By: Ty Gowen
Colonial Life recently held a challenge to find a small business striving to empower their employees to be free-thinking entrepreneurs. Naming these empowered workers, “Entreployees”, we worked in partnership with Entrepreneur Magazine to whittle down the qualified entrants to one amazing company that rose above the rest.
In Lexington, KY, we found that company. A Cup of Common Wealth, a small café with spirit to share, was a true leader in entrepreneurship and employee empowerment. After I saw Entrepreneur’s feature, and knowing that I would be traveling through Kentucky, I had to plan out a pit stop to see this small business for myself.
Time for a Visit
Nestled on a Lexington side street, surrounded by a few quiet businesses, is A Cup of Common Wealth. It opens to a welcoming atmosphere where the baristas know the names of their regular patrons, as well as a little about their lives. I’d read about how the baristas were asked to go the extra mile, so I was pleased to see this engrained in their work. They made it a point to create a dialogue with the customers about recent events, and I watched as they even engineered an extra-large carry-out box for a customer with a particularly robust order. Between this and their natural conversations with patrons sitting in the shop and enjoying a caffeinated brew, it was clear these employees were given the tools they need to go above and beyond.
A Cup of Generosity
Before ordering, I wanted to see the “Pay it Forward” wall I had read about in the Entrepreneur Magazine article, and it did not disappoint. Customers are encouraged to purchase a cup for a future visitor, and create a specific condition that would entitle that visitor to the free drink. Free cup criteria ranged from “A Traveling French Citizen” to “John Buck’s Facebook friends” and anything in between. The outpouring of generosity was so vast that this wall of kindness stretched from floor to ceiling and crept in to surrounding areas. This alone made it easy to see the positive effect A Cup of Common Wealth was capable of producing, but it’s truly the staff that makes this positivity a reality.
Meet the Entreployees
Zach Joseph and Alexandra Canada were the baristas I was fortunate enough to meet during my visit. They slung drinks like champions, chatted with regulars, and shared stories of the shop’s entrepreneurial spirit by taking me on a quick tour while my green tea was steeping. Employees here are empowered to give free cups to people who seemed to need it, and they’re encouraged to leave a positive mark on anyone who walks through their door.
It’s clear that A Cup of Common Wealth is a gem of a small business. The culture here is focused on giving employees the power to make a quality impact on the lives of those around them, which is reflected back in turn by the community they serve. Whether this be from their pay it forward system, or paying for parking if a customer is short on change, the employees here act to make everyone’s day just a bit better, and sometimes that makes all the difference. I was thankful to see this positivity first-hand during my quick visit, and I would gladly return for another cup next time I’m in Kentucky.