Cedar Crest woman brews up business with help from nonprofit lender

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Hannah Johnson left Cedar Crest, New Mexico, to get a biology degree, and after a stint in shorebird conservation, she returned to start a coffee shop in her hometown in the eastern Sandia Mountain foothills. She had a lot of help from The Loan Fund, a nonprofit community development organization that provides affordable loans, training, and business consulting to entrepreneurs, business owners, and nonprofit organizations throughout New Mexico. <br/>

The owner of Cabra Coffee, which opened in spring 2017, Johnson started making quality coffee at college. “My first job working in the industry was when I was going to school at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma,” Johnson said. “It was just the coffee shop in the school, but we were getting coffee from a cafe in Seattle, and they would come down and train us. That’s where I first learned how to make coffee professionally.”<br/>

During her subsequent conservation work with the piping plover at Massachusetts Audubon, Johnson found that her side job in a coffee shop brought her more joy because it offered social interaction. “I wasn’t working with anybody, … and I needed a way to make friends. The coffee shop (in Nantucket) was brand new. I realized that I knew more than anybody else there just from working at the coffee shop at my school. So I was put into the manager position, overseeing everything to do with the coffee. And that’s when I really discovered that it was something I liked doing and that I was good at.” <br/>

Once back in New Mexico, Johnson persuaded her father, commercial real estate developer Curtis Johnson, to go into business with her as co-owner of the shop at the family-owned shopping center a stone’s throw from the Ale Republic brewery, owned by her brother, Patrick. Johnson needed startup capital. Because hers was a new business, she did not qualify at a traditional bank, but her brother suggested The Loan Fund, where Matt Loehman, a classmate from Johnson’s Albuquerque high school, worked as director of development and special projects. “They were really easy to work with, very nice,” Johnson said of The Loan Fund. “The hardest part was just getting the paperwork ready when I was trying to get approved for the loan. But since then they check in with me every once in a while. And they’re as involved as I want them to be.” Since receiving funding in March, Johnson has welcomed The Loan Fund’s advice on various business matters and is receiving assistance with building her website. The business, located at 12216 N. Highway 14, also markets itself on Facebook at facebook.com/cuppacabracoffee/. Cabra Coffee employs five people and obtains most of its products from local producers: New Mexico Tea Company provides the green teas, black teas and oolongs; herbal teas are sourced from a small farm in Alameda; the honey, jams and jellies are local. Even the mugs are made by a local potter. “Ultimately, I’d like to have everything as much as possible be local,” Johnson said. “One of our syrups right now is a lavender syrup; you can put that in anything. The most common would be a lavender latte and people love it.” The coffee shop also offers house-bakes scones, muffins and coffee cake. Founded in 1989, The Loan Fund has provided over $74 million in loans to help create or preserve more than 8,900 jobs statewide. For more information, visit loanfund.org/. Finance New Mexico connects individuals and businesses with skills and funding resources for their business or idea. To learn more, go to www.FinanceNewMexico.org.

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