Where Are They Now? Follow Up with Berkins Blend Co-Owner Andréa Hawkins
In April 2017, Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke with Berkins Blend Café Andréa Hawkins and Doug Barber about their experience participating in the 2017 reSET Impact Accelerator and opening their first concept cyber café (read the interview: Startup Concept Cyber Café Promotes Community Building).
In June 2018, Berkins Blend won 2nd place Best Coffee Shop for the CTNOW Best of Hartford Readers’ Poll and announced it was expanding to Hartford and opening a second location, Berkins on Oak, in July.
NAN PRICE: You’re very involved in the entrepreneurial scene here in Connecticut. Where do you see the landscape heading?
ANDRÉA HAWKINS: Right now, I see a big push into technology. But I also see other new businesses— especially surrounding food (gourmet coffee, microbrew beer, vineyards and wine tasting rooms, spirits, vegetarian restaurants, ethnic fusion eats).
As an entrepreneur, it is fun to watch others pursue their dream of owning their own business. Doug and I really enjoy the food scene. We also enjoy watching how technology is changing the way we all live.
NAN: How are you building a customer base?
ANDRÉA: In our Glastonbury location, our customer base grew quite organically primarily through word of mouth. We were also helped by people who wrote articles about us in the paper, online (wink), and on TV.
Our Hartford location will be different, because our client base is already helping to spread the word. The new cafe will be located is in a building where 350 employees work. They have been missing having food in the building and we’re going to help ensure they’re not hungry!
NAN: Tell us about the importance of supporting entrepreneurship here in Connecticut.
ANDRÉA: Entrepreneurs fuel the economy by employing workers, bringing innovation to a region, and providing products and services to meet a local (or global) need. Areas that aren’t thriving in this way find it tough to attract people to come and stay. New businesses bring a vibrancy to the region.
NAN: What does being entrepreneurial mean to you?
ANDRÉA: We have choices about how we manage our business. Being an entrepreneur means we can provide a differentiated service and product. We can create community by offering a comfortable space and fresh foods and drinks. We can show our children they should not be afraid to try if they ever want to branch out on their own.
NAN: Aside from funding, what do you need most to move your company forward?
ANDRÉA: To move forward we rely on support, encouragement, and information. We’ve gotten to this point because we’re lucky to be surrounded by people who keep an eye on us, ask how they can help, and actually show up to help. We are blessed beyond belief!
Even our daughters get into mix—they’ve all had to make sacrifices for us to have our own business. They’ve been amazingly understanding and jump into help whenever they can—despite their own very busy schedules. We consider the business their legacy too.
NAN: Berkins on Oak opens later this month! How are you feeling about that?
ANDRÉA: We’re so excited to be opening at 21 Oak, Suite 101, in Hartford! We were surprised at how it all came together—and we have to give a shout-out to Jill Barry and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA). Jill told us about the space and highly recommended that we look at it. And the CEA is helping us get the shop opened. We’re planning to open by the end of July, provided all the city processes advance without issue.
NAN: Do you plan to open other locations in the future?
ANDRÉA: Other locations? Sure, why not?! Don’t you want a Berkins Blend near you?
For more about Berkins on Oak