(512) 887-2407 [email protected]

ActionCOACH WilCo – Andy O’Brien is proud to present his tenth “Business Owners Speak Out” interview series. This is a collection of short interviews and education from business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges. 

MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien (AO) virtually sits down with business owners to learn how they are working through COVID-19 and their current challenges and successes. Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic as well as ideas on how to avoid making common mistakes.


Key Palmer, Coyote Moon Coffee

AO: Tell me about your business.

KP: We are a Georgetown-based company. We don’t have a storefront. The way we got into business was my wife and I, when I was in sales [working] with national accounts with Orkin Pest Control and also government accounts with Verizon Wireless, any time we would travel we always went into record stores because I’m a vinyl junkie and we started thinking about what if we opened a place that was a record store. We thought, “Vinyl is coming back, let’s look at that.” Then, we both were talking about it and said, “We can’t. We need something that’s going to be foundational, monetarily.” Because, vinyl would maybe take off, but it’s not going to be what you should anchor everything on. So, we thought why not tie a coffee shop with baked goods that had a record store connected to it? The concept was called Groovey Bean. We started pursuing that idea and we were looking at getting coffee from different places [and] different roasters in the area and ran across Coyote Moon Coffee, which was in Georgetown and owned by a lady. We ended up buying the company from her and I came in and spent about three to four months learning what she had done as far as roasting the coffee [and] packaging it. Then, we went forward from there. Two years after we had it, we wanted to get some things ironed out and get the business going. Then we started looking at formally doing an SBA loan [and] we put together a 42-page business plan. We were a week away from that being approved through the credit union we were working with, and we had space ready, we had equipment about to be ordered, we had signage ready to go, and [then] they leased the space to another business the week before our SBA loan came through. We’re a faith-based company and we just felt like, okay, this wasn’t supposed to happen this way and we just took it as that. Yes, [we were] very disappointed, a little frustrated, but we started going a different direction. We just focused [on] keeping the business going, becoming more efficient, [and] selling more coffee. So, that led us to kind of where we are now. I’ve had the business for five plus years now, and with COVID-19 we had to reinvent ourselves because we were doing farmers markets. We had actually tried setting up at an area here in Leander as an outdoor drive up venue [but] that didn’t take off. So, we stepped back. I remembered working with Verizon and there were always food trucks that came to the office complex. So, I started calling office complex property [managers] and asking if they did that and they said yes. Then I told them about who we were [and] what we did, and by this time we had partnered with Russell’s Bakery in Austin to buy wholesale baked goods, and we started setting up on site at business parks with our coffee and pastries. We were just getting great momentum, and then COVID hit.

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

KP: COVID made us step back. When all those commercial outlets froze up, we’re like, we gotta step back. I was working on cold brew coffee at the time. I had gotten that to where I liked it and then I spent a week and a half getting the flavor the way we wanted it. We came up with a marketing idea, we came up with the packaging idea, and we made a formal launch on that. On the other side, we expanded our delivery to homes because people were working from home. We deliver [our] bagged coffee [and] cold brew to people’s homes with masks [and] gloves on. We started pushing that out through social media to get attention and do that.

AO: Who is your target market?

KP: I would say the people that appreciate our coffee. We have a very unique product; very unique in flavor. But I would say [the] general public because we do farmers markets, we’re now going to HOA locations, I’ve got us working with Lincoln Properties which owns the higher-end properties at the Domain, and we’re going in there and doing events for 150 people with pastry and coffee. We just kind of reinvented ourselves, turned a different direction. Now, we’re booking up to two weeks in advance, five days a week, every morning from 7 to 11.

AO: What mistakes have you made, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

KP: Mistakes we’ve made have just been trial and error. We think of an idea, we try it, it doesn’t work, we take what did work from that idea and try to evolve what the concept was and see if it’s really worthwhile and if it starts to improve and take off then we put more effort into it and go forward with that concept.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

KP: When I step back and realize that I have put more of my faith in my Savior and He has led me down this path. It just blows my mind that that is how we’ve been led; prayerfully considering ideas, making mistakes and getting hard-headed and thinking I know better than the Creator of the Universe, and learning a very hard lesson along the way. And, having a wife that has stood beside me when this thing wasn’t generating very much money, if any at all, and realizing and seeing where we were going with it and her being steadfast with us and now seeing that coming to fruition.

OFFER: Three 6oz bags of whole beans for $20.

How To Reach Us:

Key Palmer

Coyote Moon Coffee

coyotemooncoffee.com

[email protected]

512-868-2557


Theresa Brown, 3-D Realty Group

AO: Tell me about your business.

TB: My business name is 3-D Realty Group at Coldwell Banker Realty. I have been in real estate for about 15 years. I’ve been in [the] commercial construction side of the business for about 32 years. I started doing real estate back when my kids were sophomores [in] high school and that college bill was looming. So, I decided to start doing it part time and I just got so busy and so good at it that I quit my full-time job and did this. I’ve owned my own brokerage for about six years. But it got to the point where the overhead and keeping up with the tools and all of that was just more time consuming and I wasn’t getting out selling and meeting people as much, and the part I love about real estate is the interaction with the consumer. So, I took my team over to Coldwell Banker and [that] actually worked out really well because most of the Coldwell Banker offices here in the Austin area do not have commercial teams. My team is the only commercial team in the northwest office, and they feed leads from two or three of the other offices because they don’t have commercial agents either. So, I get a good portion of the commercial that comes through. I have seven agents underneath me on my team. I have been, on the philanthropic side, with the Austin Board of Realtors for quite a few years. Started out as a Housing Committee Member and then moved up to the Board of Directors for the Austin Board of Realtors Foundation and then moved into Vice Chair and then into the Chair Position. I love giving back. I love working with my clients and the referral source. I’ve been very fortunate that 98% of my business is off of referrals and always has been. [I also do] farm/ranch lots, project development, commercial build outs, tenant improvement, and auction sales/tax sales.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

TB: Early on, the impact was quite substantial. I had a lot in the pipeline and then everything just came to a screeching halt. I had two or three deals finish out, but the other six or eight dropped. We’ve been very fortunate in the sense of the shift from people buying in town [to moving] out to the outskirts. Since that’s a lot of my stomping grounds as well, and especially like these developments I’ve been doing, it really hasn’t hurt me too much. I have to say, the last four months of this year, if everything goes through like I intend, I may actually do more in the last four months of this year that I did all of last year. I feel bad for a lot of agents that ended up and are still not getting a whole lot of business. I’ve been very fortunate that I have some very strong pipelines and very strong referral sources. I think my team hasn’t been hit quite as hard as a lot of folks. Honestly, as a realtor, that’s why I diversify. That’s why I’m not in a niche market. One of the things my mentor told me very early on, and it’s the only thing I didn’t listen to her on, was [to] find a niche market and get really good at that. I never listened to that because I like the complexity of a lot of different things. And, the more complex, the harder it is, the more somebody tells me ‘no,’ that you can’t do something or build something, the more I’m going to dig in and figure out a way to get it done.

AO: What have you had to do differently to make a difference? It sounds like you were prepping long ago, not knowing COVID was coming. You did the diversification and like you said it’s not always about what’s going on today, but it’s what you can do to help them yesterday, last month, or last year.

TB: That’s exactly right. A lot of people don’t know what they want or what they’re going to need. What I have had come out of the woodworks here in the last four months is I have had a lot more clients, that have always just been residential clients, reach out and say, “Look, because of COVID I want to diversify my portfolio and start investing in real estate,” because of [the] stock market or their job security. They want to be able to have income coming in regardless. I’d have to say probably 20-30% of my clientele have reached out in the last several months. A couple of them we’ve already [gotten] some rental houses and a few more we’re converting in other ways. That I see [along] with people wanting to get out of the metropolitan city and get into more [of] the outskirts. People have found during COVID and self-quarantining, [that] they still need an outlet for their kids and themselves. So, being out on a couple of acres or being in an area that have ponds, walking trails, and you can self-distance, those are things that I’m seeing a lot more importance with my clientele more than anything else.

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

TB: My biggest mistake that I’ve made early on, and I just started remedying this a few years ago, was not keeping in contact with my clientele consistently; at least three or four touches a year. That was my biggest mistake on my client retention. I always have good client retention and referrals. However, I started making myself, and my goal is once a quarter, send something tangible to my entire client list, whether it’s a handwritten letter or like during COVID I did packs of seeds and virtual hugs and forget-me-nots and things like that, just to maintain my presence and my awareness in front of them. By doing that, my referrals have [been] probably 30-40% more than what I was doing before. I think that’s one of the key things that I was never taught to do early on. And, that’s one of the things with Coldwell Banker that they really emphasize; making sure you’re constantly in front of your clients. By me making the shift [and] taking my team to Coldwell Banker and having their powerful presence along with their tools, [that] has made a big impact for my life [and] my clientele. As far as the other part of that question: to learn from other people’s mistakes. Again, just not going into the niche market. A lot of agents, even in our office, because they don’t do anything besides residential sales, they’ve had to get on unemployment. So, it’s just trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and not doing them yourself. And, if you do, remedy it very quickly.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

TB: On a personal note, my grandchildren. Because of the way the kids have been affected with COVID and the sports eliminations and the isolation and having to have their worlds altered. And, they’re little and they don’t understand why they have to wear a mask everywhere, “Why don’t I get to play with my friends?”, and different things of that nature. So, I’m learning from them on how positive they’ve been. Just teaches me and my team [that] we just have to roll with the punches. So, we alter how we show; we do virtual showings. [Also] we have FaceTime. Thankfully, with the technology we can still complete our jobs safely. My grandkids, just the way they’ve stepped up and dealt with it, I wish a lot of adults would follow that positive approach.

How To Reach Us:

Theresa Brown

3-D Realty Group

3d-realtygroup.net

512-554-4429


Irene Selby, Cakes Chocolates and More 

AO: Tell me about your business.

IS: Well, even though I’m considered a bakery, I’m actually a cake designer. I specialize in three-dimensional custom cakes. I don’t do just standard cakes. I carve cakes into shapes. How I started it [is] I grew up in Venezuela and birthdays are a big celebration and everything is about the cake. I had beautiful memories when I was growing up of all the beautiful cakes my parents would have for my parties. So when I had my first child, I wanted to give him the same sense of memories that I had growing up. Back in 1995 there were only a handful of bakeries here in the Austin area. I went shopping around and knew exactly what I was looking for, what I was wanting, [but] I wasn’t able to find anybody that could envision what I was wanting. So I made it a point for myself to start baking three months before my son’s birthday and I did it. I just taught myself and from there on, friends, family members, everybody was asking me to do cakes. I ended up quitting my full-time job and I stayed home doing cakes. Then I opened my storefront back in 2004 and I loved it. I decided to close it down in order to spend more time [with] my kids. Running a storefront is a 24/7 job. At the time I was working so many long hours, so I found a way to mix my kids and my cakes at the same time because that was my passion. So, I did an addition to my home and I converted it into a studio and I made it into my workshop and from there on it’s history. I think it was the best decision I have ever made. Don’t get me wrong, I love dealing with the public on a daily basis and I’ve missed meeting new customers, but closing the storefront and limiting my business has given me a sense of relief and allowed me to spend more time with what I really enjoy doing and that’s creating the unique designs and spending more time with my family. A little bit that was helpful [is] I have a degree in environmental architectural design and that’s what I think inspired the artistic side of me.

AO: Who is your best customer?

IS: I consider all my recurring customers to be my best customers. One of my favorite parts of my job throughout the years [is] being able to create so many memories with the families which I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my passion for my cakes. If I have to narrow it down, I’d have to say that it’s the customers that trust in my artistic design and my ability to create what they want. As long as I have the trust, it’s great. That’s basically where my best customers are; my recurring customers. I have customers that have been with me since probably 1997, even before I started doing it as a business. I’m going through a third generation. I’ve been doing cakes for them, their children, and now they’ve grown up and they’re calling me to do cakes for their kids.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

IS: Well, oddly, COVID didn’t really impact my business to the extent I was expecting it to. I was afraid and my mind was going, “Oh my God, what am I going to do? My customers are not going to have big events because of what’s going on.” And, due to the way that I had been running my business since 2010, most of my clientele is repeat customers and mouth-to-mouth referrals. Now, yes, the last week of February and the first week of March my sales dropped a bit. It usually spikes up around that time after the holidays. But to my surprise, all of a sudden, even with COVID, my business grew all the way through May and continues growing considerably. The cakes have gotten smaller, I don’t do cakes at big corporate events, but demand is still there and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’m having to turn business away because I can only do so much. If I overbook myself or I take too many orders at once, then the quality of my work will go down and then I won’t enjoy it.

AO: Did you have to do any pivots in your marketing or are there any actions that you had to take in order to continue to have success?

IS: I’ve always had a protocol for prevention of cross-contamination, sterilization, and we do that on a routine basis and I keep logs of it. We already had in place sterilizing [and] maintaining a germ-free environment and those have always been major priorities in my business for many years. The only thing that has changed is that I no longer do one-on-one consultations or direct contact with customers. Most of my sales are done by phone, via FaceTime or via email. And, because most of my clientele is repeat customers and they know me, [and] they don’t mind it at all. I do get new customers and they understand the situation. The second action that I do is we wear masks. If we have to make a delivery, we try to limit the contact with the person. We call them on the phone when we arrive and if they let us into their home to set up the cake we wear gloves [and] a mask. We do everything that we can do to prevent any problems. I have to be decorating cakes, this is my livelihood, this put my kids through college, so I have to keep well and not get sick.

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

IS: Well, in my type of business, people come back to me because they like how I do things; the visual product. I’ve hired cake bakers [in the past] to decorate cakes, but they cannot visualize. No two artists visualize things the same way. You could describe something to me and I can see it in a certain way and somebody else can see it in a different way. So, I ran into the problem that when I would allow some of my employees to actually do the detail work on the cakes, it wouldn’t be what the customer was expecting. In order to keep consistency, I have to do most of the work when it is the detail work. I have people that help me with the baking and the icing, but when it comes to putting that design together, the customer expects what I’m visualizing. So I think my business has been successful because they know when they come to me, they know what they’re getting. Not only that, I deal with my customers one-on-one because I think that’s the best way because [if] they’re telling somebody, “I want this and this and this,” by the time it gets to me it might be something different and then the customer picks up this cake that he expects and we might miss something in between. Actually having one-on-one contact is one of the biggest things. I wanted to keep my business in a small business so I can have that relation with my clients and they can trust me in order to get the unique designs. Another lesson [is being] 100% confident in myself and my unique cake that I’m providing to the customer. If I have any doubts, I feel like I’ve lost the battle before I’ve even started.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

IS: Providing joy and making a storybook for my customers and being a part of all those beautiful memories and having my artistic design as their centerpieces. Hearing from the children that I have been able to create beautiful memories for through their childhood and now hearing from those children who have kids of their own. They’re wanting to create their special memory and this is what inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing; the memories. I’ll show up to somebody’s house and the kid is probably 12 years old and they’re waiting for the cake and say, “Irene, do you remember this cake you did for me when I was five years old?” Seeing the smile on their face, that’s what keeps me going. That’s what I enjoy the most.

OFFER: Receive a 10% discount when you call and mention this interview.

How To Reach Us:

Irene Selby

Cakes Chocolates and More

cakeschocolatesandmore.com

512-893-8845


Ike Thorpe, Galaxy Bakery

AO: Tell me about your business.

IT: We are a bakery. [This has] been my dream since I was as a kid because my dad always talked about opening a bakery and we never seized the moment. Our story is to restore goodness to Central Texas bakeries, [all] bakeries around the world for that matter because what I’ve seen growing up from when I was a kid till now is the adulteration of mass-processed, pretend, [and] fake food creeping its way into every part of what we eat. When you’re a kid and you have these nostalgic memories of going to a bakery and eating a whoopie pie or a cookie and they used real butter, real chocolate, real cream cheese, and real fruit. Then you go back when you’re an adult and [you] can’t wait to have the same experience, but [you] didn’t and you’re like, “What happened?” It wasn’t just a lack of nostalgia, it turned into an abomination. We decided that this has got to change.

AO: How long have you been in business?

IT: This is our ninth year.

AO: Who is your best customer?

IT: The butter lover, the people who believe in real fat instead of synthetic fake fat, and people who would rather spend a little more money for quality than get a lot of food for cheap. And, we can make nostalgia real and we can bring it back to all those [older] people [and] fulfill their pastry [need] with the real deal. We have six kids now and our dream is to have them all work for us, so if the world gets really bad, they can always take what they learned and [open] up a bakery somewhere else and bring food back.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

IT: Probably just discomfort. Nobody likes wearing a mask. That’s the biggest irritation, I think. You can see what’s happening all around with social isolation and the untold carnage, but in general, just the mask wearing. Having to work in a hot kitchen all day long and breathe through a filter, it takes a toll on you.

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

IT: We really haven’t changed that much. We try to help customers get over the fear of contagion, that’s a big one. As a business, we try to help people get back to normalcy as much as legally possibly. All you can do is [put] one foot in front of the other, live your life, serve people, still get out there and be part of a community, and not let fear take over and make you isolate yourself.

AO: Have you had a business strategy session?

IT: No. We have decided [not] to change our business strategy, it’s actually to maintain the same.

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

IT: Begin with the end in mind, that’s a really big one. Avoid debt because it can be detrimental to your productivity and your outlook. Focus on what’s really going to make a big impact on the outcome at the end. We use the 80%-20% rule, the distributive principle. We’re still growing, we still feel like we have 15 years of learning and growth to go. We don’t consider ourselves masters of business yet, but we feel like we are on our way.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

IT: The trailblazers, people who got off the conveyor belt of life. When people discount them and think they’re ruining everything because [they‘re] not going to become a lawyer or a doctor or a computer programmer, [but] then they do something that’s totally unorthodox and they really find something that they are happy doing and they changed a lot of lives in the process.

How To Reach Us:

Ike Thorpe

Galaxy Bakery

galaxybakery.com

512-868-0996


Shane Boring, SDB Creative Group

AO: Tell me about your business.

SB: We are classified as an advertising agency, and what that really means for our clients is they’re outsourcing the marketing department and we’ll come in and do a full marketing needs analysis. Most of our clients do not have a concrete advertising budget that’s working well, so we help them establish that and more importantly establish sales goals for the year. What differentiates us from some of our peers is we tell our clients, “This is how you’re going to measure the marketing and advertising. If the needle on sales isn’t moving to the right, it’s not working.” We need to have that so they can also see our value. Then, we plan, execute, create, [and] buy everything for them, so it’s all pretty much under one roof. Whether they’re needing a website, video, or need some graphic design for the sales department [or] they want to run a campaign on Hulu, or they want to do something with the Round Rock Express. When those thousands of salespeople call our clients, all they have to say is, “Hey, we work with SDB Creative Group, here’s their number,” and we take all that information and filter it out to see if it fits within the campaign. The main product we have is time. We give our clients their time back so that they can work on their business; on the important parts. Then we handle all the marketing for them. We’ll meet with them weekly, bi-weekly, or at minimum monthly, just to see what’s happening in real time [and] compare our data with what’s going on and see if we need to add anything new or make any adjustments.

AO: How long have you been in business, and do you have partners?

SB: On December 13th we’ll turn 15. I started this business in a small executive suite, all by myself, and I talked my wife into coming to work for me part-time. We’ve had to reinvent our business through this pandemic because there’s always new things happening with technology and marketing. So, even though the business is 15 years old, we kind of have a new look on what we’re having to offer every 2, 3, 4 years.

AO: Who is your best customer?

SB: Our best customer is going to be providing a service, whether that’s a professional service like financial services, elected medical, legal, or something for your home like plumbing, heating and air conditioning, [or] roofing. Those are the types of clients that we really focus our efforts on. We don’t get into retail, for example. Our strength is in clients that are selling a service [and] they’re typically established. We’ve also worked with some fairly new companies, which can be exciting if they’re willing to invest in marketing. So, our clients are service-related, they’re willing to invest in marketing, they know that they can’t effectively do it on their own, and they want to trust somebody.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

SB: The opportunity to significantly streamline and optimize our entire operation. We have offices in Midland and Austin, people all over, and around April we were having quite a bit of success with people working from home and actually felt like our productivity nearly doubled with not having the little office distractions. We’ve really been able to take a look at everything, where all the dollars are going, looking at our office space to see if we want to keep a suite or if we want to have people working from home, [and] looking at all of our systems [and if] they’re working. We’ve been able to do that more his year just because we’ve had more time. Most businesses are our clients and they’ve really been focused on doing everything they can to keep their entire staff not only employed but feeling valued and productive, so they haven’t needed us quite as much. Everything we do is on an annual plan, so there’s not much thinking that has to happen once it’s put into play. So, we’ve had a lot of time to look internally and make some good adjustments moving into 2021.

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

SB: Financially, we reduced our office space by about half. So we’ve cut the overhead there by half, which is nice. Also, it hasn’t launched yet, but I know it’s going to be good because a lot more people are starting a business or thinking about it, we’ve been working hard on a new educational program for new businesses and it’s just what you need to know and how to do it. It’s not how to make a complex video or website. We’re giving them the very basics or at the very least the ‘don’t do the wrong thing,’ because [if] you spend money the wrong way as a new business it can be painful and sometimes fatal. We just want to help people out and get them in the right direction where they can be successful.

AO: What mistakes have you made, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

SB: Well, mistake number one was not firing fast enough. What I’ve learned is whenever you have that question about somebody [such as if] they [are] still valuable to the team or they’re just not pulling their weight anymore [and] you just know something [isn’t] right, it’s time to let them go. The first time I fired somebody, I made the decision to fire them and then it took me a full six months to finally do it. It was six months of wasted salary, wasted time, [and] I had to redo [the work] they were doing. Next mistake, that’s related to this, is hiring too soon; hiring before you have a full workload. For us, we have people who may be managing programs for 10 clients, and in anticipation of growth and wanting to keep everything running smoothly, I used to hire people when we’d only be able to give them four clients to manage instead of a full workload. All that did was program them to not do a full workload. So, by the time we got to load them up with more, it just didn’t work out. Next [mistake], we have taken on some clients that we shouldn’t have, where we knew that their personality [or] their style really wasn’t a good fit for us, but we saw the money there. Probably cost us more over the long haul [with] just the time and having to deal with them and trying to keep them happy, when we knew in the beginning it was gonna be challenging and probably should’ve just passed on it.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

SB: There are several things. Number one is my sons work for me now in the family business and they are in the process of learning it where they can eventually take it over. And, I did not have to ask them to come work for me, they wanted to come, and they don’t understand how much that means to me and how excited I am about them being a part of the business and getting that extra time with them. Number two, it’s very inspiring for our clients’ businesses to be doing very well throughout this entire year and that they’ve continued to trust us to help them. Lastly, that more and more people are going to be going into business for themselves and there are a lot of great ideas for businesses out there and some really good people. So, it’s just inspiring to see somebody take that risk for the American dream.

OFFER: Receive up to $2,500 in creative credit with a one-year marketing campaign agreement. Also, visit thinkabetterthought.com to download a FREE workbook that accompanies Shane Duke Boring’s book, “Think a Better Thought.”

How To Reach Us:

Shane Boring

SDB Creative Group

(512) 596-0267

www.hiresdb.com

thinkabetterthought.com


MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien wants to interview you! If you’d like your business to be featured in one of our upcoming “Business Owners Speak Out” interview series, please submit an interview request HERE and a member of our team will contact you to schedule your interview.