Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Adam Steely, Owner of Illy Caffe Williamsburg, located in Williamsburg, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We opened a cafe in partnership with Illy Caffe in historic downtown Williamsburg. Our customers are the faculty and staff of The College of William & Mary across the street, the great local clientele that enjoys walking on one of America's most important streets, and the 6 million visitors to Colonial Williamsburg annually.

Tell us about yourself

I have been in the restaurant business since I was in college in the early '80s. By the late '80s, Illy Caffe had come across from Europe and was pretty exclusively being sold to high-end restaurants all over the country. I continued to serve nothing but Illy Coffee for the next 30 years, as it was hands down the greatest commercial coffee I had ever tasted. I am turned on by amazing products and the passionate producers that bring them to market - I am motivated to share those experiences with the dining public so they can see what is possible when you find really great flavors and sensations.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am very proud of having negotiated our fledgling company (3 months old) when the COVID pandemic hit. Our staff rallied - we took great care of our community, volunteered as a group for Meals on Wheels in the community, and came out after a couple of rough years to a thriving clientele!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The biggest challenge is to build a team that shares a vision of quality and is committed as a group to maintaining the standard and sharing our passion with everyone who walks in the door.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be clear with yourself about what you want to share with the public.
  2. Be open and honest with your staff about your priorities and communicate how everyone can cooperate to accomplish those goals.
  3. Give back to your staff - both emotionally and financially. If they understand your passion and commitment, it is far more acceptable to ask them to work at the very highest level.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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