Amanda with Avenue Coffee House
Amanda’s Yankton journey began one winter day: “I was going to school at Dakota Wesleyan, and I drove down to see my brother. We were walking downtown, and I said, ‘this is really cool.’ He said, ‘what?’. He’s lived here so long, he doesn’t notice when things are changing. I said, ‘It’s a really cool downtown.’ Then I asked, ‘Where’s the coffeeshop in Yankton?’ and he said, ‘there isn’t one. That’s just not something that Yankton has.’”
The community’s lack of coffee options struck Amanda as an opportunity, “I have always wanted to start a coffee shop, since I was about ten and I knew I wanted to start a business. Then I started drinking coffee and I said, ‘I’m going to open a coffee shop.’”
“I started out at Dakota Wesleyan as a freshman with Human Services as a major.” After faculty change in the Human Services program, Amanda became involved with Dakota Wesleyan’s entrepreneurial club. The support and encouragement lead Amanda to change her major. “I switched to a Human Services minor and picked up Entrepreneurial Leadership as a major. For the first semester, you're in a course where you have to start your own business.” Amanda founded Servant Sips and started making her dream of running a coffee house a reality.
She continued to have a passion for helping people. “With school, I had the opportunity to go to Pierre for a meeting to talk about the Point-in-Time count, which counts how many people are homeless on one day. It was there that I met Jesse Bailey and Joe Tielke from the homeless shelter (now Pathways Shelter for the Homeless). Jesse got up and spoke about how much has changed for Pathways.” Amanda introduced herself, leading to an internship with Pathways and a chance to move to Yankton. She transferred to the University of South Dakota, to pursue a Human Resource Management degree.
“I bought a house here at the age of 20. In May, I signed for the house, in June I moved here and started working an internship at Pathways. I was there full-time for almost a year. Then the opportunity arose for the coffee shop. It’s a dream coming true over 14 months.”
Avenue Coffee House opened on August 10th. “I'm really excited to keep learning. I have preexisting ideas of what it's going to be like, and we're going to open, and I’m sure that it's going to be completely different, but it will be fun.”
A large part of Amanda’s vision for the space is to be socially responsible. “I'm excited to use this opportunity for myself as a way to help other people. We're trying to stay as socially responsible as possible, with profits going back into the community. For Jeff, my co-owner, a portion of his revenue will go to Church Planting, that's his passion, and a portion of mine will go to Pathways and to helping raise operating expenses for homeless shelters.”
“We're hoping to be intentional about whom we're hiring and bringing in people who could use a little more job training, or people who are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives and they kind of have a passion, but they don't know where to go with it.” Amanda shared, “if you're in a startup, and you're right at the beginning, you're learning so much with the owners.”
It takes support to start a business. “SCORE is the diamond of the community that people don't really know about,” Amanda explained, “I was meeting with them probably three times a month for a couple months straight. I'd meet with them and Tony Maibaum would bring in different mentors. Getting their opinions makes us more well-rounded in the business.” Amanda is also an organizer for 1 Million Cups – Yankton and a participant in this year’s Onward Yankton Entrepreneurship Fellowship.
Amanda shared how Avenue Coffee House got its name: “In my business plan, I wrote, ‘Servants Sips is the avenue where people meet their purpose.’ I thought, ‘An avenue.’ I was looking at it and I focused on that. I thought, ‘Avenue, that's like a venue. It's the same letters, if we want it to be a place where people come and listen to music, or where people want to study, or if we have space to have a reception, that's a venue. It's an avenue for people to find their purpose, but it's also a venue for all these things.’ That's what I really liked about the word and it works out well because there’s Broadway Inn, Broadway Avenue, and then Avenue Coffee House.”
In May, Amanda started bringing her Servant Sips coffee to the Market at the Meridian. “At that point, Jeff and I were talking about the business, but we didn't know where it was going to go.”
“I was really hush-hush about the coffee house and even being out there with my coffee business, Servant Sips, people were super excited about that. I told them, ‘I'm really hoping, I'll be in a coffee house soon. Keep coming back, keep asking me questions about it, each week I'll be able to tell you more.’ They got really excited about it!”
“I love that everywhere I go, people in Yankton are working to make it better. I like to see the way Yankton is incorporating the touristy stuff with the river, and the marina, and the bridge. I love seeing that!” Amanda shared, “It's like when I was first walking downtown with my brother. Obviously, there are things in downtown that anyone would want to change, but being downtown there, I see past the things that people want to change and I see that someone is going to do it! Why not be part of it? That's what I love, being here and getting as involved as possible.”