Testimonial Of A New Business

This is such a great story from one of our 2022 vendors.  Helping local businesses is why the Eaton County Expo was started.  Give it a read.


Starting a new business is hard. Like, really hard. And I knew that, I worked in business development for almost a decade and coached entrepreneurs as they started out on their ventures. With all this experience, I still wasn’t prepared for the journey ahead of me. In this four-part series learn how I went from a dream to a brick and mortar location in just eight months.

Step One: Make A Entrance

I knew I was going to have to do something big to start my business, something that everyone would be talking about for a while. Blimp? Too flashy. Fireworks? Not permitted within city limits. Commercial? Too expensive. Then a member of Locals in Business reached out to me and asked if I would like to launch my business at the Eaton County Home and Business Expo. And “Bing!” just like that a lightbulb went off! The Expo!

I’d attended The Expo before and I had recommended it to many local business owners, but I hadn’t thought of it as a way to launch a small business. With encouragement from event coordinators, I was ready to take the leap and launch BlackDog Coffee.

I had two months to prepare everything–literally, everything. I didn’t have a coffee roaster yet, I didn’t have any machinery, I didn’t have cups–all I had was a dream and a lot of untapped potential. Everyday I worked tirelessly to create a brand, find products, and solidify a plan for The Expo.

The Expo gave me what I was missing the most, a timeline. On April 30th I had to be ready-to-go. No excuses. This lit a fire under me that was needed and gave me a very attainable goal.

Two weeks before the event I shared with my friends and family that I had quit my very comfy white collar job and was now pursuing my dream of starting BlackDog Coffee. While this came as a surprise, everyone was very supportive of me and my new pursuits. I continued posting and hyping up BlackDog Coffee and The Expo, these posts were reaching about three thousand people and everyone was ready to give it a try.

The day of the event we brought four pots of coffee, thinking that might be enough, unsure of how many people would actually show up. We sold through those four pots in thirty (you read that right) thirty minutes! We started brewing more like crazy!

At one point we had 15 cups sitting at our booth, paid for, and waiting for coffee. We couldn’t brew it fast enough–people loved the taste of our coffee and were impressed by the flavor and the low acidity. By the end of the day we went through 15 pots of coffee and we had gained hundreds of social media followers.

Day two we were much more prepared than we were for day one. Even with preparation, we sold out of our delicious coffee so quickly we had a line form once again. This day we sold 10 pots of coffee. Which is still more than I could’ve ever imagined!

Even though we were swamped, we continued to post on social media and invited our guests to do the same. This constant promotion of the event encouraged people to come out and support us, while also promoting The Expo and everything going on.

This launch was so successful for us, we were able to use the money as seed money to buy equipment, pay for farmers markets rentals, and tuck a little bit away to go towards our brick and mortar.

As a small business owner I don’t think we could’ve had a better first day. Thank you so much to the Eaton County Home and Business Expo for hosting this great event. We were able to connect with people who truly care about small business ownership, locally owned businesses, and their downtown economy. These are the people who still come out to support us today.

Since we’ve opened, we have had tens of people say “hey, I remember you guys from The Expo!” Having a booth at The Expo made us legitimate in a lot of people’s eyes and that very first day, where we were able to showcase a great product, was enough that people still remember us six months later.

If you’re a small business wondering if you should get a booth at the Eaton County Home and Business Expo–do it. Do it right, promote ahead of time, and ready yourself to build a customer base that will last long after the event.

Stop in now to grab some BlackDog Coffee at 120 W Hamlin, Eaton Rapids, or you can wait to see us at the 2023 Eaton County Home and Business Expo–see you there!

-Lisa Barna

Owner, BlackDog Coffee