For the December 2017 edition of "Entrepreneurs Heart Greater Hartford," we spoke with Sarah McCoy, Co-Owner, and Michael Acosta, Business Partner, of Story and Soil Coffee.
Tell us about your business.
Story and Soil is a specialty coffee shop located in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford. It is owned by me, Sarah McCoy, my husband Michael and our business partner Michael Acosta. All three of us are Hartford residents and Acosta is a Trinity College alum. Our shop is a multi-roast shop meaning that we have relationships with some of the best coffee roasters in the country and will rotate coffees in and out depending on season, preference or taste. We approach our specialty drinks like cocktails, treating coffee like an ingredient to a bigger experience. Our shop is small but we are committed to Hartford and making it a place for people to spend time in and not just come for work and then retreat to the suburbs.
Why did you decide to start your business in Greater Hartford?
Our business is very much about our place in the city. It's a gathering hub and a place for people to discourse politics, art, events, or whatever else is going on in their lives. When I was growing up in Marlborough my parents took us to Hartford for the occasional show at The Bushnell or game at the (then) Civic Center but it wasn't a place that we would come to for more than that. Hartford is beginning to change though. Young people are moving in. Families are sticking around and there are a lot of people working to make the city better. We want to be a part of that.
How does your business impact the community?
Part one, our business wouldn't succeed where it is if Little River Restoratives hadn't come before us and Little River would have had a tough time if Firebox wasn't there first. Our shop, we hope, is a stepping stone for the reemergence of our block. One step leads to another, which leads to another. Our hope is that the commercial district of Frog Hollow would continue to develop so our block becomes a destination.
Secondly, our shop has become a meeting place for people doing business in the city. Just last week the Police Chief was in for a meeting with another city resident. The Mayor was in and plenty of people from LOB make us a part of their day before going out and contributing their skills to the city. I like to think that we are a friendly way to help people want to give their best to Hartford and Connecticut.
What words of wisdom would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who may be hesitant to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
Give yourself grace. Delays will happen. Things will come up. You may worry that you'll run out of money or that someone else will take your idea. If you continue to do the thing that's in front of you, eventually a path will be clear. I'm virtually certain it won't be the path that you thought it was going to be at the onset but the next step has always presented itself to us.
What is it like being an entrepreneur in Greater Hartford? What difficulties or challenges have you faced?
I think I was always meant to be an entrepreneur. I'm a jack of all trades kind of person and the lifestyle of getting to do something different every day is exciting to me. The best part of being an entrepreneur in the Greater Hartford area though is the community. There are so many small business owners who seek us out, who make us a part of their life and want to support us. Even within the coffee industry, we have strong relationships with other shops even though they're considered "competition." In reality, we all know that there aren't a lot of places doing what we do so it's wonderful to support one another.
One of the biggest challenges as first time business owners has been the lack of clarity when it comes to taking the next steps. Between building, health, revenue services, etc. there are a lot of bureaucratic arms at play and not a logical plan laid out for which one to tackle next. A road map, of sorts, would be very helpful.
What is your vision for your business venture over the next five years?
We would like to open another spot in the city. We would like to expand our food program. We would like to continue the dialogue about coffee in general. Why is there such a range in price? What part does season and origin play in a coffee's final product? Why do we brew by the cup? There are so many nuances that it would be fun to engage in more of those conversations.
This blog series, posted in partnership between HYPE and reSET, offers a platform to showcase the commitment that the Greater Hartford Region Entrepreneurs have for their work and this City. It will examine how young entrepreneurs have chosen their work, and give examples of the ways in which they are having an impact in their communities.