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Cooking Up Self-Employment

Elena Hines, Owner of Golden Leaf Café located in Menomonie, Wisconsin has been a NASE member since 2013.

Elena enjoys all the benefits of the NASE, but especially likes the newsletters and everything the NASE is doing to keep members informed about what is going on in the small business world and in Washington D.C.

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?

My inspiration and passion has always been for food so naturally a career in the food services industry was something I envisioned for my life.

When and why did you start your business?

Six and a half years ago, I got the opportunity I had always wanted and I started Golden Leaf Café. I had always wanted to have my own business and run a café and when the opportunity final arose, I was eager to begin.

What challenges have you faced in your business? How have you overcome them?

Financial challenges have been the most difficult for us when we got started and even as we continue to operate through this unsteady economy. I go to great lengths to ensure I am using money wisely and making the best decisions possible for my business. The Growth Grant from the NASE has also helped us greatly.

What have you done with the Growth Grant?

The Growth Grant has allowed me to purchase a grill and freezer. I have been in need of these for a longtime and believe they will be the catalyst for the café to grow and expand.

How has it changed your business?

We just got them in place last month and it seems to be going well so far. We expect that after the winter, we will begin to notice a difference. It has allowed us to expand our menu and offer new types of food like our breakfast bowls.

Speaking of winter, does the weather impact your business?

Yes, as you can imagine, winter in Wisconsin can be quite cold and snowy and thus we see smaller numbers during this time of the year. We start to see our numbers rise in the spring and then the summer months are our busy season.

How do you market your business?

We have a website and social media presence on Facebook, but the majority of marketing is word of mouth from satisfied customers. We strive to make our customers experience at Golden Leaf very memorable and enjoyable as we believe if they had a good experience, they will tell their friends.

How many full and part-time employees do you have?

Currently, I have one full-time and four part-time employees plus myself. I do everything myself from roasting coffee to purchasing supplies to cleaning the bathrooms.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?

The best part about being self-employed is that it allows me to bring out my creativity and share it with others. It has also proven to me that I have even more creativity within myself that I did not know I was capable of. It allows me the freedom to do what I like and experience various things that I may not have otherwise done.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?

A customer once said to me, “What’s not to love about this place” and that made me very happy to hear that customers are enjoying the café and it reaffirms my passion for running the cafe.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?

My advice is that make sure you have done your research and saved up enough money before you start. There are many challenges that you may not plan on, saving up money or having a spouse with a source of a second income can be very helpful.

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