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Updated: June 16th, 2020
For business owners who run brick-and-mortar operations, serving the community isn’t just a perk — it’s a reason to do business. Building a community-centered business can lead to steady, long-term growth, but it’s not as simple as choosing a good location. It takes time, strategy, and dedication to upholding your community’s values.
Arianna Parsons and Tyrell Thacker, co-owners of Beck’s Coffee in Las Cruces, New Mexico, are examples of that dedication. The husband and wife duo bought their business from Rebecca “Beck” Rosnick in 2013 and grew it into the beloved community establishment it is today.
To learn from their experience, we asked Parsons and Thacker to share their tips for building a business that keeps community at the core. Keep reading for the eight strategies they used to cultivate their community.
Where you base your business can influence its success. For Parsons and Thacker, the location of Beck’s Coffee is just as important as the food and drink they serve.
“Las Cruces is an amazing community. It’s full of some of the most welcoming and supportive people,” Parsons said. “And this neighborhood, specifically the Mesquite Historic District, is just this amazing little anomaly.” Not only does everyone know one another, she added, everyone is involved in the neighborhood’s growth and revitalization.
When you’re deciding where to open your business or relocate, take your time finding the right spot. Setting up shop in a close-knit community means you can cultivate regulars and rely on word-of-mouth marketing. Look for areas with a strong culture, a record of supporting small businesses, and plenty of opportunity for growth.
“Being able to employ people in this community is really important to us as business owners,” Parsons said. They didn’t just want to create more jobs in their community, they also wanted to support people on a personal level.
“When you have a team you trust and can depend on, it changes everyone’s life for the better,” Parsons said. “It gives people jobs of real value. It can support working mothers. It can provide side income for college students as they work their way through MSU.”
Plus, from a practical perspective, hiring baristas and bussers gave Parsons and Thacker more time to focus on growing their business and improving customer service.
Creating a unique business culture is key to attracting new customers and gaining customer loyalty. For Parsons and Thacker, that meant building a culture centered on community, local ingredients, and homemade treats.
“The Beck’s culture is pretty true to the Southwest in general. It’s really laid-back, but it’s unique. There’s something special about being able to take a really friendly community and kind of make a microcosm of that,” Parsons said.
The Beck’s Coffee team sources ingredients locally and makes almost everything from scratch, including their coffee, ice cream, and famous green chili cheddar scones. “We want it to be artisanal…an experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else” but one that still reflects “the character of the community,” Parsons said.
The pair also wanted to create a comfortable environment where customers could relax, connect with others, or take advantage of the stellar Wi-Fi. “I think that quality atmosphere and customer service are the key components to any service-oriented business,” said Parsons.
As a business owner, every part of your operation informs your culture — from your products and marketing messaging to your customer service policies and store atmosphere. If you want to refine your business’s culture, consider how you can set yourself apart from the competition while still representing your community. Maybe you can change the way you greet customers, for example, redesign your storefront, or expand your product offerings.
Building a community-centered business requires you to prioritize the health and well-being of your community members, as well as the sustainability of the area you’re working in.
“We have been really diligent about making environmentally-conscious decisions for our business,” Parsons said, “and I think a lot of that comes from having an understanding that the small decisions we make as a business really do have lasting outcomes.”
That’s why they use locally sourced ingredients, corn-based straws, and cups made from recycled content. Basing the business in a walkable area also helps. “I think all of that adds up to setting our children up for a more sustainable future,” Parsons said.
Making environmentally-conscious choices doesn’t just help lower your business’s carbon footprint, it also gives your community a reason to support you. Consider how you can improve your business’s sustainability. Making a positive change might be as simple as starting a green waste program, eliminating plastic packaging, or participating in monthly neighborhood trash clean-ups.
Incorporating customer feedback can help you improve operations, create lifetime customers, and get referrals. Parsons and Thacker know customer involvement is essential to long-term growth.
“That’s what building a company in Las Cruces is all about,” Parsons said. “You’re collaborating with your community to bring them something new and wonderful.”
The team at Beck’s Coffee welcomes feedback on anything from pastry flavors to community events. “[Customers] know they can give us feedback and that we’re going to take that to heart,” Parsons said. In turn, Parsons promises to “keep pushing the boundaries, keep making better decisions, keep employing more people, and keep coming up with new ways to add value.”
To better your service, consider how you can tap into your customers’ needs. Beyond occasionally checking in with customers in person or over the phone, try sending out email surveys or asking customers to write reviews. From there, set aside time each month to review the feedback and brainstorm ways to make improvements.
When growing your business, it’s critical to give back to the community you’re part of. That’s why Parsons and Thacker go out of their way to support local artists and cultural events.
“We use local artists for all of our labels on our own coffee blends,” Parsons said, “and we host different artists in our shop all the time and show their works and sell their works at no commission.”
They also host concerts, poetry readings, and short story competitions in the shop. These efforts not only help uplift local artists and preserve the community’s arts culture, but they also bring people together, Parsons said.
If your business isn’t actively involved in the community, think of ways you can support the neighborhood culture, whether that culture is rooted in art, music, sports, or something else. Consider hosting an author reading at your space, selling merchandise from a local artist, or teaming up with other businesses to promote local events.
Keep an eye out for opportunities to improve the community with your business model. After growing Beck’s Coffee for years, Parsons and Thacker decided to open an artisanal bistro and wine bar in the heart of the historic district.
“It’s something that’s going to be really unique to our neighborhood. It’s going to reflect some local flavor, but also bring in a lot of flavors and dishes that might be unexpected and different,” Parsons said.
One business idea can change an entire community over time. “The way these types of communities are rebuilt is just by each person making the decision that they’re going to invest. They’re going to stay. They’re going to find out what the community needs, and they’re going to meet that need,” Parsons said.
Consider whether or not there’s a need you could fill in your business’s community, whether it’s offering a new service or opening a second location to meet customer demand. Finding ways to get involved gives your community — and the businesses within it — a better chance of thriving long-term.
“The rising tide lifts all boats. The more we can work together, the more we can refer people to one another, and the stronger we’re all going to be in the long run,” Parsons said.
Parsons and Thacker got a loan from Funding Circle to open their second location. “We had just spent months applying to banks and going through the traditional lending process, and it was so time-intensive,” Parsons said. “So when Funding Circle was able to come in and take a really honest look at our business in just a couple of days and say, ‘You know, this is something we want to do for you,’ that made all of the difference in the world to us.”
To build a community-centered business, focus on giving back, creating a unique culture, and capitalizing on opportunities. And if you’re debating financing, check out your options or learn more about our rates.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.