Theresa Held began working at AJ’s Java Joint in 2002, and when the owner approached her about purchasing the business in 2005, she was ready for the challenge. She has made lots of changes and improvements since she took over ownership.
Making Big Changes
Her first move was to update the business name to Bean Juice Coffee Roasters and Espresso Bar when she added an in-store coffee bean roaster. Adding wholesale accounts helped Theresa grow the business as well. She also expanded the space, nearly doubling the square footage of the coffee shop.
Patrons love the new space! They come in to read the newspaper, enjoy conversation and sip good coffee. Theresa described the feel as a “comfortable, welcoming ‘second family’ environment where customers know each other.” She said there is no pretention here and she extends that idea of treating people well to her hiring practices.
Theresa teared up when talking about her staff and community. “They are like family. I’ve seen my employees through organic chemistry homework tears and helped them with other real life setbacks. When I was hit by car in January of 2017, they stepped up while I was in the hospital. The community really rallied during my recovery.”
Tough times for the business also included flooding, a fire and equipment failure, but still Theresa prevailed. She learned to do what maintenance she could on her own and found ways to free up some of her time.
She sells baked goods at the shop through a partnership with Meringue Bakery. Jennifer Barney was a former employee at the coffee shop and a few years ago won a Food Network competition for her delicious bakery items. Selling Meringue Bakery items is a time-saver for Theresa since she no longer needs to do all the baking herself.
In 2018, Theresa had a passion to grow her small business even more but was in need of a plan and a specific focus. Jennifer Barney, who was also an SBDC client, referred Theresa to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). There she met UW-La Crosse SBDC Consultant Terri Urbanek. Theresa said of her mentor, “She has a gift! Terri wants to help you! She asks the right questions and provides links to amazing resources.”
Together, the two worked on financial projections and ideas for how to reach goals. One big step toward success came in February 2019, when Theresa replaced the existing coffee roaster with one offering more than triple the capacity. The original machine could only roast a small amount of beans at a time, so Theresa was roasting every day. “Instead of being limited to roasting only 3.2 pounds of beans at a time, I can now roast 12 pounds in the same 15-minute timeframe.”
Accomplishments with the UW-La Crosse SBDC:
- Financial projections
- Short- and long-term goals
Continuing to Grow
Theresa wants to continue to grow the wholesale side of the business, distributing to larger audiences. So, Terri at the SBDC introduced her to marketing students at UW-La Crosse in the Spring 2019 semester. Students formed teams and researched the wholesale market and potential for growth.
They developed an integrated marketing plan as well as advice on what types of media to use and how. Terri also introduced Theresa to a local marketing director at DigiSage, Sarah Arendt-Beyer. Sarah is currently working with Bean Juice, who up until now have only used word-of-mouth promotion, to improve their marketing efforts.
The future looks bright for Bean Juice. Theresa would like to add five more wholesale clients by the end of 2020, and maybe even five additional in 2021. Theresa commented on the whole idea of business ownership, “I am very lucky to have met, and continue meeting, the right people at the right time.”