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SF Small Business Week. Celebrate Small Business.

Small Business Wisdom from Giulietta Carrelli of Trouble Coffee

The theme of San Francisco Small Business Week 2013 is Small Business: Shaping Our Communities. Over the next month and a half we will be sharing interviews with the entrepreneurs whose small businesses form the bedrock of our communities. They will be sharing their own stories and their thoughts on the important role that small businesses play in our neighborhoods.

Today we hear from Giulietta Carrelli, owner of Trouble Coffee, who turned a sleepy block in the Outer Sunset into one of San Francisco’s burgeoning neighborhood commercial corridors.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I can’t work for anybody else. I’ve worked at coffee shops since I was 16 and I’ve always wanted to be the owner of my own shop. I like creating jobs for other people that are a good environment and this gives them the right kind of opportunity. Right now I’m happy to have done that for six full-time employees and two part-timers.

What was the best piece of small business advice you’ve ever received?
Patience. Lots of patience and to be a good boss to yourself. In the beginning I worked this shop all by myself and I even lived inside.  I had to give myself time off and pay and it drove me to succeed because I needed to take care of me first.

Is there a lesson you learned the hard way that you can share so that other small business owners might benefit from your experience?
Patience again. I learned to respect two dollars.  If somebody came in and spent $2 even if it took me 2 hours to earn it I was appreciative. We used to make $30 a day and that’s what I needed to survive so having it be $32 mattered.

Why do communities need small businesses?
Small businesses give people hope because its people just like them that are creating amazing things. People say “Oh, they’re doing this I can do this too”. We have a manifesto at Trouble Coffee that is all about creating your own world, taking responsibility and believing in yourself and others to create community. If I could do it, anyone could do it. I knew that I could bring people together and I think that when people saw that you saw a whole neighborhood inspired to do it after me. If I could do it so could they.

Tell us about the impact you believe your small business has had on your community.
The Sunset needed a place to come together. I didn’t live in the Sunset but I moved here. I got my degree in demography so I studied the neighborhood for a couple years before I moved. I saw how many surfers were in the water, I saw that there were people in laundromats and other businesses but there were still all these empty storefronts. What I did was create a hub, a very very small place so that people could stand close to each other — so much so that it would be rude if they didn’t say hello. My second space in Hunter’s Point is even smaller — half the size and I want people to have to get really close. I introduce people and I think that everyone just came together. The sunset proves that we stick together in the fog and when the sun comes out we really come together and quit our jobs.

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