Meet a Maker - Craft & Common

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It’s quite possible that Craft + Common is the most Instagrammed coffee shop in Orlando, and turns out, that was no accident. Craft + Common’s branding spoke to the marketing nerd in me before they even opened with their expertly eye-catching teases through Instagram, which so many people flatly fail at. Once I got to visit, taste and see what was good, I was so happy to see the strategy and delivery come to fruition and add something great in downtown Orlando.

It’s getting close to the one-year anniversary for the upscale coffee parlor by day and wine bar hang by night; so I wanted to introduce you to Lindsay Duensing, the woman behind Craft + Common so you could appreciate the work and thought behind it.

LH: I know your background is in the restaurant industry. Tell me a little about that, and how that led you to opening Craft + Common?

C+C: “Growing up my parents owned restaurants from fast-casual to fine dining. I saw a broad spectrum of scenarios and got to meet a lot of different types of people, and I loved that about the restaurant industry. It’s full of passion, excitement, and stress. It’s always different. I started rolling silverware when I was 10-years-old and spent most of my time at restaurants and I fell in love with the culture. I worked my way through various positions including busser, dishwasher, host, server, bartender, and then got put into a management position.

My 20’s was submerged in learning about hospitality, reading books, studying other companies training and cultures, so I grew up in intense and rewarding scenarios and got addicted to that in a career.

I got to a point where I felt I had done it all and yearned for something different.”

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LH: Why then did you decide to open a coffee shop and not a restaurant?

C+C: “I had been a co-owner of two restaurants with my family previously and loved it, but there was a difficult aspect from the intensity and daily stress, and also not having normal hours like your spouse. All those reasons made me split away and go off on my own. I loved hospitality, leading and coaching a team, so I wanted to find something where I could use this skill set I had developed. I had learned about beer and wine, food and cocktails, but not coffee.

Coffee is often the forgotten element in a restaurant even though it’s how so many meals are ended. It’s actually very common that most restaurants don’t focus on a coffee program. While in San Diego, I worked for a big restaurant group that was very high volume and expectations were high. We had been purchasing coffee from a local roaster, so as a passion project I reached out to the roaster which was run by two incredible women. I asked if they would be willing to take me on, and they said yes. I learned everything I know from them.

Moving into coffee allowed me to focus on community and culture and enjoy a laid back atmosphere. You get to see your customers on a daily basis in the coffee industry and know them on an individual level.”

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LH: Coffee shops are important to our generation, but as the amount of shops grow, what is your mindset for standing out among any saturation point?

C+C: “It’s really hard to keep your content, menu, and concept authentic when there are a lot of other people doing similar things. Two years ago when we (Lindsay and her husband Brandon) had the idea, we realized there was great stuff in Orlando but nothing like what we wanted to do and that excited us. Just like all other millennials, we spend a lot of our time in coffee shops. When we travel we drink as much espresso as we can and do coffee tours. From that research, we were able to gather ideas and inspiration.

The saturation over the last two years here in Orlando is actually really exciting because it shows us it’s not a trend. Its something that the community needs and wants. The more shops that open, the more awareness grows for specialty coffee and it gives us more opportunity.”

LH: What is the experience Craft & Common wanted to bring to the community and stay true to?

C+C: “All the shops have their own niche. For us, as a brand, our differentiation is that we are bright, colorful, fun, and approachable. Other shops have different strengths, and for us, it was about having fun, focusing on quality and execution, and taking the high-end hospitality service and bringing it into an industry that has a more laid back mentality.

We focus on using quality products, like local dairy, which is so important because 90% of your drink is milk. Working to take the craft cocktail mentality into coffee and creating things that are balanced, layered and thoughtfully put together. We want to have a good time and not take things too seriously.

It’s serious to us, but the people that come here want it to be approachable and learn and not be judged if they are at a different place with their coffee knowledge.”

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LH: Speaking of not being judged, your baristas have always been extremely pleasant in my experience. How do you instill the anti-coffee snob barista atmosphere?

C+C: “The atmosphere, product, and service have to be a perfect trifecta for a business to succeed. Happy staff makes good coffee. We do a lot here to make it a happy place to work. We aren’t perfect and we have high expectations, but we try to make it easy on them. Good systems and organization make people feel at ease. Clear and defined expectations make them feel more relaxed. There is no secret recipe to having a great team, but it’s hard work, a throughout hiring processing, proper training, and doing the right thing so they can feel proud to represent us. It’s hard to execute and maintain as an owner, but it’s the key to having good staff.”

LH: It’s clear you take leadership very seriously. What are your thoughts on being a good leader? (We briefly gushed about our love of Simon Sinek)

C+C: “My leadership style comes from different experiences. Working for a lot of different people, in different states where labor is handled differently, I’ve definitely refined my style. I’ve read a lot of books, taken seminars, and made mistakes. Growth comes from doing the work and being a leader means that you have to think differently than when you were an individual contributor. As a leader you have to think how can I make the team better and help them, and it’s a humbling, selfless experience that is challenging. Leaders fail because they don’t have the proper training and support. It’s a different set of skills, so I’m focusing on trying to provide that to our future leaders.”

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LH: How important is Instagram to the marketing strategy for Craft + Common?

C+C: “It is 100% of our marketing. We knew going into this that certain elements of our design and brand were going to be our marketing plan. For example, the wallpaper wall. We wanted people to be inspired being in a creative environment and share that with their friends. Social media is our generations word-of-mouth which is the number one thing you can hope for as a business owner. We watch our analytics and we see the correlation. When the analytics are low business is usually low, and when it’s high, we are busy. In the beginning, 90% had heard about us through Instagram, and we haven’t spent a dollar on marketing.”

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LH: If there was something you wanted Orlando to know about Craft & Common what would it be?

C+C: “WE HAVE FREE PARKING BEHIND THE BUILDING! We have a great guide in our Instagram stories and regularly post information in our feed, but so many people still are not aware. If the spaces are all taken, wait a minute because a lot of people pop in to grab a coffee and then leave, so a spot may open.”

LH: What is your advice for female entrepreneurs?

C+C: “As a leader in any position you need a strong support network of peers and those outside of work that are also in leadership roles that you can confide in.

It’s always important to have the “why” for what you do. It keeps you going when everything sucks, and it WILL suck at times.

Don’t be afraid of anyone putting a label on what you are capable of accomplishing. Fear shouldn’t rule the decisions you make. Do what is right in your heart.”

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All photos are property of LemonHearted Creative except for the headshot of Lindsay, which she graciously supplied.