Client Corner: I Have a Bean
Pete Leonard is a seasoned small business owner, and since the beginning of his small business journey, has trusted SurePayroll with all of his business ventures.
With a background in software, and now a passion for roasting coffee, Pete is currently on his fifth and most personal business. As the owner of roasting company I Have a Bean, and Café On The Park, both located in Wheaton, IL, he sat down with us and shared the personal story behind these businesses, his experiences as a small business owner, and advice for those aspiring to open their own business.
I Have a Bean
When on a church mission trip to Brazil in 2005, Pete experienced the best coffee he ever tasted. A former lover of mochas, he began drinking his coffee black during this trip and loved the flavor. When he returned from his journey, he visited a local coffee shop, purchased a black coffee, and after one sip had to throw it out. He knew there had to be a way to enjoy better coffee, and started roasting his own coffee on a grill in his backyard. It was a process involved with various trials and errors, and eventually, with the support and feedback of neighbors, he achieved excellence in roasting. He would share the batches he roasted with his neighbors and one day was told they could no longer accept the coffee without paying him. At this time, he wasn’t roasting with the intent to sell, just simply make himself a coffee that he could truly enjoy drinking.
From there, the idea of I Have a Bean began. What is special about the mission of I Have a Bean, is that most of the employees are ex-convicts. Over the course of the business, Pete has employed more than 50 former prisoners. Inspired by the plight of a family member, Pete realized how many people struggle to find employment after their release from prison, and wanted to make a positive change in his community. I Have a Bean began operating in 2009. Until 2014, the company only sold roasted coffee beans direct from the roasting plant or shipped through an online order. That year, the opportunity for growth struck when the Wheaton Public Library was looking for somebody to operate a café inside the library. Pete opened Café On The Park and serves I Have a Bean coffee there.
Café On The Park is unlike other coffee shops. It is a place where anybody is able to go: the stay at home moms who take their children to the library for activities, business people rushing to catch the train in the morning, and college students studying for classes. There are other coffee shops in town that cater to a specific type of customer, but the goal of Café On The Park is to be inclusive of everyone.
There is a Method to the Madness
When running both businesses, Pete has a reason behind nearly everything that he does. Whether he is choosing espresso machines or plates for the café, or a location for the roasting plant, everything is given serious thought. When looking for a place to roast, Pete was initially searching in a different suburb that would have cost him less per month to rent. However, while this would have saved money, it would have hurt how his employees got to work every day. When people get out of prison, they typically don’t have the means to drive a car, due to lack of a driver’s license and financial means, and need to rely on public transportation. I Have a Bean is purposefully situated half a block from the bus stop, and five blocks from the Metra station, which ensures employees will have a stable way to get to work every day.
Advice for Other Small Business Owners
With so much experience, we knew Pete would have a few solid tips for other small business owners. First, the most important is to write a business plan. A good plan exposes many of the ‘gotchas’ and will lead to a higher chance of success. When creating a business plan for I Have a Bean, Pete said that he easily went through 20 revisions with his business partners before they finalized it. Additionally, there are three books he recommends for any small business owner to succeed.
- Hello My Name is Awesome by Alexandra Watkins. Watkins’ business is all about naming other businesses and products. At first, the company was known as Second Chance Coffee Company and because of his social mission, it makes perfect sense. However, Watkins pointed out that if people didn’t understand the mission, they were going to be confused and possibly turned off by the thought of “second-hand” coffee. She recommended the new brand name “I Have a Bean”. With this book, business owners will be able to avoid devastating naming mistakes and come up with the right name for their business or product.
- The Mission-Driven Venture by Marc J. Lane. This book is about a variety of social businesses, the problems they are solving, and how they work around the world. For those looking to start a social business, this book can help give you some inspiration.
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. This is how you market your business using the secrets Hollywood has been using for years. A compelling story always has a Villain, a Hero, and a Guide. With this book, you can build a story-brand that will make your customer the hero and get your company more sales.
What’s Next for I Have a Bean?
This year is the 10th anniversary since the official launch of I Have a Bean, and Pete has no signs of slowing down. Currently, when customers place orders, there is the guarantee that their coffee will be roasted that day and delivered (within 5 miles of the plant), shipped, or picked up that same day. The company ships everything via FedEx Standard Overnight Air to make sure its customers are getting the freshest roasted coffee possible. Order 4 or more items and that shipping will be free to you! Pete also understands the importance of personalization, therefore, on every bag of coffee delivered, the recipient’s name is hand-written on the bag and signed by the person who roasted the coffee.
Favorite Thing About Being a Small Business Owner
While being a small business owner is a lot of work, for somebody like Pete who has been running businesses for a long time, there is clearly a love for what he does. As a small business owner, Pete loves having the flexibility to do what he wants and appreciates not being just another cog in the wheel. He feels that the relationships and connections you make with others, including your employees, are more personal when you are operating a small business, and that’s something he really enjoys.
Ever since his first business, Pete has been using SurePayroll. He told us that he got in his businesses to roast coffee, run a café, and write software – not to spend hours on payroll. Anytime he needs help, he has experienced excellent customer service, and the fact that we “make it so stinking easy to run payroll” is why he keeps using SurePayroll and sharing with every business owner he knows.
Pete also sat down with us for the SurePayroll podcast Back of the Napkin. In his interview, he chatted with us about his small business journey, the inspiration for I Have a Bean, and his plans to expand. Listen to Pete's episode here.
Have a coffee itch and looking for more about I Have a Bean and Café On The Park? Check out both businesses here:
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