How an IBEC board member plans to ‘break even’ in his business during the COVID-19 epidemic even without external help

I was intrigued recently when I learned how Jonathan Pascual was surviving the coronavirus crisis, on Atlanta’s (Georgia) east side. He and his wife have owned Taproom Coffee for six years and have nine employees in two locations. Why is it that he seems to have less stress than others in similar circumstances?

  1. Good Reputation in the Community. “The immediate neighbors, they have been our saviors,” Jonathan affirms. It appears that he and his employees are well thought of in the community, having served them well in the good times. Some were even offering investment and loans; many were giving moral support. An early commitment to excellence and service is paying off in bad times.
  2. Technology as a Resource. When the county shut the doors in mid-March, he pounced on some advice his Facebook community of owners was recommending.  Pascual invested in an industry recommendation for an integration of the Cloosiv app with the Square point-of-sale. This technology solution allowed him to easily transition to curbside delivery, continuing to serve the customer.
  3. A pivot mindset. He continued to “think pivot”, and decided to cut out food service, but added delivery twice a week, and is closing earlier since coffee is the sole product now.  “We do coffee well and the margins are good,” he said as they focused strictly on their strengths. The result was the selling of more high-end beverages, and larger quantities of bags of beans to slightly fewer customers.

The result after a month: Transactions have declined by 25%, but sales per ticket have picked up so they have been able to keep to the low end of their pre-pandemic daily sales. Overall sales are down 17.5% year-over-year. Due to the cuts in overhead, they are on pace for a break-even.

  1. It is OK to plan to be lean and accept help. He closed the café located in a local school rather abruptly, but it contributed to the cost cutting. He also shifted to local roasters, which saved him money. He freely acknowledges that his landlord forgave his rent for the month of March, and a couple of his investors said he could pause payments. He is not making a profit, but he is not bleeding either. Ultimately, Jonathan has come to grips with being lean for now.
  2. He has kept to his core values. Jonathan’s life principles and faith are at the core of his business. Work-life balance is important to him and his family. Despite all the challenges, he is able to split the home-schooling challenges with his wife (four children are ages 7 to 12), and he serves faithfully as an elder in his church.  His wife works full-time on the church staff, so they currently trade off, each working three days a week, with Saturday as a work-free day. Jonathan never works on weekends. He is determined to keep to his “customer first” approach, and already has a plan if there is a complete lockdown, meaning another pivot – he thinks a 100% delivery model could work – but it would be tough.

In April, Jonathan joined the IBEC Leadership Team. We look forward to what he brings to the table, not only as an innovative entrepreneur, but as one who understands an integrated approach to faith and work.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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