Nov 08 2019

SBA Montana District Office Newsletter - Nov. 2019

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Montana District Office  - Nov. 2019

u s small business administration

Q&A with Veteran Owners of a Montana-based Coffee Company


Thad and Heidi Reiste, owners of Electric City Coffee Bar & Bistro, met while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Today, they operate a successful coffee bar and bistro in Great Falls, MT. By focusing on the quality of their product, leaning on their shared military experience and seeking guidance when needed, the Reiste family has created a downtown Great Falls staple that continues to grow.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently spoke with the husband-wife duo to learn more about their operation.

What made you want to start a business? How did Electric City Coffee Bar & Bistro come about?

Heidi grew up on a small farm in Indiana where families were close-knit and spent a lot of time supporting each other and the local community. Thad is from Great Falls, and grew up working around his family’s small business, learning customer service and how to become involved in the community as well. We’ve always had an underlying passion for small business, and we share a similar work ethic and sense of pride, so we compliment each other very well.

When a local Great Falls bakery/coffee shop was planning to go out of business, we offered to buy out the owner and purchase the equipment from them to get started. We decided to rebrand the business and change locations creating the “hometown coffee shop” vibe we thought the community would support. We have since added several other options to the original plan, expanding our menu and services.

What were some of the early challenges?

We had two primary challenges when opening a small business – the first was simply being new business owners and learning how to lead and supervise civilian employees (as opposed to service members). Civilian life has its challenges that we needed to understand and accommodate. It is much more fluid, and the structure isn’t the same, but we have grown and adapted to the new lifestyle.

The second challenge was understanding cash flow and building a budget. After several years we still are constantly watching cash flow and working to ensure we stay within national standards, maintaining a profit margin and compensating our employees in order to maintain a quality staff, offer quality products and provide excellent customer service.

How did your military background help you when entering the business world?
After nearly five years in the business world, we’d say the most important thing we gained from our military experience is team building. We have managed to hire very passionate and creative people to work for us. They support and contribute to our ideas and plans. Great leaders surround themselves with great people – we remember that daily.

What was your experience with the SBA, and how did the SBA help you?

Our first encounter with the SBA was a simple inquiry about our ideas and thought process behind opening the business. The folks at the Montana District Office reassured us that we were on track but had us perform an exercise to ensure we had thoroughly considered each variable regarding opening our own business. They provided us with a framework business plan which forced us to review each step of opening, operating and improving our business.

Several things were discovered during this process that we had never considered. They also had us focus our efforts on what we were each best at, ensuring we weren’t duplicating efforts throughout the business process. As we continue to grow we still use the SBA regularly to review the business’ progress, comparing it against national standards and considering new ideas and revenue streams.

How is the business doing now?

Over the last five years we have always shown profit and have grown from seven employees to 15. Our menu and services have expanded to include wine and beer sales, hosting evening events and offering later hours to drive more evening traffic to the business.

Great Falls, specifically the downtown community, has consistently supported us since opening day. We are now known as a staple in the community and a “go-to” location for many downtown businesses and residents.

What do you love about being business owners?

We love working with our regular customers and getting to know members of the community. It has been great to have a stable staff and working with them to grow the business so that it benefits all of us and improves everyone’s quality of life. We continue to encourage our team’s creativity and risk-taking in order to enhance their skills and customer service. We love providing a quality product to Great Falls!

Additional Headlines

Small Business Saturday, November thirtieth. Cosponsorship Authorization #19-2050-93.

SBA Montana Invites You to Participate in Small Business Saturday

As the voice for our nation’s entrepreneurs, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit each and every day. Our locally-owned small businesses are the heart and soul of our communities. These entrepreneurs are the heroes that sustain the local tax base, support our community non-profits and organizations, and employ thousands of our neighbors. Therefore, as part of our annual tradition, we encourage you to join Montanans across the state and “shop small” on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, to complete your holiday shopping (or to start your holiday shopping, as the case may be…)

On the heels of Black Friday, shopping small is a concrete way to support small retailers – the same businesses that generate two of every three net new jobs, and deliver essential goods and services to America’s communities 365 days a year. Learn More

Day 4 of National Veterans Small Business Week is focused on access to capital and disaster assistance.

Funding Your Mission to #VetBiz Success

Business ownership isn’t a solo mission.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a variety of resources available to support both current and aspiring transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouse business owners throughout their entrepreneurship journey. This National Veterans Small Business Week, find out how the SBA can help you during your mission to #VetBiz success!

Most missions need funding to be successful—and this is especially true when it comes to starting a small business. But did you know that veterans looking to start, grow, expand, or recover a business typically need less than $50,000 in capital? In fact, 51% report using $25,000 or less for startup or acquisition.

It may be time on your #VetBiz mission to start considering funding options. The SBA understands that accessing capital may be challenging for veteran business owners. That’s why we provide a number of financial resources, like lender recommendations and financing options, to help you get your business up and running.

Here are a few of the resources available to you...Continue Reading

Upcoming Events

Nov. 18: QuickBooks - What you didn't know you need to know (webinar)

Two CPA's (one retired) want to help you understand what a nice, clean QuickBooks Company looks like at year end. Learn what company tax preparers look for and what you can do to streamline your year end tax preparation and save yourself some money! Register here.

Nov. 20: Business Expo at MSU

This is a great opportunity for companies interested in growing their business through government contracts, grants, loans and exporting. Open house format. Government agencies and resource partners will be available to answer your questions. Learn more here.