Black Crow Coffee Co. 722 2nd street N. Saint Petersburg FL 33701
In one word, describe yourself.
What was your job before owning black crow coffee?
I was a professional hair and makeup artist.
What made you decide to leave that position for this one?
Opportunity. I had reached a really pinnacle point in my career as a makeup artist. I was working with one client and I traveled nationally and internationally with her, and I was ready to pull back.
“I realized when you reach a high at a point in your life sometimes you have to re-evaluate what is that next level for you- and is it going to be fulfilling and satisfying? You have to ask yourself those questions because when you shift from something, you shift away from security to unfamiliarity and those can make you feel vulnerable.”
So, when you make those moves you just have trust in yourself. I just decided to retire and I had been doing it [makeup] for 25 years and as a progression of growth, I decided to take this opportunity to become a half owner with Gregg in something I love doing which is drinking coffee.
How long did Black crow coffee take to go from idea to open?
One thing that is kind of unique about Gregg and I is we often don’t overthink things. So, when we saw the space became available we just knew it was going to be a coffee shop and there wasn’t any question.
We wanted the space selfishly because we lived three blocks away. So we’re like “HEY let’s do something” and because Gregg had such a long coffee career that was just a no brainer to put a coffee shop in there. Hmm… from idea to opening the doors a few months because we spent about 2 months doing renovations but the concept was fairly quick.
“Plus if it didn’t work I just figured I would crochet men’s underwear or socks or make soap trust me there was a million things in my head that I could do.”
What is your favorite thing about your coffee shop?
My favorite thing about Black Crow Coffee are “THE PEOPLE WHO WALK IN THE DOOR.” for real I am not just saying that.
How many hours did you work when you first started?
For the first eight months on a weekly basis at least 80 hours.
What were your biggest challenges opening black crow?
The biggest challenge wasn’t the actual product we were serving.
For me, it was I had worked for myself or I had always worked for someone else so now I am the owner and I am responsible for the flow and the energy of my employees. So, for me that was first and foremost. I wouldn’t say that was the challenge it was more of a shift in my head.
How do I positively guide my employee’s?
I have always kind of avoided opportunities to be in management positions or some kind of authority I have never wanted them never. So this is a first.
It was awesome, it has been awesome.
Did you ever second guess yourself in the process?
No, although one day I made a latte; I made a user error and I didn’t lock the portafilter correctly. There was a rush of people and the espresso blew out everywhere I literally walked away and started crying (makes crying noise) I left and went home. That was about it, It was funny.
What do you think it is about our Saint Petersburg community that makes this coffee shop thrive?
They are a perfect pairing in an sense that it encourages the customers to feel like it is their place and because they feel like it is theirs it is part of a community, it creates a community sense.
“It is a really beautiful thing between two loves the love of coffee and the love of being in a place that feels like it’s theirs.”
It is really important to us to give that feeling I think that is the union between the two. You must feel connected to the community and there are a lot of businesses that are so worried about the bottom line the bottom dollar and that is very valid thing to be worried about when you are opening a business, it really really it is.
“Although there are plenty of ways you can give of yourself in your space to your customers that is not money driven. It is engagement and it is sincere and it is being MINDFUL.”
Those are the things you have to consciously tell yourself everyday as a business owner because if you attach yourself to the bottom dollar the customers won’t feel a connection.
What do you love most about the Downtown Saint Petersburg Culture?
The community, the people, itself. I lived here for last the 25-30 years, and it is really cool because majority of the people I see who are loving their city hardcore have been here.
People are moving here! I have people telling me everyday they are from Brooklyn or ‘I am from Austin’- cause obviously the word is out about St Pete.
What is really cool about St Pete is us and the people who were here when it was not so great.
You opened a new space recently can you tell me a little about that?
The new space involves all the selfish things that Gregg and I like. So it is a roastery and event space for people in the community who may not have a place to share what they would like. It is also a recording studio for musicians who might not be able to afford to lay tracks.
Did you know that you were going to open that or did it evolve out of the current culture of the coffee shop?
All three of those components over the course that Gregg and I have been together have all been apart of what we are and what we do. Gregg and I had many front porch conversations about doing a music warehouse before Black Crow. As quickly as Black Crow opened so did our event space.
A customer came in and said I have a place for rent if you know anybody who is interested I was like where is it and he said it has two garage doors and as soon as he said two garage doors I said umm… can I see it today?
A week later we rented it and then the ideas started flowing we could put a roaster in there and we could build out a recording room and I could do events in here for people.
As a female entrepreneur, did you face any barriers starting the business?
Very little, but because Gregg is half owner it has been assumed a few times he is the full owner but not a lot. Those issues I dealt with more in my past career being a hair and makeup artist working on location sets with mainly male dominated field of technicians it was more derogatory things like sexual innuendos and things like that I had to deal with.
At the coffee shop not so much. I have a product that people want so people are not going to treat me in a negative way or they are not going to get the product. I notice it more in other areas of my day to day life.
Do you think the current political atmosphere will affect female entrepreneurs?
Deana: You mean with Trump?
Deana: Yea I think that it has a really negative ripple effect in a lot of the communities whether it is transgender or LGBT community because what has happened is we all have spent a really long time to create a positive voice and because we have had laws and regulations passed to support the issues that we should have the same rights as any privileged white male.
Now what has happened when you have a president like Trump his ideology allows for that racist or bigot or anything alike to be able to voice their opinion again. It creates a derogatory environment because they feel like they can, because they feel like they have a president that supports them it will have a snowball effect whether or not they change the laws or regulations there will just be a mentality now that will be accepted.
For example, I am just pumpin my gas and Gregg is in the car in front of me this guy drives by you like “staring”. I pull forward waiting for Gregg. This guy drives around the block pulls up next to me and says he says “hows it going?” I said “fine” he said “oh your are looking pretty good so you looking pretty good you got a boyfriend?”I responded “yeah he is over there pumping gas.” that bold abrasive behavior will become more and more normal because we have a leader of our nation that has same views about women and gays and just not having any tolerance for anyone who is different or labeled different we should label anyone because we shouldn’t.
The only thing that comes out of chaos a lot of times is clarity.So what is happening right now as a community we are seeing a lot of people’s true colors and that is a good thing because a lot of people have views that I don’t want to associate with and people are making that clear which is making our city stronger because we see where our mayor is supporting and where the core values of the city are.
That is very great unification, which if we weren’t going through this shitty situation we wouldn’t know we have to look at it is definitely a really bad place to be but often there is a silver lining’s with adversity and you have to see those for what they are. Which is community coming together 20k woman on the street 20 million worldwide. That becomes a movement that is really amazing.
What do you think the major barrier is to female entrepreneurship currently?
I don’t know if I am best to answer that question. In a sense of I haven’t met a lot of that with opening Black Crow and that is probably a really good thing.
Although when dealing with certain vendors I have to stand up and be aggressive because that is the only way to get things done and for them to be accountable. So, sometimes I think that as women we have to stand up just that little bit harder or it doesn’t get done, then if you do we ‘are a bitch’ or we are unreasonable.
What would your advice be to female entrepreneurs out there?
There are couple of things about that specific question that bother me.
Number one the distinction that because I am a female I would have to approach my ways of doing something differently.
I can only talk for myself but I think that it is really important to feel empowered as an individual and as a woman and be able to walk into a room or situation and to know what it is you want to get done and keep your focus on that.
What sometimes can happen with our lives as woman is we have a lot to take care of and it is very important to be mindful of our own inner strengths before we go into a situation so we don’t feel that they are men that I am walking into a group of men.
I think doing things in your life that enrich the lives of women and being apart of something bigger than ourselves by giving back. So when you want something, you can go into something with a much stronger head space.
I think it has a lot to do with dealing with adversities and the issue of the inequalities. So, from me it is just more practical advice of being strong mentally, and emotionally because it is going to happen. It is how you come back at it, has a lot to do with your strength.
It was a great pleasure to speak with Deana Hawk about Black Crow Coffee and much more. I just want to say that it amazes me every time I sit down with an entrepreneur or business owner.
I am always presented with information not only from a business perspective, but a personal perspective.
This knowledge allows me to heighten my awareness as an individual which I believe to be a currency more valuable than money. These are all the things you are going to find when you come in for your cup of morning coffee at Black Crow:
Awareness, mindfulness, sincerity, and community.
I know I do.
Learn more about Deana Hawk in another quick interview by Samantha Pritzlaf