DCYEr of the Week: Philecia Harris of Coffy Cafe

Hi, Philecia! Tell us about yourself and how you got started with Coffy Cafe.
Coffy Cafe is a mod ’60s/’70s themed cafe that serves a variety of crepes and specialty coffees and espresso drinks with light baked goods. The space is decorated with mod furniture and period action heroes like Coffy and the Mod Squad. I’ve always kept a ‘50s/ ‘60s-themed kitchen, and since I planned to use family recipes, the period fit for me. My work experience started in cafes and bakeries, but I’ve also managed neighborhood libraries, and worked in public and school libraries, and the DC public school system.

My concept for Coffy is based on neighborhood libraries. The cafe hosts literary events and community activities, while crepes, coffee, and baked goods pay the bills.

(Keep up with what’s going on at Coffy Cafe through Facebook and Twitter!)

DC seems like an ideal place for a concept like yours. What are your favorite things about doing business here?
DC is a great city, dynamic, with so many different kinds of happenings and people. I love being a part of it!

So do we! What do you think has been the key to your success with Coffy Cafe so far?
We strive to offer high-quality products at reasonable prices. People really love the whole foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables that we use in our crepes and even the direct trade coffee. For example, we are one of the few places that uses fresh fruit instead of mixes in our smoothies and shakes, and people who come to us really appreciate that.

What skills do you think up-and-coming young entrepreneurs should develop? 
Always keep up with your math skills—and yes, most especially, algebra. I seem to use math with just about everything I do, and every now and then algebra will save me hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Whether it’s checking the math of my mortgage company, calculating areas for supplies at home depot, or figuring finances, math is an incredibly useful tool.

Okay, so our math teachers were right. We would have to know all that math later! Who knew?
Can you identify some local resources that young entrepreneurs should take advantage of (besides community college math classes)?

SCORE is a great organization that has sessions on how to run businesses, including topics such as how to start a business, business accounting, business technology, and more. They have a number of retired businesspeople to mentor you and provide a number of different counseling services.

Who is your entrepreneurial role model? Why? 
My role model in general is Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Her commitment to others and her worldview have always inspired me. In her words, “service is the rent we pay for living.” The motivation behind any business should be more than just money.

That perspective seems like it fits perfectly with your vision of Coffy Cafe as more than just a place to get a bite to eat!
What is most exciting to you about running Coffy Cafe? What has been most surprising?

I love meeting people in the neighborhood, and I’ve come to realize that my passion is not necessarily coffee or cooking—it’s people! One of my favorite jobs was running a neighborhood library. Having the ability to present local writers, artists, and performers; working with youth and community groups; and supporting people who are motivated to learn or create new things is exciting. I would like to bring that dynamic to the cafe.

Are there any upcoming events or happenings at Coffy Café that the DCYE community should be aware of?
Yes, Right now we have a Wednesday night game night, and on Saturday, June 21, from 5 to 7 p.m., we have Charles Reese presenting a literary performance and book signing for the play “Richard Wright: Soul on Fire.” And we will soon be hosting a weekly spoken word event, as well as Gospel Sundays.

Wow, thanks, Philecia! It sounds like there is a lot of incredible stuff in the hopper for Coffy Cafe (including the DCYE co-working session this Friday!). We look forward to being a part of the fun!

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2 responses to “DCYEr of the Week: Philecia Harris of Coffy Cafe

  1. Pingback: Viva Las Trepiness « dc young entrepreneurs·

  2. Pingback: The Distant Messenger | A Modern Cafe’ with a Mod 60′s Flavor·

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