Orlando and Barbara, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Both of us, Orlando and Barbara, have a story with coffee. Barbara’s journey started back in Venezuela, every time she had a “guayoyito” with her parents and grandparents. Her grandma even brings her a Moka pot every time she travels (Barbara literally has more than ten!)
Orlando, on the other hand, uses coffee to work, brainstorm, read a book and be productive while having a “café con Leche”. We both love how coffee always made us feel and we understood it wasn’t only the beverage, but the experience that coffee offered us. Even when we were buying our first home, we used to sit at coffee shops and spend hours doing research. We were both living in Texas, but we wanted to come back to Miami to be with our family so the ideas started coming! We decided to combine Barbara’s favorite social place with Orlando’s favorite workplace. That was the beginning of GROU but we wanted to take it to the next level… So many people want to help different causes but if you start with those around you, the good spreads. We decided to start here and now. With those around us. Not only a coffee shop + coworking space, but we also needed to build a community that brings people together through coffee.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We don’t believe there is ever a smooth road when starting a business, some things are going to be easier than others, but it is hard and challenging. For us, it has been a big change in many aspects of our lives. Just a few months back, we were living in another city. We planned our business opening and our move to Miami and all of the sudden we are stuck at home wearing a face mask every time we step out. We knew all along that building permits take time, but we would have never anticipated such a big delay. COVID-19 came at a time in which we were getting ready to start a business. It is a period of uncertainty for us and many other businesses.
Another struggle is the change of careers and lifestyles, Barbara was doing marketing consulting full time and now she has to balance the workload with GROU’s marketing needs, her clients’ and so many other tasks to start this business. Orlando on the other hand, was a full-time tennis coach at a Country Club. It is a big change and sometimes a struggle to be sitting at a computer at home when a couple of months ago he had a very active lifestyle.
There is also a challenge as a couple. Many of our friends tell us that we are crazy for starting a business together and maybe we are, but we knew we had the kind of relationship that could handle it and it is working out so far. That doesn’t mean it is perfect. We still had to set some boundaries when we are at the “office” as business partners or “home” as a married couple. Even though it could count as a challenge or struggle, neither of us would’ve done it with a different partner, and we are learning a lot from each other.
GROU – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
GROU will have two separate areas, a coffee shop (The Shop) and a coworking space (The Office). At The Shop, we will be offering a specialty coffee menu along with toasts, bowls, desserts and baked goods featuring local brands with gluten-free, vegan and healthy options. At The Office, we will be renting our office spaces to creative professionals, businesses and entrepreneurs, including people in marketing, sales, content creation, design, video and other related fields. Each office will be ideal for 1-2 people, with parking space, coffee shop discounts, mailing addresses, access to the meeting room, copy room and events. The Office will also feature a meeting room open to the public, ideal for presentations, conferences and events for up to ten people.
GROU is a community where businesses collaborate with each other (grow) that brings people together (group) by offering the best cup of coffee (ground) that’s how the name GROU was born.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Our opening date got delayed due to COVID-19 and we were eager to start our business so we decided to reinvent ourselves and do something about it. We decided to launch our website and sell our coffee online, which was never our plan. We were not very comfortable doing it but it paid off and we were very proud the day we got our first order from a total stranger. It was very exciting to us.