Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

             LAURA CANNON 
Laura, right, with The Orange Spot co-owner, Julie.
It's been a while since the last glimpse, and this one is most definitely worth the wait. 

Of the many wonders (take that word how you will) Facebook provides, one I have appreciated the most is reconnecting with special people from the past. Today I bring you a very dear childhood friend I eventually lost touch with, only to be digitally reunited a few years later.

I went to elementary school with Laura in the little town of Valley City, ND. We, along with another amazing young woman I have also reconnected with in recent years, were inseparable—until we were separated. At the start of seventh grade, I was 30 miles away in Jamestown, Laura was across the country in South Carolina, and our third musketeer was right where we left her. It was heartbreaking, but we moved on, and I eventually slacked pretty bad at the whole keeping in touch thing. 

I'm not the least bit surprised Laura is exactly who and what I pictured at this age: sophisticated, successful and every bit as beautiful inside and out as she was as a child. Always wiser and kinder beyond her years, she was a wonderful example to me when we were young, and she remains so today.

Her latest endeavor (on top of a full-time day job) has been partnering with a friend to open a coffeehouse: The Orange Spot,which officially opened in June, 2013, in Park Circle, North Charleston, SC. 

Laura's co-owner, Julie, came up with the idea while visiting Thailand, where she fell in love with cha yen, a Thai tea that  has an orange color when poured. She often referred to it as her 'orange spot,' and upon her return to the US, decided to provide an orange spot to everyone. After meeting Laura in 2011, she knew she had found the perfect business partner and friend. Not even two years later, their dream came to life. Read on to learn the joys and challenges of running your own (new) business.

Current job: Sales coordinator at Charleston City Paper and co-owner of The Orange Spot.

First job ever: When I was 13 I began nannying for our neighbors' children. My first "on the books" job was at Starbucks. I started on November 25, and my first task was standing at the pastry counter, putting cranberry bars into bags. We were slammed because of the Thanksgiving Day shoppers.

First job after graduating/first "grown up" job: Lo and behold, I was still at Starbucks after graduating college. My first management job was at a Charleston bed and breakfast named The Governor's House Inn. I was the assistant manager there for about 19 months.

Dream job: Owning a coffeehouse to supplement some sort of writing career. Slowly but surely...

What experience did you have that made you confident in your abilities to pursue this? As you might remember, my mom and dad love their coffee! Because of that, I have been brewing it by the pot since I was really young, and as a result feel very comfortable with many of its elements. However, there is a lot to learn about the trade. Even though I have a little over eight years professional experience in this, I intend to continue learning about the craft for a long time.

What did you have to learn? Opening a small business is no joke! I am sure it is always a challenge, but a recovering economy makes financial funding even more of a hassle. I am fortunate to have a wonderful business partner through this. 

Together, we have learned a lot about the numerous aspects required to run a successful business. This includes everything from managing the social media to crafting the drinks, to planning events and staying as close to the projection numbers (finances) as possible. It is a pursuit of passion; that's what keeps us going!

What was/is the biggest obstacle? Time. Time is always short these days. We said at the beginning that family and friends would remain a priority, so I am thankful to say we try our best to take a day off here or there to spend time with loved ones. (We are also really lucky to have people who come visit!) There is a never-ending list of "to-dos," which makes me extremely thankful for an unlimited caffeine supply.

What has been the biggest reward? Seeing the success of the business in its first year. Hearing the customers' responses to it. It is one of the best feelings I have ever had.

What makes your coffeehouse unique? Our signature drink comes from Thailand, so that's new and different for a lot of people. We brew it right there at the shop. 

We also have ongoing seasonal creations. With a nice, big herb garden in our backyard, we've been able to do fun things like freshly-squeezed lemonades with basil or mint. Living in Charleston is a great challenge of how to create refreshing, iced drinks that people will love (it is really hot and humid here).

What are your specialties? Our top sellers are the cha yen and cold press coffee (that is a brew method for iced coffee that creates less acidity and more chocolatey notes). We also use a wonderful roaster out of Illinois. Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co. is a micro-roaster that rotates its offerings frequently. They are wonderful! For our cold press we used locally-roasted Coastal Coffee Roasters. Their beans make a delicious drink.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing the same career path? Do not go into coffee if you wish to make lots of money. With that said, by all means, go into the coffee business! You will meet the best people, it will be a relatively stress-free environment, and you have the opportunity to create a space that is welcoming and inviting to all walks of life. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

When you are 50, what do you want to be able to look back and say about your life right now? I would hope that I seized every opportunity to live and live well without sacrificing time with those I love most. 
 How do you define success? Success is continually striving to treat each individual you meet with dignity, respect and love. No amount of financial security can give you that kind of peace.

Who has been your biggest influence, professionally or personally, and why? Professionally, my last boss at Starbucks, Raegan Powell, was an inspiration on how to handle the inevitable workplace conflict. Personally, I've got to say that of course, my mother. I've also made a wonderful friend named Nina Flinn. She is in her 80s and lives like she is in her 20s. I want to be like that as I age. She has done it beautifully.

What hobbies and activities do you enjoy in your spare time? I love to come home and walk my dog and think. I enjoy cooking, too. And good foodbut who doesn't love that? Writing is always in the back of my mind. I think I'll have to start waking up earlier to accomplish my goals with that.

What is number one on your bucket list? I would love to go live with my husband in a countryside cottage in Ireland for one week.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee. You would love it, Holly! (Oh, I do:)

Thank you, Laura!

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