Millennials with a vision to change the coffee industry, create a sustainable model, and influence others to do the same, co-owners, Sarah Laman and Arick Davis, sit side by side as they recall the beginnings of Last Mile Cafe. “My first memory is when Arick tweeted something in 2016 about starting a café,” laughs Sarah.
“I always knew I wanted to open a café, but I thought it would be during retirement when I’m in my 60’s,” remarks Arick. “We were both at a spot in our careers where we were moving on from current positions. We wanted to work for a company that shared our values then we thought, well why not create our own now?” explains Arick.
Planet and People First
At their core, Sarah and Arick value sustainability, both in business and the environment. “Every decision we make we put people and planet first. But that often means higher expenses which can be challenging,” states Sarah. “We want to make sure the farmers are getting paid what they should, that we are aligning our values with everyone we work with.”
Sarah and Arick have been told “no” too many times to count. Whether it was a “no” that their business model wouldn’t work to “no” they wouldn’t qualify for a bank loan. This only furthered their drive to succeed. “We didn’t have a high enough credit score or collateral for a bank loan. They told us to not even bother applying,” explains Arick.
Michigan Women Forward is not only well positioned to support entrepreneurs like Sarah and Arick get access to capital, but it’s our mission to expand economic opportunity. MWF understands the challenges women and minority business owners face, and we want to part of the solution to create an equitable economy in Michigan.
“As unique as this problem seemed to us, it’s not as uncommon as some might think,” says Sarah.
- On average, big banks approve around 60% of loans applied for by white small-business owners, 50% by Latinx small-business owners, and 29% by Black small-business owners (McKinsey & Company).
- In 2022 the Biz2Research found that the average size loan for women-owned businesses was 33 percent less than for male-owned businesses.
- Black small-business owners are significantly more likely to be asked to provide more information about their personal financials—including personal financial statements and personal W-2 forms—when applying for small-business loans than white small-business owners were (McKinsey & Company).
“There’s a lot of guesswork when you haven’t done it before. It was helpful to have MWF team members to review and make suggestions for our financial paperwork.”
Support from MWF
In April 2022, Last Mile Café received a $50,000 loan from MWF to help support the opening of their cafe. The grand opening was originally scheduled for May of 2022, but due to labor shortages, supply delays, and other construction issues, they were forced to continually postpone the opening. The loan from MWF helped ensure they were able to keep moving forward, despite the unforeseen circumstances.
Minority owned businesses are more optimistic and more likely to offer support to their local community. It was essential to Arick and Sarah to embed community support into their model. Ten percent of all proceeds are donated to local nonprofits, which are selected by customers. Some of the causes they support include environmental justice, clean drinking water, criminal justice reform, and youth development.
Cafe Opens in 49507
Not only are Sarah and Arick creating jobs, a sustainable business model, and giving back to the community, but they have brought life back into a long-forgotten building. “The floor was dirt, there was no water, heat, or electricity. When the city ran new gas lines years ago they skipped this building because it had been abandoned for so long,” remarks Sarah.
Vacant and abandoned properties are linked to increased rates of crime (particularly arson) and declining property values. The maintenance or demolition of vacant properties is a huge expense for many cities. Their new location that sat vacant for decades now brings character, curb appeal, and pedestrians back to the community. They are welcoming the community to their all-day Grand Opening on Sunday, December 4. There will be food, entertainment, and ribbon cutting.
Sarah (and co-owner Arick) are part of the 1,900 entrepreneurs we proudly served in 2022; and their loan is part of the total $2.6M in loans MWF disbursed to support start-up or established women-led businesses.
By supporting Michigan Women Forward you support entrepreneurs, like Arick and Sarah, that have long-lasting, positive impacts on the community. Support MWF and help propel Michigan women forward.