“If you look at our Yelp reviews, there’s one toward the beginning where a guy complained about my unshaven, hairy legs,” Shane Caudle, owner of The Spot on 25th, guffawed.
This laid-back, beachy themed café in San Mateo, California has been serving up sandwiches to locals since 2014. As Caudle explains, he and his wife are truly a part of the business. No, really – they practically live there.
“We lived in the neighborhood about 13 years. We actually live less than a block away from the café, so we're right around the corner. If you live in the area and you didn't have a car, you could survive just with what's on that street. But one thing that was missing was a good deli café, with some good coffee and good, fresh food, both healthy and not healthy,” Caudle validated.
And so, The Spot on 25th was born.
Discovering a need for a product or service and then acting on it is something every entrepreneur dreams of being able to succeed at. If you endure the trials and tribulations (and in this case, weird Yelp reviews) with this one mindset, you’ll come out on top. What is it?
Q. What advice would you give another entrepreneur who wanted to open a café or any type of small business?
A. “Keep smiling. You’ve got to grin and bear it. Just keep smiling and move forward.” – Caudle.
In theory, it’s an easy concept. But we all know it’s easier said than done.
Embracing a positive mindset.
As Forbes explains, some of the most common challenges for small business owners include: deciding where to focus, differentiating yourself, getting repeat customers, and lack of time.
Dealing with a smaller budget and smaller bank of resources makes overcoming those obstacles even more challenging. What’s even crazier is the things you don’t expect will be an issue.
Like, lack of parking.
“The top challenge we have in this area is parking. The way we’ve been able to work around that is that we’ve signed up for a majority of the quality online ordering companies. We also offer catering – we’ve catered for the chamber of commerce, the police department, and even the mayor,” Caudle asserted.
Caudle and his wife’s creative approach to solving a problem landed them with some pretty sweet revenue-generating opportunities.
The face of your business.
Speaking of mayors, Caudle mentioned that he’s earned himself the nickname of mayor… of 25th Avenue since he’s in the shop so much. That true epithet of his community is another factor that shapes Caudle’s positive mindset. It’s also what helped him get customers when first starting out.
“I’m very outgoing. When we were about to open, we had the windows blocked off to keep up the privacy of the neighborhood. But when people would walk by and I’d hear them ask, ‘hey what’s this?’ I would pop out front and explain,” said Caudle.
Buzz about the café grew from word of mouth and continues to spread from one person to another.
In keeping with the sense of community, they even factored that in to the design plan.
“We actually put a little living room in the very front, which is basically for the grandparents of the neighborhood. They have some place comfortable and homey where they can relax, have a cup of coffee and read the paper. It’s also modern in the sense that we keep it updated. We tried to cover everything that was missing around here and keep it a friendly community business,” Caudle acknowledged.
When you truly position yourself as the face of your small business, customer loyalty becomes even stronger. Consumers have a person to associate a product or service with and it makes your brand more relatable, more human.
Just look at this Facebook review. Of course the menu is praised but what this customer acknowledges first and foremost is the ownership.
About those menu items, this is another area that Caudle and his wife chose to incorporate the community.
“We came up with the menu based on what surrounding in the area. And we’re constantly paying attention to what the community wants. We didn’t have everything right away, but we always listen. For example, we just started offering gluten free and vegan options which are very popular right now,” said Caudle.
Use your customers as building blocks for success. If they like (or don’t like) what you’re doing, they’ll give you valuable feedback to help you improve and thrive.
So, no matter what some guy says on Yelp about your business, so long as you keep a positive mindset and embrace your community, you’ll be able to overcome whatever the business world throws your way. Through it all – “just keep smiling.”
To learn more about The Spot on 25th, check out their Facebook page.
Caudle also attributes his success to his lifelong partner – his wife. “I love my wife and couldn’t do what I do without her! I’m very fortunate to have her in my life.”