knew that in our little town a bakery couldn’t stand alone. There’s no way I could compete, so I wasn’t going to go that route anyway. After all the research I did and selling the baked goods out of my home, I knew it wouldn’t be enough to support the brick and mortar and all the overhead it entails. The coffee shop was a no brainer in my mind. It just works.”

Red Door Coffee offers a full line of coffee drinks and smoothies, and Steed bakes all the pastries herself, many of which are from her grandmothers’ recipes, including her favorite one for Banana Pudding. Her best seller by far are her decorated cakes. “Everyone has a birthday and most of them want cake,” she says. And when they come in for coffee, “some people like to enjoy a slice of cake or pie that we make, so mostly a custom bakery is what I do. It really is perfect.”

But business ownership isn’t always perfection, of course. “COVID hit two or three months after I purchased the business and took it over. I barely got my toes wet and it all came down on me. All the things I prepared myself for, but that was not on the list,” Steed says of those hard times. “But we did it. We worked through it. Our business didn’t falter really at all – we are blessed to be in a community that appreciates their small businesses and didn’t want to see us fail. So, they did everything they could.” The Paycheck Protection Program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration also helped the business stay afloat. “PPP helped tremendously for the first [part] of COVID when everybody was a little scared. No one wanted to go out, or do anything, even go through a drive through. During those times where business slowed it was super helpful to know for sure that I could make payroll and purchase supplies and just take care of that standard overhead. I didn’t have to cut hours or let anybody go – I kept all my employees during that time, and they all got paid what they were promised, so PPP definitely saved that heartache,” Steed says.

Despite COVID, Steed believes that they have always been steadily successful, and she has advice to help other entrepreneurs become successful, too. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” she says. “Failure doesn’t come unless you try, anyway. Give it your best shot and do your due diligence. Know what you want to, make a plan, understand your market, and go for it!” The Center For Rural Affairs (CFRA), a microlending partner of the SBA, was instrumental in helping Steed plan the business and get a microloan, and the CFRA Women’s Business Center provided ongoing technical assistance. “Lori, [CFRA WBC] is one of my favorite people. She really walked me through step by step the entire process as far as requirements and the loan to purchase the business. Without them, I don’t think I’ve have been able to do it.” The WBC

helps rural Nebraska businesses by providing help with putting together business plans, financials and general business guidance. Lori, who provided WBC assistance to Steed, is very proud of what Steed has been able to accomplish. “She is eager to learn, and is not afraid to say, ‘hey – I have a question. She wants to do things right,” Lori says. “I helped her with forming her business plan, meeting with her, and utilizing our business plan template, and educating her. I told her your business plan is your business story – there isn’t a right or wrong answer. I enjoy what I do, and it just shows how much pride I have in it when I’ve seen clients that I’ve helped just flourish and blossom.”

In addition to obtaining assistance, Steed also advises entrepreneurs to have a good support group. “I’m so grateful for my family and my husband, and their full support in my endeavors. My husband supported me without any question or concern. His belief in me really did make it more than possible. Have a really good support group – people that are going to be there when you just need to cry because you’re so frustrated, or tell you that they’re proud of you.”

As for the future of Red Door Coffee, Steed is excited. They currently have four employees and are thinking about hiring a fifth. “I’d love to expand and open a secondary [location], she says. “Maybe within the next year and a half – I’d like to open in some surrounding towns.” Steed talks about how big coffee conglomerates often won’t set up in rural areas because there isn’t enough revenue for them. “In our tiny towns, there is a market and a need for these things. I have a good handle on how it works and how to make it work in these small towns. I’m not here to be rich. That was never the goal. I just want to be happy and make others happy.”

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.