Hey, I’m Kazimir Koehring, an incoming sophomore at Wabash College. Thanks to the Small Business Internship Fund, I am currently enjoying my summer 30 miles out to sea on the elegant island of Nantucket. Jason and Courtney Bridges of The Handlebar Cafe hired me as a marketing intern but I can say I knew, just from the interview, that this internship was going to be so much more than marketing. During the first month here, I have learned SO much about coffee. In reaction to this new coffee knowledge I know that I’ll be walking down the coffee aisle one day and our head barista Hannah will pop into my head convincing me not to buy pre-ground coffee and listing all the reasons why. From latte art to adjusting the espresso grind, Hannah has taught me everything I know about coffee and it has blown my mind.
Speaking on the Handlebar’s employees, Hannah is perfect for Jason and this business. Driven and devoted to coffee, Hannah is specialized enough for Jason to be able to trust her to make important decisions concerning the coffee Handlebar is serving. This consistency creates a quality product and gives Jason a chance to commit more attention to other components of the business. Having this specialized knowledge, Hannah is also able to train people like me: someone who has no prior knowledge in coffee. Thanks to Hannah, Jason’s philosophy on hiring is now based on potential for growth. He sees the constant customer interactions at the Handlebar as strong learning points for any employee. Making espresso drinks can be learned but being able to engage others and being nice is something that is built into one’s core.
When running a small business there are several components that need to be accounted for that may otherwise be overlooked by customers. There are the previously stated parts, such as having strong employees, that are necessary to run a successful business and then there are parts that are essential to any business. Paying rent, keeping a steady product supply, having an opening/closing procedure, and scheduling are just several of the overlooked components within a small business that I’ve seen so far. Since myself and two other Wabash men are living with Jason and Courtney, we hear about these overlooked instances on a daily basis. For a small business to even have a chance, there needs to be a strict awareness for the little things. Once the little things are taken care of there are more opportunities to look at the bigger picture and search for expansion.
While learning about the essentials and necessities of a small business, I see many opportunities for the Handlebar to grow. One of those is through community outreach. The Handlebar is “a community space disguised as a coffee shop,” and we have to work hard to uphold this statement. We get out in the community and volunteer as we will for “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” that takes place on June 29th and as we have already for “Bike Nantucket.” We also get out and run every Tuesday night for Brant Point Runners Club.
Along with volunteering, we uphold our community space by establishing a strong social media presence. We show support for events and groups on island, such as The Nantucket Film Festival and the Maria Mitchell Association, by posting pictures that have the potential to bring business to both parties. Without this collaborative attitude in Nantucket, it would be difficult for us to accomplish a community space disguised as a coffee shop; but when you walk into the Handlebar, you can just feel it.
When I am not working on the floor being a barista or cashier, I am searching for new ways the Handlebar can maintain its goals as well as advance them. Along with finding events to hold outside of the Handlebar, such as the sunscope, and finding creative posts to support local events, such as the Espresso Film Reel, I am also looking into how the Handlebar can expand. I want to pursue expansion because I see opportunities where the Handlebar can thrive. Some of these ideas will take substantial amounts of money that a small business might not have. I have to do baseline research and present a plan before these ideas can begin. This is a difficult task for me, but I am looking at this as a possible larger project that can challenge me and produce results for the Handlebar.