What would you do if you were forced to evacuate 1,000 pounds of raw coffee beans to save your business from a fast-raging wildfire? Or had to run your online store from the floor of the only place in your town with wifi after a devastating hurricane? These are just a few of the scary realities our community members endured during the natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Houston and Northern California over the past several months.
In honor of National Entrepreneurs’ Day, we’re highlighting three of our entrepreneurs’ powerful stories of resilience and showcasing how they were there for their communities during unthinkable situations. Join us as we show our Weebly community love for all those hustling, hard working, fast-thinking, problem-solving small business owners bouncing back from fires, flooding and for those forced to start over.
“With the help of our neighbors we loaded our 2 kilo coffee roaster into the back of our truck along with over 1,000 pounds of raw green coffee beans and headed to my mother’s house in west Santa Rosa.” - Danielle, Retrograde Roasters, Santa Rosa, CA.
Like so many in Northern California last month, Danielle and her husband were woken up abruptly in the middle of the night to a neighbor banging on their window shouting, “fire!”.
With uncertainty and pure adrenaline, they left their home with a single bag. Thankfully, these coffee roasting entrepreneurs were able to come back the next day to save their signature 350 pound coffee roaster and 1,000 pounds of raw coffee beans during an evacuation. Neighbors helped load up a truck with those crucial items that keep their small business running.
The bean roasting that usually happened in their kitchen was put on hold, and their coffee shop in nearby Sebastapol remained closed as the scale and devastation of the Northern California wildfires became apparent. Two days later this small business owner knew it was time to open the doors and help the community that has helped them over the years.
“We re-opened our coffee shop on Wednesday and decided to donate a percentage of our sales to the RCU fire relief fund. We were slammed all week. The outpouring of support we received from our community was amazing,” said Danielle.
Strangers offered their homes to roast coffee in, people came to buy 10 coffees at a time for volunteers, and customers would come in breaking down in tears about what the future held for Santa Rosa .
“It felt so good to open up our arms and our space to be there for everyone but they were also there for us in the same way, offering emotional support,” said Danielle.
Danielle and her team updated their Weebly site daily to connect with customers far beyond California. Her customers from across the country wanted to reach out and make a donation through the site. They roasted as many coffee donation orders as they could and were able to donate $1,000 dollars to the RCU fire relief fund from their Weebly sales during that first week.
“There are some business owners who lost their homes and continue to keep their businesses open. That’s amazing and inspirational. We’re not in it for the money, we’re in it for the community, the people we support and those who support us. There is no other way to do it other than together.”
Interested in specialty coffee? Help support Danielle and Retrograde Roasters.
“Imagine going to sleep one night knowing that the next day forward everything would be different, and that’s exactly what happened. After the hurricane passed, my life was turned upside down." - Claudia Ramos, Eunoia Boutique, San Juan, Puerto Rico
As hurricane Maria ravaged through Puerto Rico, the last thing on Claudia Ramos' mind was her thriving online jewelry business. For several days, she was solely focused on finding food, water and surviving.
“I was standing in long lines at the supermarket just to get canned food because it’s all that’s left, and something that really affected me was having to read a sign that said: we have no water, no ice, and we can only provide one bottle of soda per family,” Claudia recalled.
As she threw away most of her flooded personal belongings, her business was essentially down with no power, wifi, local customers or connection to the outside world. But Eunoia took on the true mentality of an entrepreneur: survival even when the odds are stacked against you.
“I knew that I was capable of overcoming this situation, so I took this experience as a test. Many people see a crisis, but I see an opportunity,” said Claudia.
Days later she heard about an office building in town with a generator and spotty wifi. She rushed down, fired up her laptop and checked on her business. For weeks, the floor of this building became her office and HQ. She stayed motivated with inspirational posts on Instagram and messages from her customers around the world. Finally, orders started coming in again, she packaged them on the office floor and shipped them through the one post office in San Juan still sending mail. But she felt compelled to help the other Puerto Rican entrepreneurs get back on their feet as well, so she added other people’s products to her online store to help drum up some business.
“I added some local brands to my page so they could reach more and more customers and it has resulted well. I also helped someone launch her new brand, which I also feature, because it’s never too late to start. I’m always promoting other local businesses, to the extent that we’re currently carrying a campaign that’s named “Estas navidades regala local” which translates to “Buy local this christmas,” said Claudia.
Never has it been more important for small business owners in San Juan to have the support of the local customer and the digital customer around the globe. We salute Claudia’s perseverance and camaraderie through a difficult time.
Interested in checking out Eunoia’s products? Help support the Eunoia Boutique.
“I lost my business and my income almost overnight, this was the scariest time of my life and the anxiety is still there day by day.” - Chef Anna Davis, The Saucey Gourmet, Houston, TX.
While Chef Anna Davis considered herself one of the lucky ones during Hurricane Harvey that flooded out entire communities in Houston, she quickly realized in the days after the record breaking storm that almost all of her private catering clients lost their homes. Without their kitchens to cook in and parties to cater to, she knew The Saucey Gourmet would quickly go underwater as well.
“I went from making thousands of dollars a month to zero, almost overnight,” Anna recalled.
But cooking was her passion and the she didn’t want to call it quits just yet. She knew that the only way her private catering business she spent years building would sustain is if she could find new clients and market her services for the first time. This is why she knew she needed to have a website. “I put myself out there every where I could: postcards, t-shirts, opened an account on every social media platform and built a website on Weebly, it’s the place where they can see I am for real,” Anna said.
She drove traffic to her new site, The Saucey Gourmet, through Facebook, Instagram, email and referrals on Thumbtack. As the water began to recede, the inquiries began to go up. New faces, new parties and new bookings began to roll in. While she’s nowhere near her pre-Harvey numbers, she has hope that her business can bounce back and perhaps with technology on her side, be even bigger than it was before.
Know someone who might need a caterer in Houston? Help support Anna and The Saucey Gourmet.
Help Their Communities Rebuild
If you’d like to donate to organizations helping these communities rebuild, you can do so here: