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Love Remains a Key Ingredient in One Small Business Owner's Success
Mon Feb 05 2018 - Specialty coffee isn't the closest thing to Tracy's heart. That is strictly reserved for her husband Shawn, her three children and one granddaughter. Tracy is also fond of a group called "You Can Free Us," an international anti-human trafficking organization. However, specialty coffee is her passion. The passion today remains just as strong as it was 15 years ago when Tracy was relentlessly researching coffee in libraries, in coffeeshops and at her family's dinner table. The same passion has made Tracy one of the most successful owners in the Scooter's Coffee franchise system.
The journey to entrepreneurial success began when Tracy was a young girl learning from the daily lessons taught by her mother and father. "I come from a family of entrepreneurs," says Bouwens. "I remember growing up, dreaming about what I wanted to do, my dad would always respond, 'You can turn that into a business.' He always believed I could be successful as a business owner no matter what field I went into."
For Tracy, business ownership didn't happen immediately after leaving her parents' house. When she went off to college she met Shawn, and the two eventually decided to spend the rest of their lives together. "When we got married and started our family, I initially stayed home and took care of the kids while he pursued his career in the National Football League," says Tracy. "While I was raising our kids, I always contemplated what I could be doing when the time came."
Always a visionary, Tracy noticed a growing trend brewing across America as she attempted to pinpoint her future endeavor. "I was really intrigued with the coffee industry, specifically, the explosion of specialty coffee," says Bouwens. "The concept of coffeehouses, how people interacted with one another, how the location became a gathering spot for the community, intrigued me. I love being around people."
"When she first brought this idea to me, we were watching the coffee industry emerge in the Midwest," says Shawn. "She would go to various coffeehouses for hours to gather info. Because I'm the conservative one, I kept sending Tracy back because I needed more data. It's probably why it took so long for us to launch. I'm the one that would challenge her to get me more information because I never had enough."
As their children grew older, Tracy was able to dedicate even more time to her research project. For nearly two years, Tracy would camp out in local coffeehouses and trade shows. It would be wrong to classify it as an obsession, more of a hobby. "Our table was full of samples, cups, coffee beans, syrup, anything coffee-related you could imagine," says Tracy.
Tracy was envisioning a romantic coffeehouse. It was at that time in Omaha when she noticed some cool new drive-thru stores sprouting across the city. "As we were pursuing coffeehouse locations, we noticed Scooter's Coffee was opening several locations in Omaha," says Tracy. "Shawn and I decided to meet with (Scooter's Coffee co-founder) Don Eckles. That's when we discovered going the franchise route was a much smarter option than going solo."
Soon afterwards the Bouwenses were signing the documents that allowed them to open their first of a few Scooter's Coffee locations in Omaha. Tracy was now juggling the role of mother and entrepreneur, but the latter allowed her the flexibility that doesn't come when you work for others. "When our youngest children went off to kindergarten and first grade, that's when we opened our first store," Tracy says. "I knew I could work during the day and be at home when the school day ended with the kids. Shawn and I, along with some dedicated baristas, ran the stores ourselves while the kids were in school during the initial days."
The early days of ownership were the toughest for the Bouwenses. "There were days we were short staffed, learning how to stay within the confines of a budget as well as some of the systems and processes in place today weren't there at the time," says Tracy. She now looks back on those days fondly because of the invaluable lessons learned. "It had its challenges, but when I look back, to me, that's where Shawn and I grew the most as a couple. We had to lean on one another. We learned the most in business. I will forever be grateful for those trying days because of the growth personally and professionally."
Scooter's Coffee was also appreciative of the Bouwenses' hard work and success. The couple moved to Kansas City, because Scooter's Coffee asked them to introduce the brand to a new territory. "At the time Scooter's Coffee was still young," says Shawn. "We had an opportunity to develop the Kansas City market and we jumped on it. Our job was to develop Kansas City and make Scooter's Coffee a household name like it was in Omaha. There were challenges, but it was the most growth we experienced in business and together as a couple." What started as a passion for Tracy was turning into a family enterprise.
The Scooter's Coffee franchise has served as a learning ground for the Bouwens family. All three children have worked in the stores in some capacity, including as baristas. "Family is priority, period," Tracy says. "Family is most important to us and we make it a priority to this day."
Tracy is happy her kids we able to see first-hand the ups and downs that come with being a business owner. "Watching them grow up they were becoming entrepreneurial minded. That was fun to see and I, just like my dad, liked to encourage their ideas. We've always been open in the home. If things are hard, we talk about it. They're wise financially for their age when it comes to saving and investing. I feel they're fully prepared for life."
Being an entrepreneur has also cemented her commitment to the love of her life, Shawn. "When we got engaged, we had an honest conversation with each other," Tracy says. "We said no matter how hard it gets, we'll never throw the divorce word out there. No matter what happens, we'll get through it together. When love feels good, that's easy to talk about. We're thankful we discussed it. Twenty-six years later, I can honestly say our love is deeper, because with each passing year, we know each other more and more."
Tracy says just like in business, you must work at marriage. She says the key is to make sure you separate business from pleasure. "We're intentional about what time we stop working in the day. We try to stop talking and working at 6 in the evening. Have dinner with one another, ask 'How was your day?' We strive to pause and take the time to look at and talk with one another each and every day because marriage isn't easy."
Neither is owning a business. As co-owner of Freedom Enterprises, the company that owns 37 Scooter's Coffee locations, she heads an operation that generates an annual revenue approaching $16 million. Her foresight, and the ability to recognize and capitalize on America's growing infatuation with specialty coffee, is paying off. It wasn't by chance. Her success is the culmination of years of research, long nights analyzing products at her dining room table, a tumultuous trial and error period, and an abundance of love.
"As an entrepreneur, there's freedom in having success in your own business," Tracy says. "There's freedom to take a vacation when you want to. Freedom to set up the company the way you want to set it up. It's the freedom that comes with being a business owner."
About Scooter’s Coffee
Founded in 1998 by Don and Linda Eckles in Bellevue, Nebraska, Scooter’s Coffee roasts only the finest coffee beans in the world at its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. In more than two decades of business, Scooter’s Coffee’s success is simple: stay committed to the original business principles and company core values. The Scooter’s Coffee Brand Promise, often recited to franchisees, customers and employees is: “Amazing People, Amazing Drinks… Amazingly Fast!®” It represents the company’s business origins from 1998 and reflects a steady commitment to providing an unforgettable experience to loyal and new customers.
Scooter’s Coffee specializes in hand-tamped espresso drinks, fruit smoothies, baked-from-scratch pastries and features its signature drink, the Caramelicious®. The company also serves a line of hot and iced organic teas, single-origin coffee and the original Cold Brew & Cream. This year, one of Scooter’s Coffee’s drink innovations includes Red Bull Infusions.
Scooter’s Coffee is at the dawn of a strategic growth phase in the Midwest and nationwide. The U.S. coffee market is an estimated $48 billion a year recession-resistant industry, and Scooter’s Coffee is striving to become the #1 drive-thru coffee franchise in the nation. Visit ownascooters.com to learn more about the benefits of owning a franchise of a well-established company.