“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
There will be a new place to grab your morning “cup of joe” in West Ferris. Emily Womack is opening up a coffee bar called Java is Served.
“I was thinking about having a Coffee Bar at Dinner is Served where I was working and then I found out about the small business grant through Summer Company,” says Womack.
Summer Company is a program run by the Government of Ontario where eligible students can receive start-up money to kick-off a new summer business as well as receiving advice and mentorship from local business leaders.
“I started looking into the funding and seeing other business ideas that have also received funding and so I applied. I didn’t think I was going to get the grant, but when I did, I was super excited. I was considering doing this if I didn’t get the grant, but it wasn’t set in stone,” says Womack.
The 17-year-old West Ferris Secondary School Student says Java is Served is open for the summer from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Womack describes herself as a coffee enthusiast. She says, “I started drinking coffee with my grandma when I was younger because I wanted to be like my grandma and her friends who would always be drinking coffee when they got together, and then I just grew a love for coffee itself and explored different types like espressos and lattes and I just enjoyed making them for myself so I thought that would be a good business idea.”
Womack adds, “We don’t have a specialty coffee place in West Ferris. It will be a pretty simple menu because it’s just me working there, but in addition to the coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos I’ll also have iced coffee and then I have different flavouring options as well.”
Womack says the idea of supporting local is high on her priority list.
“I think it’s incredibly important to support local and help the people around you thrive with their businesses,” she says.
“For instance, I have aprons for Java is Served and I got them by looking through Summer Company and finding a small business owner to make them. I will mostly be serving Twiggs Coffee, but I do have coffee from the 11 North Coffee Company, which is a little more unique. I won’t be able to offer that all the time, but I will be able to promote different blends of 11 North on different days and serve those as specialties. We really need to support and promote each other and help each other thrive and that’s why I wanted to serve local coffee.”
While Womack is invested in this being her summer business, she is hoping to go to medical school once she graduates from West Ferris and making a small profit over the next few month will help her achieve that goal. Jen Leblond, Owner, and Operator of Dinner is Served by Diane’s Catering was more than happy to have Womack’s business idea located in the market section of her business.
“Emily is so impressive she is a real go-getter,” says Leblond.
“When she brought me this plan, it was a fully written business plan of what she wanted to do. She was timid but had a lot questions and it was just a win-win situation for both of us and now we’re in this together.”
Leblond says they were looking at adding some sort of hot beverage option for their customer base down the road.
“The coffee side of things was something that we wanted to add to our offerings starting in the fall, and so I’m ecstatic to help her go through the process of starting her own business and hopefully make a good profit for herself as a student for the summer while at the same time she can learn from us and we can learn from her and it’s just been such a nice collaboration already with Emily,” says Leblond.
Leblond runs the family-owned business that has 7.9 thousand members on its Facebook page. It was a business that started over 20 years ago.
“Growing up, my mom did catering, and my parents owned a general store,” says Leblond.
“It’s been about six or seven years now that I have been working with them full time. My mom has been fully retired now for the last year. It just was a natural progression as my own kids got older and I felt it was time to go back to work and so I started working with my parents again.”
Leblond says two years ago they made the decision to expand the business and offer take-home meals.
“I decided to start Dinner is Served, which was four nights a week and there was a different meal every week and we were doing that on top of the catering.”
Leblond says the meals they make are mostly family recipes.
“A lot of my recipes come from my mom, and a lot of them are just family favourites that we decided to share with other people who happened to like them as well. You try something and it either works or it doesn’t, if it does you add it to your menu, and if it doesn’t you have something that you just keep at home.”
Business was good throughout 2019, but things took a turn when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and that’s when they revamped the business again.
“We took two weeks off as everybody did and when we came back we were looking in the grocery store for some items and a lot of them weren’t available. We put a note out to our customer base on social media that I have placed an order and that I needed items like sugar and flour and ground beef and it just blew up, I never expected the response to be what it was. From there we decided to move locations so we would have more space,” said Leblond.
“It was a little stressful to take on, but all of our catering gigs just kept getting cancelled and we knew we had to do something and so that’s how we ended up with a storefront.”
Leblond says the customer base has grown since the move.
“And that allows for more flexibility to be able to try new things and offer new products,” says Leblond. “We also get to see way more people now too, I’m really enjoying this dynamic. It helps to live in a community like North Bay when you’re trying to do something like this because we couldn’t do it without the support and the positivity that came from people wanting to see us succeed, it’s just phenomenal.”
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