LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs creating safe spaces for their communities to thrive | Featured News Story

Coffee that fuels community

Soon after Leann Cantrell and Becca Ferstle were married, Cantrell was deployed for active duty in the military. Despite the distance between them, the newlyweds found comfort in planning for their future. When Cantrell mentioned a dream of opening a coffee shop, the idea quickly ignited. The duo sketched out the concept for their cafe, which would also support LGBTQ+ folks in Toledo, Ohio.

The couple wanted to create a safe space that wasn’t centered around alcohol, since many queer spaces are bars. “People, when they’re younger, can have a space that isn’t a bar to go to, and to be able to just feel like themselves and not have alcohol be the center of it,” says Cantrell, a former licensed chemical dependency counselor assistant (CDCA).

After Cantrell returned from duty, Grindhrs Coffee & Community was born. Today at Grindhrs, the community is invited to wear pink every Wednesday as a fun homage to Mean Girls, a beloved movie in the millennial queer community, as well as partake in events and order drinks with names such as “Yass Queen” and “You Betta Werk.”

Despite word-of-mouth success, keeping the company afloat has not been easy for the first-time entrepreneurs, but taking courses at Digital Ready helped them find new inspiration and think outside the box, Cantrell says. The course that most resonated for the couple was “Pay Yourself: Get Beyond Breaking Even.” Cantrell and Ferstle are now working hard to make their business profitable and put their salaries on the payroll.

As for the most rewarding part of operating Grindhrs, Cantrell and Ferstle agree that it is living their dream of creating a safe space for patrons and staff. “I don’t think work should ever come first,” says Ferstle. “I think people’s lives should come first.”

Learn more about other entrepreneurs’ journeys and grow your own small business with valuable resources such as online courses, live coaching, peer networking and grant opportunities — all available for free at Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.

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