Imagine how interesting you could make a camping trip if you could make an espresso for your friends. That’s just the kind of guy Eugene Cleland is – he was the one who brought along his espresso machine to camp. For Eugene making coffee is an art, from the choosing of the roast, to the making of the shot, the careful steaming of the milk, and finally, the art he creates with the foam. It is common for friends and family to gather at his home for a great coffee – many have told him he should open his own coffee shop. After much dreaming and consideration, that’s exactly what he did.
Eugene and his wife, Betty Jean, began the journey to entrepreneurship in 2016 when they enrolled for the Community Futures Self Employment program. During that training, they had time to learn about business ownership, tackle the challenges in understanding business, develop their ideas, and create a viable business plan which would allow them to turn their passion into reality.
A year or so later, they are the proud owners of Medicine Hat’s newest coffeehouse, Café Verve. For first-time business owners entering an already competitive industry, they are doing great things.
They have already mastered one thing: get people into your space. That’s of paramount importance especially when you consider the two biggest players in the coffee and snack shop industry hold 83.9% of market share1 and they just happened to open a coffee shop during deep economic hardship in our region.
Not only is Eugene a skilled practitioner at creating that perfect cup of coffee, he is also a talented musician who spent 18 years with a local folk group called “Poet Lark”. After a bit of a break, the group is going to perform live, at his very own business. The group is already rehearsing for their first performance which will surely generate a huge buzz in their community of music followers.
Betty Jean is a talented photographer. Even from a young age she was fascinated with photos. She owned her first professional camera at 20, studied photography at the Medicine Hat College and invested considerable time pursuing her passion in creating artistic portraits. When you walk into Café Verve, it’s the first thing you notice: beautiful design, open space and a combination of art and design that will take your breath away. Eugene and Betty Jean have carefully planned their space for live music and to support local artists on their gallery style walls. There is usually live music every Friday night. Local art continually changes and adorns their walls. Café Verve has already hosted many musicians and artists’ since they opened their doors May 5, 2017. They employ 4 full-time staff and 6 part-time staff.
When asked if Eugene and Betty Jean could give advice to new entrepreneurs, here is what they shared:
1. Listen and heed to the advice of other business owners. Listen to the things they have learned.
2. Continue learning about business and remember when making decisions to ask yourself “Does this fit with your vision”.
You can visit their website at: http://www.cafeverve.ca/
This story was written by Elizabeth Blair. Elizabeth is the regional innovation network (RIN) coordinator at Community Futures Entre-Corp and works to oversee activities with APEX. APEX is a Regional Innovation Network that supports the growth of innovative and technologically-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta.
APEX is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp Business Development, Medicine Hat College; and Alberta Innovates. APEX strives to support local entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized enterprises to develop and adopt new technologies, commercialize innovative new products, improve productivity, and get connected to Alberta’s Innovation System.
1 Alvarez, Andrew. “Coffee & Snack Shops in Canada.” IBISWorld. February 2017.