Couple pours cup of success
Brian O'Connor / The Detroit News
Five years ago, Nancy and Jim Goodwin discovered that coffee was the perfect pick-me-up -- for their careers.
The couple was living in Flint and working demanding careers. Nancy, now 60, was director of marketing for a credit union, while Jim, 63, was CEO of a treatment center for abused children.
After years of working, the couple decided to try something completely different and opened Goody's Juice & Java, a coffee shop in Manistee.
"Neither one of us had ever waited tables or even worked in a restaurant," says Nancy. "We were just ready for a change."
• Where they came from: The couple had moved to Flint in the late 1960s, so Jim could accept a two-year graduate placement in social work. That two years into 38 as they developed careers. Jim became president and CEO of a treatment center for abused children, while Nancy moved through executive positions with the Chamber of Commerce, a substance abuse treatment facility and a credit union.
Along the way, they discovered the town of Manistee, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They bought a small house in town as a weekend retreat. But as much as they loved the idea of moving to Manistee, transplanting their careers seemed impossible. "Both of us were very established," says Nancy, "but there weren't jobs here for our skill sets."
• What changed: Although he loved working with children, the grind of fund-raising and dealing with the reality of child abuse became wearing for Jim.
"I said to Nancy, 'If I stay in this field until retirement there's going to be nothing left of me,' " he says.
Nancy was growing frustrated in her job, too, so the couple started weighing other options.
• Moment of truth: The idea of a coffee shop seemed like one that would work in the town. The Goodwins talked about it to local merchants but thought they might have to postpone it until retirement. Then one Saturday in March 2003, they ran into the owner of a local CD shop who was closing down and moving out. The location, they realized, would make a great coffee shop.
"Before the weekend was over the owner of the building was in touch with us," Jim says. "The next thing we knew, we were signing a lease."
• Stumbling blocks: Over the next six months, the couple spent weekends going back and forth, toting files in the car and developing plans for the business, from choosing a name to creating the menu, as they drove.
They arranged a bank loan and put up some of their retirement money, even hired a consultant to get expertise on setting up.
The Goodwins even attended an international coffee trade show in Boston to find suppliers and pick the brains of hundreds of people in the business.
"That was like having all the resources we needed in one spot," Nancy says. "I believe in doing things right the first time. "I didn't want to learn by mistakes."
By the time they opened six months after the CD shop moved out, the Goodwins already had things percolating.
"Everything just fell into place like this was supposed to happen," Nancy says.
• Words of wisdom: Overall, the Goodwins say a new business owner can't be too prepared.
"Do more research than you think you ever should do," says Nancy. "Make sure you do it right the first time. Don't open up prematurely."
Another key they stress is making sure you can not only run the business, but finance it, too.
"You should never go in under-capitalized," says Jim. While the shop has never lost money at the end of the year, "It's not the same kind of money we were dealing with before," he says.
Another commitment is time. The shop is open every day, and even though they have 16 full- and part-time employees, both owners take different days off. It's only now that they are thinking about hiring a manger so they can have time off together.
Most of all don't be afraid to try something new. Nancy notes that before they opened the shop, she didn't even drink coffee.
"I never had good coffee," Nancy says, "and I just love espresso now."
You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.