Getting Repeat Customers
Tapville Social, Columbia

Mr. Appliance in Ellicott City had six employees by the end of its first year. Now it has 14. (Submitted photo)

Godsisters Chandra Goodman and Katrina Greene were considering buying a mobile drink truck when they came across Tapville Social, a franchise they opened in late February in the food court at The Mall in Columbia.

Having a set location has worked for the duo because when they analyzed liquor laws in various metropolitan Washington jurisdictions, they found some would have required emptying a mobile truck and refilling it ― whether it was (really) necessary or not. “However, Tapville was based around opening a kiosk,” said Greene. “So we traveled to its headquarters in Chicago and saw how they ran it in a mall, with seating.”

So after paying the franchise fee of $24,000 within a $300,000 total investment, Goodman and Greene applied to a minority grant program called Partners to Empower via Brookfield Properties (the Mall’s owner) and received $95,000 with training, then moved forward.

In addition to Blue Moon, Yuengling and several local brews, Tapville also offers Margarita Slushies, seasonal flights, a wine machine and its biggest seller, mimosas.

A recent boost came when the duo was approved to offer refillable containers to go.

So far, business “has increased every week since we opened,” said Greene. “We already have repeat customers and are much less expensive than the Downtown restaurants.”

Investing in people
Consult Lemonade, Columbia

The long-term goal of Maryland Innovation Center resident Consult Lemonade is to enable 1 million minority applicants to gain information technology employment and make $100,000 per year.

Two years into the nonprofit’s existence, it’s “about 13 percent” of the way
to raising its annual goal of $100,000 for 2024 from individual donors in its
quest to teach technical, soft and life skills to adults within “a 24-month
roadmap with a family focus to engage, empower and employ,” said Co-founder
Tierra Lathan, who runs the organization with husband Wali.

The next step is the connection of its candidates with potential employers. “After they’re hired,” she said, “our of coaches stay in contact with them to discuss challenges, goals,” etc.

While their approach is working, the Lathans (as noted) need funding. “We invest a minimum of $12,000 per candidate and we’re working with 100 people,” she said, though adding that a recent grant of $18,000 from Howard County has been helpful. “We’re severely bootstrapping this effort to also pay five employees” with contributions from 12 volunteers.

So far, donors have always turned up “in a nick of time,” she said, noting that “the ideal budget would be $1.2 million, which would cover 100 candidates per year. But today, we’re at 25 percent capacity.”

Smart work success
Mr. Appliance, Ellicott City

Ed Piotrowski’s take on opening a Mr. Appliance franchise nine years ago was somewhat unusual: it called for entering an industry that he didn’t know and instead relying on staff that does

So he and wife/business partner Beth paid $200,000 to get up and running, and hire one employee. “We’d considered starting a retail operation in Ellicott City,” Piotrowski said, “but we opted to enter the service industry. Today, about 70% of our business is in Howard County, though we’re expanding.”

By the end of the first year, Mr. Appliance had six employees; today, it has 14. “During the first four years, we reached the company’s Top Gun status, then plateaued,” he said. “But stayed steady during the pandemic since people needed our services.”

What shaped Piotrowski approach was reading a book called The E Myth “that stressed not working in your business (i.e. not being a baker and running a bakery),” he said. “We didn’t and it’s led us to success.”

All told, “I’m not sure if I could have picked a better industry,” he said. “We’ve made additional investments of approximately $250,000 over the years, but the key here was simply focusing on building a local business of value.”

Continued expansion
Roggenart European Bakery, Bistro & Café, Savage Mill

For a business that debuted late in the pandemic, Roggenart has expanded quickly after putting down its initial stakes at Savage Mill, then opening in Columbia, Ellicott City and Towson.

Today, the Savage Mill location is prepping for summer on the heels of more recent success. “Business has been great and we’re slammed on Saturday and Sunday,” said Manager Casey Allred, who was promoted last fall and noted the new wired sound system at the eatery, where “everything is made from scratch.”

Allred, who oversees a team of eight, also noted the efforts of A.J. Properties, the Mill’s management company, to attract more locals and visitors to the destination. “The Mill is now fully leased, which is a big deal,” he said, “and they’ve been holding community events” such as the recent two-day Savage Geek Fest, a Comic-Con-style event; and the Bluegrass Fest, which is slated for the early afternoon of Saturday, June 12.

The bigger news, however, is Roggenart’s current wave of expansion, with new stores up and operating in the Mount Vernon section of Baltimore City, Arlington, Va., and even Chicago. “Frederick is set to open by this summer,” he said, “and hopefully more locations by the end of the year.”

High revenues
Clipper’s Canine Café, Ellicott City

When Kate Bowman was a vet tech and her dog became ill, it led to eventual heartbreak. But it also spurred a new two-decade phase of her career, as well as heightened nutrition for many area canines and felines.

“When I learned about raw food diets,” said Bowman, “my friends noticed my enthusiasm and wanted to buy some. So in 2004 I opened Clipper’s and sold all-natural pet food” and supplies.

While Bowman and her mother, Ann, did just that, the store was more than an hour away, in Solomons, Md. Six years later they moved to Savage Mill, “but really wanted to be in the Historic District and finally made it here in 2016,” where they can offer ample parking atop Main Street.

Bowman said Clipper’s avoids “the big national brands, so we can offer something different” and is happy with how the market has responded.

“We’ve had the ups and downs with the two Ellicott City floods, the pandemic, online competition, my skull fracture,” etc., she said, “but revenues today are as high as ever and many customers have become friends. I feel like a hairdresser because I know their dogs, their preferences, allergies and everything else.”

A message from Howard County Economic Development Authority

Mark your calendars for the 2024 Howard County Innovation Summit on June 4 from 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Hosted by County Executive Ball and industry leaders, this groundbreaking event promises dynamic talks, interactive sessions and networking opportunities that will unlock the next chapter in Howard County’s evolution as a hub of innovation.

With limited spaces available, early registration is highly encouraged.
Secure your spot now and embark on a transformative journey that will
shape the future of innovation in Howard County and beyond.