Name: Marie Schlump
Business/Location: Cafe Xpresso/Newtown, CT
Specialty: Specialty coffee and from-scratch kitchen
What problem does your business solve?: We provide a warm inviting place for the community to meet, and we're known for healthier food choices.
What’s your story?: My husband, Bob, and I wanted to open a coffee shop in the area because there were no other independent coffee shops around--only big chain outlets. Both of us are foodies, and we decided we also needed to have some high-tech equipment in our kitchen because we knew we needed to serve food with our coffee. We didn't want to serve food we wouldn't eat, and so the larger kitchen operation was born. In the kitchen, we do our own baking and roast our meats for sandwiches. We also make the dressings, too.
We have one main goal and that is to make the finest, freshest, most skillfully brewed coffee available in the area. What sets us apart is experienced, local roasters, an unsurpassed coffee selection process and our emphasis on freshness. Our coffees are roasted weekly in small batches, because it makes a huge difference. They are also available wholesale to other restaurants to serve to their diners.
One piece of advice you have for other food entrepreneurs: I tell food entrepreneurs to be passionate about what they choose to do; there are a lot of highs and lows in owning your own business. You really need that deep passion and commitment to make it through. Also, I tell entrepreneurs to not plan other major life moves like marriage, babies etc. until the business can stand on its own. We were open almost three years before we stopped feeling like we had to be working 6-7 days a week.
What do you wish you had known before you started your business?: I wish I had known how much money it would take to survive the first two years. We planned and planned and then added about 20% more money for the first year, but the second year took a lot more money, too. We needed to cover payroll, pay for marketing and advertising, and carry on operations when sales weren't fully where they needed to be. And, of course, you can’t plan on paying yourself for quite a while.
What’s your greatest challenge in your business and how are you overcoming it?: For our area, the greatest challenge has been new competition coming in to the area. Since we opened in 2015, there are about 14 new restaurants that have come on to the local scene. The first one or two didn't have much impact, but now with 14 new places to eat and even if they each only take 1% of our customers, that's a big hit. We've been overcoming this challenge by going back to grassroots marketing in the community and stepping up paid marketing on social media.
What are you most proud of about your business?: This year, we were named "Best Coffee Shop" in the CT Magazine's Reader’s Poll of best restaurants in the state.
What do you love most about being a food entrepreneur?: I love creating new things or menu items and seeing how our guests like our offerings. No two days are ever the same, and there are always obstacles to overcome.