Bread and Butter Shoppe owner Valour Cobbins has seen notable improvements in her business since she received a $5,000 grant and coaching from Optimum and Coalition to Back Black Businesses. The grant money includes resources and mentorship opportunities, which she and 51 other small, Black-owned businesses across the country received in February.
“It’s helped me grow as a business owner,” she said. “There are several businesses that opened around the same time that I did, and we’re all women of color. So, I’m looking at their business like, ‘Have you thought about this?’”
The Greenwood, Miss., resident has made some major changes to her website, which has increased online orders. She is also working on her “customer persona,” learning who her customers are and how best to get their attention.
“Some information I got, I felt like I wasn’t ready for it,” Cobbins told the Mississippi Free Press. “Some changes I didn’t know if I was ready to do in business and wasn’t quite convinced. And I can tell you in the last two months of watching my traffic, it’s like I had to circle back to that advice and say, ‘That’s exactly what I need to do.’”
The business owner learned that half of her customer base was visiting from out of town due to her downtown location. Greenwood has offerings that attract people from outside its borders such as a hotel, an award-winning spa and two restaurants—one of which has been open for almost 100 years, Cobbins explained.
“(The woman advising me) said you need to follow their lead and market to their customers. You want the out-of-towner if they’re making up that much of your business,” Cobbins recalled. “That’s one of our goals … to be a destination spot. When they come to Greenwood—to stay at the hotel, to go to the spa—they also want to come eat at the Bread and Butter Shoppe.”
Starting this week, Cobbins will be adjusting her menu and opening for dinner instead of lunch. Bread and Butter Shoppe will be serving wood-fired pizza with the same health component of using fresh ingredients. She will also be serving a vegan, plant-based pizza, which she has not seen served in a lot of restaurants she has tried.
“I think that pizza is so universal, and I think you can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Cobbins said. “All we have (in Greenwood) are chain pizza places. We were a gourmet sandwich shop. We will be a gourmet pizza shop.”
Making this pivot to an entirely new menu is costly, but Cobbins had help with a $25,000 enhancement grant she acquired through Optimum and Coalition to Back Black Businesses. Bread and Butter Shoppe is one of two recipients to earn this award, and the business owner said it could not have come at a better time.
“I just could not believe it. There was nobody here in the shop, but I’m just running around screaming like, ‘This is crazy!” Cobbins described. “I said it the first time about the $5,000 grant, (but) it literally came in at a time that was a make or break for us.”
Once Cobbins is done with all her courses in the program, she plans to prepare a full-pitch deck because she wants to franchise her business. She would love to see the Bread and Butter Shoppe in another location in the state.
“I am so blessed, so thankful, so humbled by this,” Cobbins said. “And it makes me now really want to work harder. Some days I’m like, ‘I’m so tired.’ I can say if it all ended today, I’d be OK. But now I want to keep going because I love being an example.”
For more information about the Bread and Butter Shoppe (500 Howard St., Greenwood), visit breadandbuttershop.com.