Known for more than just being the cute neighborhood coffee shop, Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie is a local small business that’s doing BIG things! Owners, Mike Aston and Chris Shelton, as well as the manager, Kari Redman, attribute much of their success to the emphasis on building an employee care program as well as a community network in Norfolk.
Cure opened its doors in 2011; owners Aston and Shelton hired Redman shortly after that. In its infancy, the team recognized that employee loyalty was key in differentiating the coffee shop from others in the area. “We wanted our employees to be excited to come to work,” Redman explained, “we wanted to give them something to be a part of, not just a shift to complete.” To this day the staff at Cure is allowed a voice in the day-to-day operations of the business, given creative liberties, and encouraged to develop their own personal strengths and interests on the job. Redman herself is the perfect example of how the business model has served its employees. Twenty-one-year-old Redman was hired as a baker. Now at age 26, she has found herself managing the establishment and embarking on new adventures in the business world. One of which is the opening of a second Cure location in Smithfield this summer. The positive impacts of the employee-first business model have trickled down to Cure’s customers, making a family atmosphere for the community to congregate.
In 2015, the coffeehouse was faced with perhaps its greatest challenge to date. The awning of Cure and its neighboring businesses collapsed. Fortunately, nobody was on the sidewalk at the time, and there were no reported injuries. But what astonished Redman was how the community rallied to supports a fellow small business. “I was amazed by the support we received days and weeks after the overhang crumbled,” said Redman. “Everyone came together to support one another, and it was truly a humbling experience.” Although the coffeehouse had to close its doors for nearly a month, the company opened again with a new sense of pride in the city they call home.
Fast forward two years and you’ll be impressed to know the quaint business off Botetourt Street in the Freemason Historic District is growing bigger every day! In March, the company was selected as Small Business of the Year in Norfolk, by the Hampton Roads Chamber. As a true champion of both Norfolk and small business owners, we sat down with Redman to discuss what advice she has for existing owners or those looking to jump into entrepreneurship. Here’s what she had to say:
What would you say has been the biggest reward in your time at Cure?
The community network has been amazing! Seeing how much people want to support one another and see each other’s business succeed is incredible. But, I would have to say the biggest benefit for me (personally) would be to work with and for people who truly advocate for your growth. Mike and Chris are the biggest proponents to developing my career. We try to emphasize that for our team members as well by challenging them to pursue their passions – even if it’s not tied to Cure. It’s the best work experience and makes us feel united like a family.
What advice would you give to others managing a small business?
You should be flexible and open minded! Go into with no expectations, knowing that every day is going to be different. You must take the rough days as an opportunity and be open to constantly revisiting your business approach for adjustments. Some days are going to throw walls at you, and you have to either climb over them or go around. And don’t forget to tap into your community. I love how other Norfolk businesses are so supportive of one another. Reach out and ask for guidance – you’ll be surprised the response you receive!
There you have it, folks. An inside glimpse into managing a small business and the ups (and downs) that come along with it. In honor of Small Business Week, we hope Redman’s comments have provided valuable insights into one local company trying to stand out in this flourishing area!