For this week’s guest blog, I’ve partnered together with the team at Business Impact NW to help them share the story of one of their small business clients.
HeartBeet had been in business for ten years at their location on 65th Street when the City of Seattle announced they were going to replace parking on 65th with a bike lane. HeartBeet’s former Roosevelt location has witnessed great transition over the last five years as the light rail station is being developed. With the loss of parking, founding owner Monika Kinsman, witnessed a 50% loss in sales and was forced to quickly come up with a solution.
Inspired by the superfoods movement with a mission to maintain convenience, HeartBeet is one of Seattle’s first plant-based plant restaurants offering nutritionally dense foods that are both vegan and gluten-free. “Our tagline is ‘Real food that loves you back,’” said Monika. “I wanted to open a restaurant that not only tastes good, but that makes you actually feel better when you eat it. It’s like functional foods. They are functional foods because they do something for you.”
With a little luck and a lot of elbow grease, Monika discovered a brick and mortar in Queen Anne built out as a restaurant with abandoned equipment for lease. It even had the same white subway tile and almost identical flooring as her original location. “It was really easy for us to visualize being here,” remarked Monika, and the price was right.
“You know to open a new restaurant most build out projects are $200,000, so we were so lucky to find this particular location that was already built out and really just needed a little bit of a facelift,” she added. With help from a loan from Business Impact NW, she was able to pay for miscellaneous construction work, a prep sink, new awning, the first month’s rent and deposit, all for $15,000.
It turns out the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is also true for business ownership. While Monika was able to prepare her new location for business, transitioning the supplies and operation of her business provided another challenge.
“We operated all the way until November 30th at our old store. Then we started our lease in Queen Anne the first week of November, so we had three weeks to get the new store ready while we were still operating at the old store. We had it already for December 1, and then we basically did a big moving party that night, got it all set up and then opened the very next day.”
While Monika reported that several hundred of her original customers visited the new store in the first three months, the move from Roosevelt to Queen Anne caused most employees to resign as many of HeartBeet’s staff bus or walk to work. “Employee retention in general is really hard here in Seattle,” said Monika. However, during Seattle’s “snowpocalypse” this winter, one of her new hires exhibited real leadership during a time that was stressful for many small business owners.
“Because Queen Anne is on a hill, we couldn’t get food deliveries from the prep kitchen because they couldn’t come up safely, and most of our employees couldn’t come to work. Luckily, one of our employees lives in the apartments right on top of the restaurant, and so he operated the cafe, limited hours, from 11 to 3 during the days of the snowstorm because we did have a lot of food that we had before the snow hit, so we didn’t want to waste everything,” told Monika. The employee was able to sell some of HeartBeet’s existing stock to patrons willing to brave the storm, but the restaurant lost approximately 75% of their product, a loss of sales that they were recovering from throughout the entire first quarter this year.
After being in business for 10 years, Monika has weathered many storms. As food businesses have extremely small margins, Monika said the most stressful aspect of running her own business has been finances. “My biggest accomplishment,” she countered “is getting into this business and being open for 10 years, along with all of the lives that we’ve helped facilitate better health in the process.”“My biggest accomplishment is getting into this business and being open for 10 years, along with all of the lives that we've helped facilitate better health in the process.” Click To Tweet
Learn more about Monika Kinsman’s journey as an entrepreneur on Business Impact NW’s blog. For more information on HeartBeet visit www.heartbeethealthy.com or follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Megan Torgerson is Business Impact NW’s Development Coordinator and a candidate for Seattle University’s Arts Leadership MFA program. She holds a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Montana and is passionate about storytelling of all forms, nature and cultivating community by elevating our unique stories.
Megan grew up on a farm and ranch in Montana and is inspired to empower small business owners from under-served rural and urban communities.