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Owners of Clear Lake-based Cabin Coffee get Iowa SBA award

CLEAR LAKE — The owners of an Iowa-based chain of coffee shops are being named Iowa’s Small Business Persons of the Year by the Iowa District Office of the U-S Small Business Administration.

Brad Barber, and his wife Angie, opened their first Cabin Coffee in Clear Lake in 2002 and they’ve seen exponential growth in the years since. Brad Barber says they’re very dedicated to the people and to the product.

“No matter how you package it or how you do it, after 14 days, coffee starts going stale, so we fresh-roast our own coffee in our stores,” Barber says. “We get very involved with our communities, with the high schools, with the churches and non-profit groups, in helping them raise money for their entities.”

Cabin Coffee now has 15 stores, with 140 employees in six states. In 2017, the company reported sales of $5.5 million. Barber says the key to his success with employees — and with customers — is focusing on the individual.

“People are all searching. We’re all lonely or hurting, one way or the other, right?” Barber says. “So, when they come to work for us or when people come into our stores, we want them to feel loved and cared for because we wanted a wholesome place to work, we wanted a wholesome place for our customers.”

Barber is a 57-year-old Texas native. In recent years, he and his wife taught a course on entrepreneurism at North Iowa Area Community College. Barber says he had a standard response for students who said they wanted to run their own companies in order to make a lot of money and “be the boss.”

“However many customers we have? Those are my bosses,” Barber says, laughing. “All of our franchisees, we may dedicate on what they can and can’t do, but I’m still a servant for them, so it’s truly more fun and rewarding to give than receive.”

The SBA is inviting the Barbers and all other state-level winners to Washington D-C on May 5 and 6 for a ceremony in their honor, and for the naming of the National Small Business Person of the Year.


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