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What's working for businesses in 2021?
Matt Clendinning is usually a strong and polished public speaker.
But when The Lucky Bean Cafe owner's name was called to accept an Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce award, Clendinning was caught off guard, shocked and felt a bit like a "deer in the headlights”. And then his name was called again for a second award.
He even forgot to give a shoutout – twice – to the most important person behind the business – his wife, Tiffany.
"I think I was even worse the second time. I was especially not ready for the second one," he said.
Well would you look at that. We were nominated for two awards this year, and we took them both!! 👀👏🏼 The Eastern...Posted by The Lucky Bean on Monday, 29 March 2021
The couple laughs about the misstep, and in his own defence, Clendinning was busy catering the event, which went well, he said.
The Lucky Bean cafés in Montague and Stratford won awards for new business of the year and community impact. The other winners at the Thursday, March 25, event in Georgetown were Copper Bottom Brewing for innovation and advancement and Ocean Acres Cottages & Campground for business excellence.
Clendinning sees the community impact award in a couple of ways. In one respect, his businesses are a hub in the community and can serve as a place where people can go for different reasons – a cup of coffee and get some work done on a computer or have a conversation with friends or read a good book in a laid-back environment.
There are also board games for kids and families and vinyl records for music enthusiasts.
Classic board games all around! 🙌🏼🙌🏼 We have a board game wall at both Montague and Stratford locations, with a great...Posted by The Lucky Bean on Tuesday, 19 January 2021
In some ways, the cafés can also serve as a diversion for the daily reality of living in a pandemic.
"Somewhere to go and just have good vibes," he said. "We're just there for the community."
Clendinning also sees the businesses as part of a community in terms of the support he gives to other local businesses by carrying their products. The local companies are listed on the café's website and include Caledonia House, Maritime Marzipan, Atlantic Mustard Mill, Copper Bottom and Bogside Brewing, to name a few. He explained that incorporating those other local businesses into his own has been a key to the café’s success.
"We literally support every local business as much as possible. And we're always trying to support businesses in new ways and adding new items to the menu. It's been part of our brand from the beginning – keeping it simple, local and fun."
- Matt Clendinning
"We literally support every local business as much as possible. And we're always trying to support businesses in new ways and adding new items to the menu," he said. "It's been part of our brand from the beginning – keeping it simple, local and fun."
Starting a business
It's been an interesting couple of years for Clendinning. He was working in Ottawa in sales, then he decided to change his life. He quit his job, sold his house and made plans to travel.
He ended up visiting a friend in Montague and never left the Island. He saw that a vacant heritage property on Main Street was for sale and decided to start a business, opening a coffee shop in that space in August 2019.
He then met his wife, Tiffany, and in the short time since, has a family, including Griffin, 8, and the newest member – seven-month-old Violet – as well as a second Lucky Bean café in Stratford, which opened in November.
Tiffany is the numbers person who handles payroll and day-to-day operations, social media and is the "voice of reason:. She also takes care of the plants, which is a good analogy for the cafés and her role in the businesses, Clendinning explained.
"I bought them, and she waters them and keeps them alive. ... There really would be no Lucky Bean without her," he said.
The one thing Clendinning has learned about himself as a business owner during the pandemic is that he's not the type of person who likes to get too comfortable or sit back and let things happen.
Similar to other business owners, he explained that, "we can either sit back and wait for the pandemic to finish and then make our move. Or we can just keep grinding and going for it. I think I've realized that I'm a slightly bigger risk taker than I thought."
However, there are also days when the pressure of being an owner during a pandemic can take its toll, and that's when Violet steps up and plays her part in the family business.
"She's our little Baby Bean," he said. "There's been stress and anxiety and depression, I've felt all of those emotions at different times. One thing that always brings me back is that I picture her smiling. Little Violet, she lights me up."
Terrence McEachern is a local business reporter with the SaltWire Network.