• Sara Holmquist

On Running a Business in a Small Town

So this is a topic that I've wanted to talk about, but kept telling myself people weren't really interested in, and I think I should probably just talk about what I feel like talking about (which - side note - will never be politics because I have those conversations in real life, not on the internet, you're welcome), so here we go.


Josh and I met in college, and we've always joked that I was just there for my MRS degree and not animal science since I've never worked in the field. We were married a month after I graduated and pregnant within six months, and then I was a stay at home mom. Anyway, from the beginning we wanted to work together. We wanted to build a business, and at the time, we thought that would be an electrical company since those were his majors. I just wanted to run the office and support him while raising our babies.


We tried that electrical business thing and it flopped.


Then God plopped Normal in our laps and here we are. He's full time in the roastery, running the day to day operations, I'm acting as CEO of our business while hanging out with those babies who (plot twist) aren't babies anymore.



I mean, I know this is a unique thing. We're running a business that belongs in a big city in a tiny town in rural Nebraska. There are more cows here than humans (by a lot). A lot of people here buy their coffee based on the quality of the can it comes in and how well it will hold screws in the shop when the coffee is gone. I could talk all day about converting cowboys to a wild, fruity Ethiopian coffee from their old can of Folgers. I could also talk all day about how God changed our plans for where we would live and what I would do, but we know He has us here because this is where He wants us. But this conversation is about thinking big while living small.


Thinking big: not allowing your small town to dictate how big your business is.

Living small: small town living is AWESOME, guys.


And now, we're not just here, but we're HERE. And loving our small town and this work we get to do here together. The goal was never to have the biggest coffee company in Nebraska or whatever, it was to do solid work and treat people well and improve our community. Because where people are sitting around tables and having conversations...that's where the world will change. Not on Instagram (except do you follow @sharonsaysso? She's changing the world on Instagram.), not in the morning news.



Coffee is just our vehicle. And we realized early on in owning this business that the small towns across our state really just needed a place to 1) attract a younger generation back to their hometown and 2) sit down and talk to each other. And the younger generation that doesn't know what to do with their life in this crazy world? They need to be shown it's possible to do their big dream in the community that grew them. We have the internet now and UPS and there's so much education out there for making these things happen, and I feel like a lot of people don't think they can do this thing they're dreaming of because of their location.


The super exciting thing is that there are others with this goal as well. Others who believe that there's more to work than clocking in and clocking out and more to life than working until you can get a retirement and calling it good. And they're carving out a space for themselves in their hometowns and calling people out and calling out the good and creating new things on old dirt roads and in old buildings.



Don't get me wrong, there are challenges in doing business rurally. When I've gone to national personal and business development conferences, I've realized I have to go into everything with a filter knowing that a certain percentage of what will be presented to me will not apply just due to my location. I don't have a Target down the road to get my office supplies from, I have to order it (and account for that time in research + shipping), or make it happen myself. I don't have a large community already meeting like a young professionals group, I have to find those people, and they probably will not be closer than an hour away. And that's something that non-rural people don't think about.



The thing about the small town you grew up in is that your customer probably remembers you as a kid in Sunday School. You probably screwed around in their high school chemistry class (this is Josh, in case you were trying to picture me as this...I never screwed around in school). They remember being the lifeguard at the pool you spent full summers at. They are already invested in you and they want you to succeed.


I didn't grow up in small town America and it was an adjustment coming into this. I loved it deeply, even before I knew I'd invest everything in staying here. But in coming here I've realized that it's a mentality and a way of life that you can grow into. There's more space here. Room for dreams without having to fight to carve out space for yourself. Life is good out here.


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