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Featured Business of the Month

At a time when many business owners in Maine and around the nation can only see the glass as half-empty – there are still a few exceptions, like Jassy Smith of West Kennebunk, who sees the glass as half-full and loaded with potential to be filled right up to the brim.Jassy is a profile in entrepreneurial courage. 

Jassy Smith owns and operates the Seed & Bean—a specialty coffee shop on Alfred Roadin West Kennebunk. Founded in August 2010 in what had been Jassy’s grandmother’s 19th century Victorian house, the Seed & Bean survived a tough winter but is still growing with all the expectation that this young business will be profitable by the end of its first full year.

Jassy is a superb example of the kind of guts it takes to start any new business regardless of the condition of the economy. A graduate ofKennebunkHigh School, she earned her associates degree at Southern Maine Community College and it was while she was in college and also working at Java Net Coffee Shop inPortlandthat she decided she would one day start her own specialty coffee shop. As she put it, her work at Java Net was “the most fun I had ever had!”

So while working at Pratt Whitney (where she still works full time), she started to structure a business plan for her own local establishment. Her research included attending a small business seminar sponsored by the Small Business Administration’s SCORE consulting group in Portland which she felt had some value but was not specific enough for the kind of business she envisioned. She drafted several business plans and when she was finished she was able to work closely with The Bank of Maine onPortland Road(Kennebunk). She said that bank has been “awesome” in supporting her new venture throughout the start up phase with regular visits to the Seed & Bean by her banker to see how she is doing. Jassy added, “I couldn’t be more appreciative with the time they’ve spent helping me through this whole process.” She also described how throughout the entire process the town’s code enforcement office was easy to work with and helpful in assuring that she met and complied with all local regulations.

Now open from 6am to 8pm weekdays and 8am to 6pm on weekends, Jassy’s business is robust enough that she employs eight part time employees—which she estimates would translate into about two and a half full time jobs. Besides providing jobs for locals, the Seed & Bean serves an equally diverse market of customers. Opening at six in the morning the Seed & Bean catches theWest Kennebunkcommuter crowd as they head off to their workday.  The second market is the flood of school children that stop in when school lets out about2PM—which means in Jassy’s words that, “we have to accommodate both their sweet tooth and their limited budget.” The Seed and Bean’s third market is what Jassy describes as a “late lunch crowd--which usually includes some stay at home moms and friends who want to relax and have an inexpensive lunch or business people who just want a quiet place to meet.”

Jassy reflects today’s savvy young business owner who knows how to take advantage of technology to promote their business. Using a template, she built out a very attractive and easy to use website (www.seedbean.com).  She and her employees are also actively promoting the business on Facebook with daily menus and snapshots of customers coming and going. In fact, Facebook has been so successful that the Seed & Bean now has 514 customers following this businesses activity.

Reflecting on some of the most important lessons she learned in starting her new business, Jassy said, “If I had it to do it all over again, I would have opened my business last spring instead of mid August—to catch the summer crowd. And while our floor plan is fine—there are some things I might have done better with the space.”

And when asked what she was sure she did right, Jassy replied, “I was absolutely right about the need for this kind of business inWest Kennebunkand I priced our products according to the needs of the market.”

Long term, once the initial start up is behind her, the next step will be to add “the seed” to “the bean” as Jassy plans to expand her business to include a plant nursery. But she also recognizes that the bean must work before she can plant more seeds. Stop in and meet this dynamic young business owner.