A mobile coffee house business success

There is never a right time to open a business. Talk to any entrepreneur and he or she will tell you that opening a business while adapting to rapidly changing trends is challenging and can be stressful.

Throw in a global pandemic and you can really shake things up.

Despite the pandemic — or maybe because of it — new businesses have been starting at record rates. The pandemic sparked a change in people and some entrepreneurs took this spark and went full steam ahead to adapt to a new way of conducting business.

Almost half a million new businesses opened in the U.S. in the first year of the pandemic, Yelp Inc. data showed, illustrating the resilience of American entrepreneurs.

Although the number of new businesses is 14% lower than a year earlier; new restaurants and local shops continued to open at a relatively quick pace despite the pandemic.

Local shops have been the brick and mortar of several small towns and cities — even large and industrial. When crisis emerges, communities tend to stick to their “home roots” and support local even more.

I sat down with Sarah Knabel, a fellow Dubuque native and owner of Bob & Lou’s mobile coffee shop. Knabel did not let a global crisis deter her from pursuing her dream of owning and operating a mobile coffee shop.

Two years of brainstorming, planning and determination led to Knabel acquiring a business loan. From there she purchased a mobile camper and continued to hone her craft — creating perfectly brewed cold and hot beverages.

Knabel was not going to let anything or anyone stand in her way.

“A lot of people really doubted me and thought I was crazy, but the idea ended up truly being a blessing in disguise,” Knabel said. Being mobile, her business has a modern, practical to-go aspect all while maintaining small-town charm — serving up hot coffee, lattes, mochas, cold brew and gourmet lemonades throughout Dubuque county and the tri-state area.

Bob & Lou’s mobile coffee shop is rapidly approaching a year of being in business. They have developed a loyal following and become well-known in the community.

Due to demand, Knabel has added apparel and mugs to her offerings. Bob & Lou’s even recently announced that their temporary winter location will continue to stay open year-round in addition to their seasonal, mobile coffee camper — conveniently located on University Avenue.

When asked what advice she would give to those who have been dreaming of opening their own business and may have been second guessing themselves she stated, “always go back to your why — if this is your dream, you are going to make it happen.”