Small businesses don’t become successful by magic, but by hard work. Eric Burns knows that better than most.
That’s certainly the case for Merlin’s Coffee, founded in 1999 by Burns while he was “tired of dealing with the job market,” as he puts it now. An opportunity to open up shop in the same office building where his wife worked, and though money was tight, they went ahead and started Merlin’s with little more than a coffee roaster and a dream. It was the beginning of a pretty successful journey.
It’s Hanover, Pennsylvania where Merlin’s Coffee really took off, after Burns and his family moved there around 2002. But it wasn’t the ascension of the lucky, but the ascension of the good—Burns was waiting tables, scouting towns and making the case that his coffee belonged in the cups of office workers and stay-at-home moms across Pennsylvania.
“It took a while to grow the business, because no one really knew what coffee roasting was all about. I had to educate my customers and convince them our product was good,” Burns told us.
From those rough beginnings—Burns said it took about six months for him to feel comfortable leaving his second job—Merlin’s Coffee has grown into two locations and a supplier relationship with coffee houses who buy Merlin’s beans. It’s a remarkable transformation fueled primarily by an unstoppable work ethic and extremely friendly customer service. On the company’s Facebook page, Burns interacts with regulars with the casual ease that comes with talking to them daily.
Direct Capital has helped with financing, Burns said, noting that was able to use coffee roasting equipment financing to pick up three new coffee roasters as his business grew. He also credits the company with helping him get his second location off the ground.
“If it was not for (Direct Capital) helping us out, we would not have been able to expand,” Burns said.
Today, the two shops have seven employees and plan to hire more for the busy season this spring and summer, especially in Gettysburg. The company “stands out” because they roast their own coffee beans, Burns said, and they always try to keep prices fair and keep up on industry trends.
Hard work is such a part of Burns’ life that his advice to fellow small business owners is grounded in it.
“First, be willing to work. Do not expect others to do your work or expect money to roll in without the effort,” he said. “In the past few years, I have seen coffee shops open and close due to the fact the owners were not present, and this really hurts a business because customers feel a direct connection to the business if they can access the owners. We get that all the time. People know us and look out for the business when something is wrong, and that in itself is good to have.”
To learn more about Merlin’s Coffee, visit their Facebook page.
Photo credit to iStock
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