Blue Spoon CafeBluefield café owner transitions from employee to entrepreneur with help from West Virginia SBDC

Nicole Coeburn had a respectable career working in a community she loved. But like many millennials she yearned for more.

Having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, Coeburn wanted to own a small business like her grandmother, father and uncles before her. But starting a business is easier said than done. And like many young professionals looking to take the leap, she still had a day job. How would she make a clean break and pursue her dream? And where would she even start?

There were a flurry of questions swirling through her mind, but Coeburn was certain of one thing: it was time to take her career to the next level. She just needed to find someone who could help her make that happen. And she’d have to take the leap.

Sometimes, following your dreams means you have to jump right in

Coeburn was working as a manager and special events planner at the RailYard and Clover Club when she saw the Blue Spoon Café, a local restaurant, available for purchase. The Bluefield Preservation Society opened the restaurant in October, 2015, as a business incubator venture, with hopes of building a clientele and then selling to an entrepreneur. Coeburn, who loves cooking and being in the kitchen, was interested but unsure how she should approach the opportunity.

Having learned from her family’s failures and successes in business ownership, Coeburn sought help. Jim Spencer, the economic development director for the city of Bluefield, suggested she connect with a business coach at the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.

“Nicole came to us in August, 2017,” said Harold Patterson, a WV SBDC business coach in Bluefield. “She needed information about taxes and the type of company she should register as.”

Patterson advised Coeburn and pointed her to resources that would help her learn how to start a business.

“One challenge when starting a business is not knowing where to begin,” Coeburn said. “The SBDC was helpful with giving me information I needed to prioritize my to-do list.”

Having a coach or resources doesn’t guarantee success though. There’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices involved. And that’s exactly what Coeburn found out.

“I decided to take the leap of faith,” she said. “Once I set my mind to it, the process was quick.”

When you land on your feet, keep on running

Jumping into the restaurant business can burn even the most-prepared entrepreneurs, but Coeburn was determined to see the Blue Spoon Café work out. “Luckily, the structure was already there,” she said. “I just took the space and the menu and made it my own.”

While there were advantages to taking over an established restaurant, there was always a chance that existing customers could be turned off if Coeburn changed things by injecting her own personality and flavor into the restaurant.

While she spiced up the menu with new Mediterranean dishes and weekly specials, Coeburn kept customer favorites. The most important thing though was making sure all the food served at the Blue Spoon used fresh, organic ingredients — good food you can feel good about eating.

Now, eating at the Blue Spoon Café is a unique experience — even one worth the trip to Bluefield if you don’t live in the area. The dining area is bright and colorful and perfect for a quaint breakfast or lunch. The menu is filled with cafe favorites, doughnuts, soups, quiche and salad.

“When you work for yourself, there’s no limit to your creativity,” Coeburn said.

Having turned her dream into a success story, Coeburn is focused on growing her business, serving her customers and perfecting the Blue Spoon Café brand. She even has a few new ideas she hopes to bring to life in the future. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and other millennials who want a fresh start by opening their own business? Dream big and just do it.

“If I can do it, so can you,” she said.

Nicole Coeburn is one of the many small business owners the West Virginia Small Business Development Center has helped over the years. SBDC coaches are experienced in many industries and can help you start or grow your business through one-on-one coaching and facilitating connections to resources. If you’re in West Virginia and you have dreams of starting your own business, have a big idea you think will change the world, or just want to have peace of mind knowing your business is headed in the right direction, contact a WV SBDC coach today. To find your nearest SBDC anywhere in the United States and its Territories, click here.