Before

After

The People’s Cup MicroRoastery

By Ben Smith, Staff Writer

Blair has always known that he would one day take his love of coffee and make it into a business. Blair realized that he loved coffee at a very young age. He started working for a well-known coffee franchise when he was older. He used the experience he gained working to carry on with his dream. He learned everything he could about the details of roasting coffee, tasting coffee, and smelling coffee and decided to explore his own roasting methods. After experimenting, he decided it was time to open his coffee shop, but he wanted it to be different from any other coffee shop.

Blair’s mission is “improving the lives of farmers while improving your coffee experience.” He decided to source his beans from farms as close to him as possible. He strives to work with the local framers to get coffee beans instead of large importers.

In 2018, Blair leased a location in Starkville for his business, The People’s Cup MicroRoastery. He purchased raw coffee beans and roasted the beans himself, creating different roasts and blends. Blair had live music at the shop during campus-related events and sold items through social media. The business was going well until 2020 when he faced the difficulties of COVID-19. Blair continued to struggle through. However, his landlord terminated the lease agreement because of the live music. Blair kept his dream alive and was ready for the next steps. It just so happened that a neighbor happened to witness Blair’s conversation with the landlord and offered him a building to continue his dream. Blair now had a building, but it needed a lot of work. He needed capital.

He has big plans for his legacy, Blair is determined to see it through. He has spent the last few years developing relationships with the local farmer. He wanted to continue helping farmers while following his dream, but he first needed capital. Blair had a lot of work ahead of him that required dedication. Blair started researching loans. He explored every avenue. He filled out a brief survey titled “Connect 2 Capital” from the SOAR (Southern Opportunity and Resilience) Fund as he explored all the options. The SOAR Fund has partnered with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), serving the same businesses the SOAR Fund seeks to rebuild after COVID-19 shuttered them.

Blair said he did not know exactly what he filled out until he received a call from Communities Unlimited Economic Development Loan Officer Chris Tillman. Chris spoke with Blair about the terms and requirements of the small business loan and how it could further Blair’s business. Chris started working with Blair on his loan to get the capital he needed to remodel the building in Starkville’s Cotton District into what Blair envisioned. The shop will offer exactly what Blair has thought about over the years, good coffee from local farmers, a unique vibe, lots of character, and an open outdoor space, that most coffee shops do not have. The SOAR Fund lenders have helped many small business owners with their dreams, but The People’s Cup MicroRoastery is the first SOAR Loan in Mississippi.

Blair closed on his loan on February 3, 2022. He has a few more things to do before opening the doors at his new location, but Blair is excited for what the future holds for him and the customers of the People’s Cup MicroRoastery.