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Retired Air Force master sergeant opens hometown coffee shop in La Vista, Nebraska

posted on Monday, March 11, 2019 in Business

Image of Mike Sutmaier from Hard Bean Coffee Shop.

When Mike Sutmaier walked across the stage and received his high school diploma, he found himself faced with a big decision. Should he stay in Florida and enroll in college or take a less traditional path? Mike chose the less traditional path and joined the United States Air Force.

“I decided I wanted to be a part of something bigger, so I joined the Air Force,” said Mike Sutmaier. “My plan was to serve a four-year term and then settle down in Georgia, but the Air Force had other plans in mind.”

As Mike was preparing to settle down in Georgia with his family, the Air Force approached him with the opportunity to serve overseas. Mike served deployments in South Korea, Northern Japan and Southeast Asia. When he and his family came back to the states it was his intention to retire in Hawaii.

But life changed course slightly, and instead of retiring Mike and his family took one last assignment to Nebraska. And what they found was a hidden gem – a little bit of the Hawaiian lifestyle with a Midwest flair.

After his final assignment in Nebraska was complete Mike found himself once again faced with the question of what to do next. Mike quickly discovered that he still felt the desire to do something bigger than himself. This guiding force led him to open Hard Bean Coffee Shop.

“My wife and I explored many different avenues, but it was Hard Bean’s licensing agreement that caught our attention,” explained Mike. “The licensing agreement is essentially the best of two worlds, I own the business outright, but I also received the guidance of a consultant who had the expertise in putting the business plan together.”

Northwest Bank provides small business funding through the SBA

Once Mike knew that opening Hard Bean Coffee Shop was the direction he wanted to go his next obstacle was figuring out how to fund his new business. When finding funding proved to be tougher than anticipated, Mike reached out to Kelly Grefe at Northwest Bank.

“Because I was retiring from the service, the business was my income, and a lot of the banks I reached out to were not able to help me fund the startup costs,” explained Mike. “I had met Kelly about a year prior to approaching Northwest Bank and I picked his brain as I was trying to figure out how to navigate the business finance world.”

Kelly was able to help Mike get the funding he needed through an SBA loan that covered the cost of equipment, tenant build out, inventory and working capital. Mike also used the money he had saved from real estate investments to help cover his startup costs.

“I am so thankful to Kelly for being able to make something work,” said Mike. “Nothing is impossible, you just have to keep trying to find different avenues to get to your desired end result.”

Hometown coffee shop

Hard Bean Coffee Shop had its Grand Opening in March 2018. Half of Mike’s staff are either active duty members or family members of active duty members. The coffee shop selects beans from across the globe and sells local products inside the shop. Hard Bean’s pastry cases are filled with scones made by a local retired police officer and cupcakes and macaroons made by two active duty members. And the walls showcase artwork from local artists.

“It is important to us that Hard Bean is a part of the local community in La Vista — we strive to be a hometown coffee shop,” said Mike. “We have a conference room that is available to other businesses, and we host all kinds of events like yoga classes, wedding receptions and baby showers; I just learned what a sprinkle is.”

Online banking for small businesses

The online banking tool Northwest Bank provides small business owners helps Mike streamline his cash management processes. And it provides business owners, like Mike, with the financial control they need to build a successful small business.

“Online cash management makes it simple and easy to manage my cash flow and daily transactions,” said Mike. “I’m able to quickly transfer money between accounts and deposit checks 24/7, which is a huge time saver for my business.”

Growth on the horizon

Even though the business is new, Mike is already looking for opportunities to expand. He is currently working on opening a smaller scale coffee shop at the gym located on the Air Force base and has started installing Hard Bean’s coffee equipment in local bakeries.

“I am going to try and grow the business as best I can, and I feel confident it’s possible,” said Mike. “I’m so grateful to Kelly and Northwest Bank. If it weren’t for the loan Kelly helped me get, I would still be investing in real estate instead of building a business I believe in.”


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