For our February spotlight, we spoke with Brennan Francis, co-owner of Brewed Awakening Vermilion, a local coffee shop in Vermilion, OH.
Brewed Awakening Vermilion aims to provide its town with a local, small-town coffee shop that centers on family. For more than three years, the coffee shop has provided “Great Coffee on a Great Lake” with a family-friendly and creative atmosphere where customers can enjoy pun-filled confections.
Can you tell me a little bit about Brewed Awakening Vermilion?
We’re a kind of small-town local coffee shop right in the heart of downtown Vermilion, Ohio. I was born and raised in Vermilion, and so were my parents. We all own the coffee shop.
My mom’s lifelong dream was to open up and run her own coffee shop. My dad has had other businesses, so my dad and I decided to bring her dream to life. We’ve been going strong for over three years now.
What was the motivation behind opening your own business and your inspiration for the name?
My dad had other businesses, and my mom always supported him. We knew her dream was to open her own local coffee place, but, Vermilion being the small town it is, downtown is a hard spot to find for business.
Driving through downtown with my dad one day, we saw a “For Rent” sign in the window of one of the little shops. We mentioned it to my mom, crunched some numbers, decided Vermilion was missing that local coffee shop, and it seemed like the right time and right place.
Our motivation was to give my mom her dream, and everyone worked really hard.
When it came time to choose the name, there was a big deal with it. We must have gone through five or six different names because we wanted something funny but catchy. We joked around with Rude Awakening, but we couldn’t do it for a full name. So, we went with Brewed, and customers really like it. It’s just a funny little pun.
We also came up with an abbreviation for it: BAV. It works well with our advertising and the little stickers we have.
What is your favorite part of running your own business?
I know it sounds cliche, but I think my favorite part is the customers. Ultimately, they’re my favorite. You get feedback on your own creation and your private joy. There’s just something about the positive feedback on the shop, the food, the coffee, all of it.
Every time you get that kind of feedback, it motivates you to keep moving forward. And even when the customers aren’t so nice, it’s more motivation to push ahead.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Right now, our biggest challenges are staffing and supply chain issues. Thankfully, we haven’t had too many staffing issues like everyone else, but they are there. With the supply chain issues, we have gone through about four or five different cups because everything keeps going out of stock. What’s there one week isn’t there the next. So, we keep going to different vendors and locations to get our supplies.
But, we’re adapting to changes like everyone else. For example, our bagels are actually New York bagels, and they need to be frozen through shipping. We created our own system where we go to New York and bring them back to circumvent the transportation issues.
Another challenge can be the taxes and the behind-the-scenes work that nobody sees. But, we tackle it, and Patriot has been a big help.
How does Patriot’s Full Service Payroll help you run your business?
You guys, by far, make it so easy. Not only are you local, but you’re also affordable. When we first started doing payroll, my dad looked for payroll providers and found you. We came because you guys were local, but you guys are great. And you’re great for small companies that don’t have a ton of employees. You don’t charge us more or extra for being a small business, and that’s been a big help.
Tell me about your process for coming up with your unique product names. What’s your favorite one?
My mom has taken over the creative side. She’s definitely a creative person. My dad and I don’t come up with too many of the names. My mom came up with the Lake Effect Latte because, for some reason, a white chocolate strawberry truffle latte reminds her of the sun setting over the lake after a storm.
So, she’s been the creator of the names. But more recently, we’ve been asking customers on Facebook to get them involved. They get a chance to win something out of it.
But eight or nine times out of ten, it’s my mom being creative. She hand makes all the signs in the shop, the menu design and writing, our monthly specials board, and all of that. She hand draws one side of the board out front, and people come up to take pictures of it or compliment the cool sign.
What are you most proud of when it comes to running your business?
I’m probably most proud of the fact that it’s all about family. We started with my mom’s inspiration. But the more her dream is fulfilled (and it’s gone beyond our expectations), the more we are. And, we try to treat everyone like family.
If an employee leaves, we wish them the best. We work with a lot of local college kids, and we wish them the very best.
We took the family aspect from the back of the business and took it to the front. That’s why we have games like checkers and tic-tac-toe and a kids’ section with toys and a chalkboard. COVID closed the kids’ section, but we’re hoping to bring it back. We also offer free books for kids to take home. So, we really push everything forward with family in mind.
Outside of running your company, what do you like to do?
We are the classic Vermilion family. We enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, and really anything outdoors. We go to the Guardians games and watch sports.
Another thing we like to do once a month is try something we haven’t tried yet. So, we go to local restaurants and things like that. We’re big on that.
Do you have any advice you would give to someone looking to start their own business?
The biggest piece of advice is patience. It takes a lot of patience to get something off the ground and have it start working.
So, take a deep breath, keep the wheels moving, show your passion behind it, and people will see that. It works out in your favor when you show your passion for what you’re doing. Even when you’re down and wondering if it will work, have patience and you’ll succeed.
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At Patriot Software, we’re committed to providing accounting software and payroll that lets small business owners keep their time and money for what they love: running their business! Our #PatriotSpotlight customer success stories celebrate and inspire U.S. small business owners across the country.