Sarah Lieberman started her business in 2016 after initially moving to Houston to work in oil and gas. Growing up around the restaurant industry when her parents ran their own pizza place, Sarah was moved to begin her own venture. What started out as a coffee shop quickly turned into an elevated brunch spot that broke even within a couple months of adding food to the menu. Sarah even put her carpentry skills to work by building her own tables and doing maintenance on her own restaurant to save money.
With no familiar support in a new city and even less capital, Sarah tapped into SCORE mentorship for assistance, eventually meeting on a weekly basis to walk through the business planning process. Sarah found it difficult to access funding due to collateral and minimum loan requirements, especially as an applicant from the restaurant industry. After several rejections from banks, SCORE set her up with Bayou Micro Fund who helped her access the collateral she needed to get a loan. Through a combination of financing, credit cards, and personal savings, Sarah was able to get her business off the ground.
When the business started, Dandelion Café had about 3 employees. By the end of year three, the café had 11 employees and growing sales. To Sarah’s delight, sales were growing steadily at the end of 2019 and into 2020, then the pandemic began. As a restaurant, the café was part of the earliest shutdowns across the region and quickly pivoted to only offering to-go orders. During the slower months, Dandelion Café underwent updates to the kitchen that helped streamline processes and reduce ticket times by half. Eventually, business began to pick up pace as patrons grew tired of pandemic restrictions and ventured out of their homes to familiar settings. During the pandemic, Sarah was able to access funding through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program to recover from the tougher months of the crisis. Without funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, Sarah stated that she would have had to layoff employees and tap into her own savings to keep the business afloat.
Since 2019, Dandelion Café has increased sales by 200%, and Sarah Lieberman is currently a participant in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders initiative, an Executive-level series designed to accelerate the growth of high-potential small businesses. As for her advice for other entrepreneurs, Sarah says that business owners must be driven. “It [entrepreneurship] is all based on self-motivation. If you don’t have it, you’re going to give up,” said Sarah Lieberman. Having a strong support system and learning how to manage people are other tips Sarah shares with entrepreneurs. For her, there is a sense of accomplishment in entrepreneurship and knowing that eventually the dream of having “CEO freedom” will be a reality. After planting roots in Houston and starting the business from the ground up, Sarah now takes pride in seeing her restaurant full of strangers and knowing that she created something special.