Lynn Greetis is the co-founder of Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters along with her husband, Alex Behrens. Not only does she own her own business, but she also balances a full-time career in engineering, having received her bachelor’s degree in physics and her master’s degree in electrical engineering. She’s a self-described “nerd” and has worked her way up through her career from an entry-level employee to now working as a system architect, leading a team of engineers responsible for delivering several different products. Lynn is also passionate about STEM outreach and mentoring activities and is always looking for ways to introduce more women to engineering, which is something I can always get behind being in STEM-based field myself!
Lynn and Alex founded Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters in late 2017 and officially opened their doors in March 2018. Their mission is to provide high quality, affordable, great tasting coffee to their friends, neighbors and anyone who loves coffee! On weeknights and weekends, you’ll find them at their retail location in Roselle, roasting beans and selling bags to customers who stop in. While the location is not yet a full-scale cafe, you can see the roaster in action and get a hot cup of coffee to go on the weekends.
When she’s not working or spending time at the roastery, which is increasingly rare these days, Lynn is competing with her horses, lying on the couch with her cats, or going out to breakfast with her husband! Get to know Lynn more and how she juggles it all in our interview below!
Hi, Lynn! Can you share how you got started in building Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters?
I can’t take too much credit for starting the business. My husband, Alex, is really how we got started. He was roasting coffee in our kitchen for a while and one day (about a month before our wedding actually) he said, “I think I want to do this for real.” From there everything happened really fast! We found a spot, bought a roaster and a whole lot of other equipment and opened our doors about six months later. I had to learn all about coffee roasting and how to run a business all at the same time!
Wow, that’s incredible. That’s amazing the two of you just went for it! And I know how difficult it is to hold a full-time job and simultaneously grow your business. What has worked for you and how do you manage your time?
I’ve been very lucky that I have supportive people both at my engineering job and, of course, Alex at the coffee shop. My colleagues at work are so understanding and supportive of the business, and I’ve even converted a few of them to customers! But I can’t imagine running a business without a partner like Alex. He does most of the in-person work at the shop and I help out when I can. We both travel for our full-time jobs, so we really have to balance our schedules. We live and die by our Google calendars – if it’s not in there, it’s not happening!
Google Calendar is my go-to too! Totally get that. What has been the most rewarding and most challenging part of starting and running your own business?
Honestly, the most rewarding part has been building relationships with our customers and seeing how much they actually love our coffee. I mean, I love our coffee, but when other people come in and buy it week after week, I know it must actually be good! The most challenging part has been that there’s no playbook for this, and there’s no one to tell us what to do. It makes everything feel sort of risky and uncomfortable, which I am still getting used to!
Oh totally, entrepreneurship is totally a test and learn process! What do you love the most about owning a business of your own?
I think it’s the knowledge that we built this from scratch! We painted the walls, we picked out the bags, we assembled the shelving and carried in the sinks…No matter whether we succeed or fail, everything we do is all ours. Of course, sometimes that is terrifying to me, but it’s also extremely rewarding!
Oh, 100% And what keeps you motivated through all of this?
Well, drinking coffee helps! But more seriously, I think it’s the fact that people have made our coffee a part of their lives. Last Christmas, I was floored at the number of people who came in to buy our coffee as gifts for their family and friends. The fact that they like our product enough to give it to their loved ones as a gift really showed me that we are building something wonderful.
Making an impact definitely can keep you motivated, that’s for sure! What would you credit your success to?
There’s no way that we could have done this without all of the help that our family and friends have given us along the way. From buying our coffee, to filling coffee bags, to plumbing and building walls, to watching the shop for a weekend so we could actually take a vacation this year – without the amazing people in our lives, we would be sunk!
Support is critical! Isn’t it amazing how generous people can be?! Who inspires you and why?
Sappiness alert…it has to be my husband Alex. He pours his heart into every batch of coffee that he roasts and I absolutely love watching him talk to people about our coffee. You can tell how much he loves this and how happy he is pursuing his passion!
Awww, that’s so great! In a perfect world, what would you say the future of your business ultimately looks like?
I would love to get to the point where at least one of us could do this full-time and I hope we can have a cafe someday. That would really show me that we’ve built something that can last. And, if we’re living in a perfect world, it’s going to be a cat cafe where people can come and adopt rescued cats at the same time they drink our coffee!
I know a lot of people who would be totally onboard with a cat cafe! That’s great. So, Lipstick & Ink is all about encouraging women to make their mark on their lives, the lives of others, and on the world. What does “making your mark” mean to you?
While I don’t believe that selling better coffee to people is going to change the world, I do believe that a better cup of coffee can make someone’s day better. I actually didn’t even drink coffee until Alex and I started dating and he roasted some for me – I didn’t know what I had been missing! Now I love trying different roasts and origins. I think that if we can open someone’s eyes to coffee that tastes great without having to add a ton of cream and sugar, it might make the start to someone’s day a little bit better – and to me, that’s making a mark, no matter how small!
Of course, I love that! And if you had one piece of advice for women looking to start their own business while holding a full-time job, what would you tell them?
Make sure that you have a support network that is ready for late-night phone calls, missed dinner dates, and perhaps a few mental breakdowns along the way!
Haha, I could not agree more. Do you have any parting thoughts or advice?
Only that if you are even thinking about doing something like starting your own business, go for it! Be brave!