Strange Brew Coffeehouse Starkville, Mississippi
Strange Brew Coffeehouse
“Jump in and start using online tools and social media to promote your business. You have to be part of the conversation.”Shane Reed, FounderStrange Brew Coffeehouse sells 130,000 cups of coffee per year.link www.strangebrewcoffeehouse.comMississippi State alumnus Shane Reed opened the Strange Brew Coffeehouse in 2005 as a community gathering place. To differentiate his business from the big-brand coffee shops, he'd stay open 24 hours during finals week and serve "awesome local coffee" (the Albino Squirrel, a white chocolate and hazelnut latte, is a bestseller), house-baked pastries, and traditional “King Cakes,” a Mardi Gras favorite. When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Shane learned what it truly meant to be part of a community. "We made it through, and it taught us a few things about weathering hard times," he says. "Being a small coffee house in a small town in Mississippi, you have to fight to survive."
Shane's blend of hometown hospitality, locally roasted coffee, and freshly baked pastries is a winning combination. He and his wife, Katelyn Reed, Head Baker and Shop Manager, rely on Google tools to keep their brand in front of customers. Their Google My Business listing makes it easy for potential customers to find Strange Brew’s store hours, address, reviews, menus, and website. They use social media, including Google+, to engage customers and connect with them even when they’re not at the coffeehouse. Google Analytics keeps them informed of how users are interacting with their site. Gmail and Google Docs help to keep the business operation flowing.
When a national coffee shop opened branches nearby, Shane and Katelyn didn't have to worry. "Our sales went up by 22% that year," Shane says. They now sell merchandise online, employ 16 people, and plan to open a shop in Tupelo, Mississippi. They're also opening an ice cream shop called Churn & Spoon right next door to Strange Brew. They believe in "brewing it forward," and support local children’s sports teams and other charities. "Sometimes I get a cup of coffee in the middle of the night, when all the college students are hanging out in the shop," he says. "It puts a smile on my face."Strange Brew Coffeehouse sells 130,000 cups of coffee per year.link www.strangebrewcoffeehouse.com
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company Kiln, Mississippi
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
“Do something that somebody wants, then make it easy for them to give you money for it. The Internet allows us to do that.”Mark Henderson, Co-owner35 employeeslink www.lazymagnolia.comMark and Leslie Henderson began brewing beer at home after Leslie bought Mark a home brewing kit for Christmas. Brewing quickly became more than a hobby for the native Mississippians. In January 2005 they launched the Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company and sold their first beer. In doing so, they became the first brewery in the state since Mississippi had enacted prohibition in 1907. By August 2005 they were out of business due to the devastation in their area (including the loss of their house) from Hurricane Katrina. Through “grit and determination” they rebuilt the company and turned to the Internet to help them find and attract customers. “We had a digital presence before we had a physical presence,” Mark says. “How else would Leslie and I be able to connect with our patrons and make them feel like they really are patronizing us?”
Today the brewery routinely uses Google Apps for Work, both within the company and to communicate with distributors and customers. Sharing documents with employees and customers through Google Docs “makes my life ten times easier,” Mark says. “And Google Sheets has always been a big part of what we do. Being able to share a spreadsheet with everybody becomes critical.” When he’s on the road, the electrical-engineer-turned-brewer also relies on Google Maps. “It’s an awesome tool, and in our business, it’s absolutely critical,” Mark says. “We’re always trying to find a little bar or restaurant out in the middle of nowhere.” And in the past, customers often had a hard time finding their brewery. But now, “We tell our customers, if you look us up on Google Maps, you’ll get here.”
Lazy Magnolia Brewing has come a long way from its beginning in the couple’s kitchen - they sold just over six million bottles of beer in 2014. Their strong digital presence, combined with such successes as winning a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in 2006, has helped them build a reputation well beyond Mississippi. They're also having “a very real and significant impact” on the old logging town that the locals call “Da Kill.” Mark adds, “We’re doing good things in our community. We’re making changes and this place is getting better.”35 employeeslink www.lazymagnolia.com