Balancing Success in Mission and Business

by FCS on

 by Jeff Delp

People often ask me what makes South Atlanta so different. And I say two things : Jesus and the coffee shop! That might sound strange. After all, many neighborhoods have coffee shops (and Jesus), but Community Grounds’ impact on the neighborhood has been spectacular to witness.

It started seven years ago when we decided to relocate the shop (then operating one mile down the street) to the South Atlanta Marketplace, our thrift store iteration of the Family Store. Our main goal then was to create a third space in our neighborhood. A place where anyone could walk in and feel like home. A simple, yet ground-breaking, ministry for our community.

This “mission” focus brought enough value to the neighborhood, we felt, to justify the expense of running the coffee shop, which was not profitable in our low-income community. There are reasons that many traditional business by-pass our area, but we valued the ways Community Grounds was fostering connections in the neighborhood.

In 2013, we began to shift the coffee shop from being only about mission to being a business with a mission. Much like with Carver Market, we began investing in the infrastructure necessary to make the economics of the shop stronger. And we did this without losing the welcoming, community-centric third space we’d watched emerge.

Fast forward to today, and Community Grounds is on the cusp of having a positive Net Profit! In fact, we will plan and budget for Community Grounds to have a net profit in 2017. For all the wondering business folks out there, it’s true! You can run a successful - and positive - business in South Atlanta.

But the success of Community Grounds is much more than plus and minuses. While we will continue to work for a positive net profit, we’re not going to lose sight of why we are here in the first place: community, jobs, and Jesus.

In fact, as I sit in the coffee shop writing, I am watching our mission play out right in front of me. Two neighborhood seniors (morning regulars) are interacting with two toddlers  from two different families, one which just bought a house from Charis Community Housing. All are being served coffee and juice by an employee who lives on my street. We are all neighbors, and community is happening right in front of our eyes. This is ministry. Ministry with a whole lot of dignity.

So yes, we’re excited Community Grounds is approaching success from a business standpoint. But it’s been a success in the neighborhood since we opened our doors seven years ago.

Thank you for all your support over the years, and for your continued support as we launch new initiatives. And if you’ve never joined us for a cup of coffee, we invite you down!

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