Overflow Coffee Bar energizes Chicago leaders

Learn how a welcoming Chicago café serving fair-trade coffee becomes a place where aspiring world-changers find and pursue their purpose.

By Jane St. John

When Brandon and Amanda Neely founded Overflow Coffee Bar, they weren’t just starting a local business. They were launching a movement to empower their Chicago community—a movement that happened to be headquartered in a welcoming café serving fair-trade, environmentally friendly coffee. Their explicit mission was to “inspire a genuine and local community of people who change the world with their purchasing power, time, and talents.” Within its first five years, Overflow became a place where like-minded individuals could find and pursue their purpose.

As with any small business, establishing Over ow’s footprint came with significant costs. To pay off their business debt by the end of 2016, they used NationBuilder to launch a campaign that raised close to $30,000, putting Overflow in the black and the Neelys in a place where they could expand the community that shares their vision. Of their donors, Brandon says, “They didn’t just give to a coffee shop. Most people said, ‘I’m giving this because I believe in you and what you stand for.’ People give to organizations, but most of the time, they give to people.”

With their financial footing in place, the Neelys have created Overflow Your Possibility, a coaching service for entrepreneurs and social innovators that operates from Overflow’s brick-and-mortar space, with online courses to come in 2017. “People are looking for models,” Brandon says. “That’s what’s so cool about where we’re at today in history. You can connect, have a real relationship, and teach tools to somebody far away.”

With NationBuilder’s help, that’s exactly what they plan to do— share the insights they’ve gained while growing a business from the ground up. According to Brandon, “A lot of times you can’t see the forest for the trees because you’re in the forest. Now we’re going to help others look at the whole forest and have a bird’s-eye view.”

Images courtesy of Overflow

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