Branding Matters

How to Become a Catalyst for Change - Paul Constance (Lil E Coffee Café)

October 27, 2023 Branding Badass Episode 99
How to Become a Catalyst for Change - Paul Constance (Lil E Coffee Café)
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Branding Matters
How to Become a Catalyst for Change - Paul Constance (Lil E Coffee Café)
Oct 27, 2023 Episode 99
Branding Badass

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Today I’m sitting down wit Paul Constance, the Owner and Founder of Lil E Coffee - a non-profit coffee shop that offers productive and meaningful employment to people with intellectual and development disabilities.

Not only has Paul created a successful coffee business, but he has also established a platform that empowers individuals with intellectual and development disabilities to build their careers while boosting their confidence. 

Tune in as Paul reveals his motivations for starting Lil E and how it has become a catalyst for positive change in so many lives. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the intersection of branding, social impact, and personal development.

Here are the highlights from this episode:

01:13 - The story behind Lil E Coffee Cafe

11:43 - How Paul is building a platform for change 

15:30 - The unique customer experience that Lil E offers

22:06 - How merch helps Lil E with creating brand awareness

24:25 - Paul’s badass superpower

25:23 - Paul’s advice to someone starting a business from scratch

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a 5-star rating along with a brief review. And don't forget to order your BADASS T-shirt here.

About Me
Hey there, I'm Joelly - the Branding Badass. My badass superpower is helping you build a brand that matters. From branded merch to brand consulting, when you work with me, you get results!

Need help telling your brand story?
Learn more

To advertise on the show
click here

Let's stay connected!
instagram - @Branding_Badass
linkedIn - Joelly Goodson
website -

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Today I’m sitting down wit Paul Constance, the Owner and Founder of Lil E Coffee - a non-profit coffee shop that offers productive and meaningful employment to people with intellectual and development disabilities.

Not only has Paul created a successful coffee business, but he has also established a platform that empowers individuals with intellectual and development disabilities to build their careers while boosting their confidence. 

Tune in as Paul reveals his motivations for starting Lil E and how it has become a catalyst for positive change in so many lives. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the intersection of branding, social impact, and personal development.

Here are the highlights from this episode:

01:13 - The story behind Lil E Coffee Cafe

11:43 - How Paul is building a platform for change 

15:30 - The unique customer experience that Lil E offers

22:06 - How merch helps Lil E with creating brand awareness

24:25 - Paul’s badass superpower

25:23 - Paul’s advice to someone starting a business from scratch

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a 5-star rating along with a brief review. And don't forget to order your BADASS T-shirt here.

About Me
Hey there, I'm Joelly - the Branding Badass. My badass superpower is helping you build a brand that matters. From branded merch to brand consulting, when you work with me, you get results!

Need help telling your brand story?
Learn more

To advertise on the show
click here

Let's stay connected!
instagram - @Branding_Badass
linkedIn - Joelly Goodson
website -

[00:00:00] Joelly: Hi, I'm Joelly, your branding badass, and welcome to another edition of Branding Matters, a podcast I created and host to help you build brand equity for your business. Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with Paul Constance, the owner and founder of Lil E Coffee, a nonprofit coffee shop that offers productive and meaningful employment to people with intellectual and development disabilities.

[00:00:28] Joelly: Not only has Paul created a successful coffee business, but he's also established a platform that empowers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to build their careers while boosting their confidence. During our conversation, Paul reveals his motivation for starting Lilly and how it's become a catalyst for positive change in so many lives.

[00:00:47] Joelly: This episode is a must listen for anyone interested in the intersection of branding, social impact and personal development. Paul, welcome to Branding Matters. Hey, good to see you. I'm excited. I'm super excited. I, I'm really looking forward to this conversation. I'm so blown away by what you do and what you're doing.

[00:01:06] Joelly: And so I want to dive right in because we have lots to cover. So let's talk about Lil E and what inspired you to launch this coffee shop and when did you launch it? Can you give a little background?

[00:01:19] Paul: Yeah, for sure. If you watch any videos or ever meet my little daughter, Ella, you'll quickly find out how easy it was for me to be inspired to start Lil E.

[00:01:27] Paul: So Lil E, the E is for Ella. So it was my daughter who has down syndrome. She was four at the time, was basically my inspiration to start this coffee store. So it sounds pretty crazy to start a cafe that's providing employment for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. When my daughter's probably not working for another 14 years.

[00:01:46] Paul: But when you see the sunshine and just, uh, the fireworks she possesses, it's easy to get all expired and, and, uh, turned on, on doing something cool to help out the local community and the people like my daughter was actually inspired by my, uh, good friend and, uh, now my landlord Aspen, great Guado. So I was at a conference and someone found out about my daughter Ella.

[00:02:06] Paul: And they showed me this, uh, coffee store in North Carolina, Bittany Bowes and her two children have Down syndrome and she started these coffee stores. And that's, that's so cool. It was about 11 o'clock at night as we were wrapping up, but they wanted this leadership academy. And I think the lesson there is be careful who you text late at night, because the next day in the morning.

[00:02:22] Paul: I got a text from Greg saying, don't tell anybody I'm buying Sun Life building or don't put one of these coffee stores in the Sun Life Plaza. It was actually Greg, his wife teaches at the prep school, the Down syndrome school here in Calgary. So that's actually how it all got fired up, which would have been November, 2009.

[00:02:37] Paul: So then on my flight home, I started playing around with, okay, what does this coffee store don't look like? How do I build it? Who do I need to talk to? Who do I know in the coffee business? I didn't even drink coffee back then. So like, how the hell do you build a coffee store? Where do you get your coffee?

[00:02:50] Paul: What type of machine? How much money do we need to raise? Are we filling a void? Like, do families with individuals or young adults, are they looking for their children to have a job? Are they getting a challenge to have a job? Like, I had no clue whether I was solving a problem or not. I just thought it sounded really cool.

[00:03:06] Paul: Uh, I love giving back to community. I've always tried to make time or money to do that. So this was a, and obviously with Ella behind it, it was pretty easy to get motivated. When you're passionate, you don't see obstacles. You just keep running forward. So it's been pretty cool. So there's a quick story, I guess, on how it all came together.

[00:03:21] Paul: Yeah, that's amazing. The text at 11 o'clock at night after an old passion. So there you go. 

[00:03:26] Joelly: I love that. Well, thank you for sharing that. I want to back up a little bit. So you said Ella is four. Tell me about when you found out that she was down syndrome. I'm assuming it was in utero. And can you share a little bit about what that experience was like for you and your wife and how that affected you emotionally?

[00:03:44] Joelly: Yeah, that's interesting.

[00:03:45] Paul: Not a little Easter, but obviously a personal story.

[00:03:48] Joelly: I like  to get personal. 

[00:03:48] Paul: I hope you're okay. Yeah, yeah. No, that's good. No, you do find out, uh, my wife would be better answer this question, but you do find out fairly early on about trisomy 21. There's different signs where they could detect it a little bit earlier now during the pregnancy.

[00:04:01] Paul: So we did find that out and then they wanted to go further and it's a little more invasive and there's some risk to it, but we said, no, let's, let's proceed. Let's, let's find out. And to tell you the truth, It was a tough process on, on my wife and myself, uh, so I understand why the doctors do this, but it was also struggled with a little bit because they almost, I think they want to see if you're in a position mentally and physically and financially and stuff, just to be able to cope with a scenario because obviously having a child, we already have two kids and busy with my other company, whether, you know, we'd be in a position to look after this child, right?

[00:04:33] Paul: Uh, so they kind of warn you, but yeah. I kind of felt the way they went about it was a little aggressive. Maybe it's just my mentality. If someone challenges me, I look at that as you don't think I'm capable of doing it. Let's go. Right. So, uh, just watch me.

[00:04:46] Joelly: Yeah, let's do it.

[00:04:47] Paul: Like it's the wrong thing to do.

[00:04:48] Paul: So it's probably the right thing for the doctor to do that. Maybe. You knew my type, but basically just say, are you, are you going to be able to look after this child? They're on a down syndrome. Here's all the challenges. It's really hard on my family. Now we just want to make sure that, you know, you guys were going to be in a position where you could mentally and financially and otherwise be able to handle this challenge.

[00:05:06] Paul: And like I said, I'm the wrong guy to challenge. Not that I'm the toughest guy in the world. I just, uh, always been taught never to give up and push through and find a way to get where you want to go. So to me, I was excited and said, Hey, no, let's, let's go. Give me that opportunity. I'll show you that we could, we could do it on the other side of my way.

[00:05:21] Paul: It was, you know, I think it just kind of scared her, right? Everyone has a different way to respond if you're a fight. And, uh, you look at the studies, most families, when they find out their child has a trisomy 21, it is a negative impact, but then they say within five to 10 days, completely reversed, and they find out how much of a blessing it is to have these individuals and their family and their community, just because of the love and affection and their humor.

[00:05:44] Paul: The simplicity. It helps you realize that life is great. Don't take everything too serious and negative stuff will go away. If you look in a dictionary, my dad who sent this to me is that one of the definitions of down syndrome is the joker of love just because in general, not to throw it out, but often they are very empathetic, big hearts, very touchy, huggy and just happy people in general.

[00:06:04] Joelly: Sorry, did you say the joker of love? I didn't. Joker of love. Joker of love. 

[00:06:07] Paul: Oh, okay. Oh, I love that happiness. They always seek it. It's stereotyping, but a lot of the individuals we have met their joy and just their happiness is incredible. And we've experienced that a little, literally, like you see guys coming at a minus 30 music policy, the best job ever, like it's.

[00:06:25] Paul: It's 6:30 in the morning, it's minus 30, I was like, this is awesome. So it's, uh, it's been really cool for you.

[00:06:32] Joelly: And so you just went full steam ahead, obviously she's four. So between zero and four, did you ever think before you opened up your shop? Like. What's the world going to look like for her? What's employment going to be like, like what kind of future, was there something inside of you?

[00:06:49] Joelly: So when this coffee shop opportunity came about, you thought here's a way to create a sustainable future for my child and potentially a whole bunch of others. 

[00:06:58] Paul: It's funny you say that. I never, I never reflected back and thought about it. My honest answer would probably be no, just because of the age, right?

[00:07:05] Paul: Just because she's such a young infant. I have two other children who would be, uh, 18, 10 at the time. So I was more thinking a little bit about them, but even at 10, I wasn't really thinking about Cole's future. 

[00:07:14] Joelly: What university they're going to. 

[00:07:15] Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know people do. Yeah, I know it wasn't that it was really that that individual throwing me that coffee store in North Carolina when I was in Washington and that just kind of trigger, hey, this would be what a great opportunity to create opportunity awareness and employment opportunity for these individuals.

[00:07:33] Paul: Right? So it wasn't that I was thinking ahead for Ella. So I'm a big believer. The universe puts you where you're supposed to be. And if you keep yourself open and let the universe unfold, um, And generally, you'll end up where you're supposed to be, right, 

[00:07:46] Joelly: if you I agree. Totally. Oh, interesting. And so you said you've never, you know, you weren't a coffee drinker before you started it.

[00:07:52] Joelly: So how did you, you're starting a business with coffee. How did you know, I mean, obviously you want a good product. So how did you go about finding the quality product to go along with your brand and your idea?

[00:08:01] Paul: Well, hang on. It gets even better. My GM, my GM is allergic to coffee. Oh my goodness. So there's no theft or no issues on that side.

[00:08:11] Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I'd say probably three or four years before that, I just started drinking coffee. So as I sold my old firm and built a new company, obviously lots of interviews and most people go for coffee. So I slowly started getting introduced to the coffee world, but I had some good friends who are, I call coffee snobs, they can only drink certain coffees and they were really good at introducing me to some boutique coffee stores.

[00:08:32] Paul: I just. Yeah. It was fantastic in terms of sharing their knowledge and their information and their financials and just tips for me in terms of building this coffee store. I think there is a bit of a unique culture within the kind of like the micro breweries, but within the call the boutique cafes. I think there is a bit of a.

[00:08:50] Paul: A bit of a culture there where they help each other even if they're not in competitions they'll give their beans or give some tips so I thought it was really cool to see the family network within that industry where they help each other and share stuff. I also think because mine was charity the pride didn't see me as a threat and they thought it was a really good cause so they were really open to me.

[00:09:07] Paul: Really cool just to see how Calgary rallied behind this cause. Yeah. Just stepped up and shared everything and connected me with suppliers and reinforces how cool of a city we live in. 

[00:09:17] Joelly: Yeah  and the community comes together. Yeah. Well, it's funny because before I even met you or heard of you, I went to your coffee shop and it was great coffee.

[00:09:24] Joelly: So it's working cause yeah, cause remember the first time when you and I met, I told you that, that I had been there before.

[00:09:31] Paul: So  yeah, no, we wanted to, we want to make sure we had high quality coffee, that the, it was repeatable. And then we also wanted a really cool atmosphere, a culture one for our employees to be proud of.

[00:09:39] Paul: Right. Cause some of them, it's their first jobs ever. So we said, Hey, we wanted to invest money, have a really cool coffee store. So they want to show their friends. They wanted to be proud when they came to the coffee cafe. Okay. And then. And also for our vision to be nationally, we also want to make sure that we came up with a high quality location and product so it gets visible and people want to be a part of it.

[00:09:57] Paul: We think a lot of these nonprofits, unfortunately, they don't have the funding. So you know, they're, you know, inside of the church, which isn't a bad thing, but they're just you They don't have the financial means to present like a Starbucks or high end experience. So we wanted to show the world that we're real and we could take this another level.

[00:10:12] Paul: So again, that was thanks to a lot of entrepreneurs and corporations that gave us donations and helped us come up with a strong balance sheet and integrate level.

[00:10:20] Joelly: Yeah,  definitely. You know, you're starting, you're building a brand, something that you knew nothing about. So I give you kudos to that. I've actually heard you say a quote and you said, you can make a difference in life.

[00:10:31] Joelly: Sometimes you have to take action and go make things happen. And I love that quote because you just sort of jumped in two feet, not knowing what you were doing, relied on help and support of the community to help you build this brand. Yeah, no, 100%. For anyone who's listening, who's either thinking of starting our business or hesitant, you just have to do it and learn as you go and don't be afraid to ask for help.

[00:10:52] Joelly: Which is I think a really key lesson.

[00:10:53] Paul: I think I heard a quote there, 95% of success is just showing up. Yeah, I'm sure I, to my of showing up like a lot of people, it's that one extra 1% just go do it, right? Yeah, exactly. It might fall over, but you'll get up a hundred percent and you, and you move forward

[00:11:08] Joelly: Exactly. And you might go back versus. Steps back and then you just keep doing it. I love it. You're always moving right? I love that when you have a business, it's really important to make sure you know what your brand is and your purpose beyond just making money. And clearly we know what your purpose is and how you, why you were inspired by your daughter and then moving forward, how you're helping so many other people.

[00:11:29] Joelly: But you talked about building a platform for change. So it's not just a coffee shop. It's way more than that. Right? It's an experience. And you, you know, you describe it, like I said, as a platform for change. So what are the changes that you're looking to accomplish?

[00:11:41] Paul: What if in a year, these individuals graduate, so they have something to look forward to, and we train them up to find out what their skills are.

[00:11:48] Paul:  Our, our BHAG, our goal. Is 10,000 careers. So that's where literally really changed to be a hiring chain. So they come in, we find out what they're good at. We help them develop their skills because a lot of them, you know, they haven't had a job and I think that's something different about Lil E and I think there's a magic there that I didn't fully appreciate when we first opened it.

[00:12:06] Paul: Is you have customer service, you have work in a machine, you have the coffee in the back, you have the math, you know, so you have all elements, right? So from from stocking the shelves all the way to serving and greeting a customer. So, it's pretty cool that you could have a job that could touch on every aspect to some degree of a career profile.

[00:12:24] Paul: So, basically, what happens is they work for a year and then we certify them and from there, and then we try to get them a job. But the companies are roasters, people that have donated money to the restricted free agents, they get the 1st rights on them. And then after that, they become unrestricted. Free agents and so far we've had four graduates.

[00:12:39] Paul: So we have what 9, 996 jobs to go, but that was really the turning point. And that's where the vision and mission really came together for literally it's creating awareness and acceptance of these individuals and just want to really. Uh, help the local community and the globe for that matter, uh, understand and appreciate the impact these individuals could have on your corporation, on your employees and on your customers.

[00:13:02] Paul: And I don't think the world fully realizes that yet. And it's hard to articulate and there's no way to replicate them. Yeah, and you go there and I took a fellow entrepreneur is really cool company. It's a kind of a design building company. That's really cool. And there was Darby when we got our coffee and it was like, this is the best job.

[00:13:20] Paul: Paul, they were like, I'm so happy I got a job here. And I looked at Ryan and said, how many of your employees say that? He has about seven employees and put his head down and goes, none. 

[00:13:28] Joelly: Right.

[00:13:29] Paul: Just their culture and their, their appreciation for their job and their joy. I just think it's really hard to replicate that.

[00:13:35] Paul: These individuals are just so thankful for the opportunity and, uh, what they could do for your corporation. We have to find a way to communicate that and get the world to know that. These individuals are such a, such a blessing. There's a huge talent pool out there that no one's tapping in and we're all struggling to find employees in our, in our businesses, right?

[00:13:53] Paul: So there's what, 3 million of these individuals out there that no one's tapped into. I think there's a huge opportunity. 

[00:13:58] Joelly: I love that. I mean, you, you, you did the, you hit the nail on the head when you said about opportunity, because I've seen a couple of people that work for you be interviewed and they say like.

[00:14:07] Joelly: I've. tried to get jobs and no one would hire me. And, you know, Paul gave me this opportunity. And not only are you hiring them, but you're giving them skills and you're teaching them skills that they can then go on to other jobs. We hear a lot about purpose these days when brands have a purpose behind what they're doing.

[00:14:22] Joelly: And I mean, you don't just, you know, that's the other thing. You also hear a lot of greenwashing and why I call it purpose washing, where, you know, a lot of businesses talk to talk, but they don't walk the walk, right. And they don't put their money where their mouth is. And here you are actually doing that.

[00:14:33] Joelly: So I give you kudos as far as your brand goes. and what you're trying to accomplish with your business and everything else, which I think is amazing. So then is all the employees that you have, are, do they all have some form of disability? Or is 

[00:14:48] Paul: that we have, uh, we have originally had 10 employees and we might be 12 now that have autism or down syndrome, right?

[00:14:55] Paul: Obviously we, we use volunteers to help us in that regards. Right. And then our general manager and our assistant manager would not have, uh, Disabilities, right? So we, but we are very high. Like we're over 90 percent of our staff. Well, and we want to keep it that way. That is our focus. And when people come to Lil E, we want them to be interacting with these individuals just to show what they're capable of because they are amazing.

[00:15:18] Joelly: And you know, customer experience is a huge part of branding. I've also talked about this on my show with lots of different people. So tell me about your customer experience that you offer at Lil E that's different than all the other coffee shops out there. 

[00:15:32] Paul: You know, I think we're fortunate that our staff delivers that experience.

[00:15:36] Paul: We, we, when you walk from the back room into the front, the serving area, so from the kitchen to the staff, it's a showtime, right? It says, have fun, showtime. It's just reminding the staff, like, hey, you're on stage 12, like enjoy your job. And I think that's the magic comes by itself. And that's the cool, unique feature that we're able to deliver that, you know, another coffee store probably wouldn't have that opportunity if they're not hiring these individuals.

[00:15:56] Paul: Sure. They could have a great coffee. They could have a cool environment. And all that jazz, but to bring to the table, someone like Darby or bread or Hanon or any of our employees when they come up and, you know, they'll bring their special Olympic gold medals or just their energy level, and you could see their passion and excitement.

[00:16:12] Paul: Like, how do you replicate that or compete with that? You can't, if you're having a bad day, you know, we'll get a lot of texts from people in our, the three office towers are in that, you know, we totally changed their days. Like if they're having a bad day, they go downstairs to get a coffee. They don't even need to drink the coffee, just interacting with the staff and seeing how excited and the joy they have, you walk, how can you not smile after that?

[00:16:32] Joelly: Hey, it's Jolie here. Just thought I'd check in to see if you're enjoying the show so far. Have you learned anything new? Are you excited to build your brand and skyrocket your profits? You know, they don't call me the branding badass for nothing. For more than 20 years, I've been helping businesses like yours unlock their brand's untapped potential.

[00:16:49] Joelly: And on January 1st, 2021, I launched Branding Matters as a way for you to have free access to some of the world's most brilliant leaders who provide valuable branding tips to help you build your brand. But let's be honest, information is not the answer. Implementation is. So if you want help implementing everything you're learning here, check out the link in my bio.

[00:17:10] Joelly: I'm offering a free 15 minute consult, but spots are limited so don't wait. Act now and let's see if what I have to offer will help you unlock your brand's untapped potential. Reach out to me today and let's make your brand matter. Tell me about Dance Fridays.

[00:17:26] Paul: I'm not sure how that came up, but I came up with the concept and I'm not a dancer, so it's pretty funny.

[00:17:30] Paul: It's coming from me, uh, but I do love music and do love dancing. And a big part of me is always have fun. Like if you're, we work hard on my other business, but I say, yeah, you always, you have to enjoy your job. You have to have fun and if you can get it to a state where you're having fun and you're passionate about it, it doesn't become a job and you spend so much of your day at work.

[00:17:49] Paul: So that was really important for me with our staff and say, how do we make this different? How do we make it fun? So I brought a big ass, sorry, I brought a big stereo system with all this. That's okay, we're all adults here. Well, all these lights and sounds with my kids were mad when I took it from home because I had it before we opened the store, because it was so cool.

[00:18:05] Paul: So we had DJ parties at my house, right in the store. And it was just, yeah, what we wanted to do is have interaction with customer base and build a community. So every Friday, it probably happens more than just Friday, but every Friday is we have dance off. So it was just something fun. We came up with on building our own brand and culture and showing that, you know, we like to have fun and, uh, our staff's enjoying their time and we want to interact and become a community with our customers, right?

[00:18:27] Paul: So that we're one, we're a village and it's kind of cool. We do get a lot. A lot of text from our customers saying, Oh, it's so great seeing so and so how he's developed and I've enjoyed interacting with him. So we've, we have been successful in creating that village where we all feel a part of little eat and it's not just the people that donated.

[00:18:42] Paul: It's our customer community. And I thought that was being really cool. To see and feel and have that impact of customers where they're enjoying developing a NIC or just seeing our staff evolve from day one to where they are today. I think that's another unique feature we have that you wouldn't get anywhere else.

[00:18:59] Joelly: Yeah. And again, it goes back to when people go there, they're not necessarily just going to buy a cup of coffee, right? They're going there for the whole experience that you're offering and everything. Thing that you stand behind. There's so much more. And you know, and, and I brought you on because A, I love what you're doing, but I love the brand that you've developed because you're offering an experience.

[00:19:19] Joelly: You know, oftentimes, especially now more than ever, it's not just about the product or the service that you're offering, because there's. thousands of coffee shops around town, right? But why would somebody go or drive a million kilometers down to see you and go get a coffee there? It's because everything that you provide and everything that you offer and the experience when they're there, you know, and I love the, I love to dance too and I love the music and you know, I've read some things where people say they've gone to your coffee shop and they've been in a bad mood and people are dancing and the music's going and it can't help but get energized.

[00:19:48] Joelly: Talk about a great experience. You can't beat that as far as I'm concerned for whatever it costs to get a cup of coffee.

[00:19:53] Paul: Yeah, no, I agree. And we have tons of customers that are the professional services or sales. They start all their sales meetings, or they have a lot of their meetings that ethically and ask them why.

[00:20:03] Paul: And they just said, well, it's such a great concept. Like what an icebreaker you take someone I've never met before. And so meet me a little early when they don't know where it is. And then they get there and they see what, and you tell them what the whole purpose is of the coffee store and it just, you know, it relaxes and bring everyone guards down, right?

[00:20:17] Paul: And we've had a few companies, you know, we've had dance parties in the lobby, they brought all their employees to show it and then we ended up, you know, on the spot doing a dance party in the lobby. Our landlord, who owns a number of really great buildings in the city, he starts all of his tours here first.

[00:20:30] Paul: Oh, I love that. We go on and meet all the buildings, but he said, Paul, it just shows them what we're about at Aspen, about our culture. I mean, it's such an integral part of who we are. 

[00:20:41] Joelly: Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk about brand awareness. You're, you're a new, you're pretty new. I mean, you're two years old, you launched two years ago and lots of people know about you, but there's probably more people than not that don't know about you, especially on a, let's say national scale.

[00:20:56] Joelly: So what kind of things do you do to help create brand awareness? So more, more people learn about you. Yeah, it's still, still 

[00:21:02] Paul: evolving. Like I didn't, I run a large corporation, but I've never been on the retail side. Right. So we're still learning that and getting advice from people like yourself, having a social media influencer.

[00:21:12] Paul: Uh, she was very instrumental in helping us create our social brand out there just in terms of Instagram. And then we started on LinkedIn and Facebook. So we're still learning the different platforms out there, but that seems to be for us as being very critical is just keeping up to date and just showing the culture.

[00:21:26] Paul: We have little. Literally like showing the dance party, showing where you are, how we serve, uh, what the whole process and purposes. And then from there, getting people to share. And then also the initial attention we got on the radio and TV was outstanding. All the media attention. Yeah. Yeah. Just came out of nowhere.

[00:21:42] Paul: So like I said, with COVID, but we have had people reach out from Costa Rica. We've been on interviews with the Philippines, with their government. Uh, we had the CEO of Goldman Sachs in London, send us emails and texts. The global reach for a little coffee stirs. Yeah. That's what I'm saying. That's incredible.

[00:21:58] Paul: We never expected that, right? Yeah. So all the attention we got and the share, so it's been awesome.

[00:22:02] Joelly: So let's talk about merch because that's my industry. I think a huge way to create brand awareness is by really cool merch. So tell me about your merch and how you use it to help create brand awareness for Lil E.

[00:22:16] Paul: Yeah, we started off pretty simple, uh, shirts and hats. And then, uh, we also got corporate sponsors for our staff. So we have special shirts for our staff and then we did special ones for our volunteers. So it's a little army, a little angels and it's making a difference there, you know, we're brewing greatness.

[00:22:30] Paul: So really what we use the brand awareness for, as we realized we just can't be a coffee stir, you know, when people go to race or they're skiing or they're at a social event is wearing that little hat. And we've kind of had fun with it. Like we have lucky with the E versus the Y. So we tried to play around and kind of be funky and hip.

[00:22:46] Paul: with our products would be a little hip, uh, hip boutique coffee store and just getting the brand out there. One for gifts, uh, and then also awareness. So, you know, if there's certain events out there for special Olympics, we want to be able to donate our gifts or corporate events in our building, easy buyer gifts with some really cool mugs and hats and shirts.

[00:23:03] Paul: And then also the biggest part would probably be our socks. So, uh, try Sony 21, three 21. March 21st is Down syndrome day and the way they make awareness for Down syndrome is crazy socks. Cause if you ever look at the chromosomes, it actually looks like funny socks when they pull up the medical. So that's where it came from.

[00:23:21] Paul: So we've got a whole bunch of custom Lil E socks. Just what we found is by having the merchants, just people are out and about and they ask, Oh, I heard about literally, where is that? Or so they see the logo where you're lucky that we've got a really cool logo that, uh, my merchant, uh, developed for us and we've used that extensively, but.

[00:23:36] Paul: Uh, it's just coming out with cool product. We also at our store, you know, we talk about our brand. We talk about our mission statement. We want to make sure people are aware of what it's all about. Uh, we have pictures of Ella. We have pictures of our staff there. Just kept it really simple and clean, but you know, having the brand out there, uh, has been huge for us.

[00:23:53] Paul: And I know when I walk around with a year, the tube or a hat or whatever, people are asking if they could have one and I heard about the store. So for people who think that doesn't matter, it does. I love that. And then our staff. We want to make our staff excited to wear their gear, right? Mm hmm. Whenever you see them, even after hours, they're always wearing Lil E stuff, which is pretty cool.

[00:24:11] Joelly: Right. So, would you say it's fair to say that you're a firm believer in merch? And you think it actually... Yeah, absolutely. And it actually works, right? It works. I mean, it's one thing when I... you know, go on and talk to people about merch and how important it is when you're trying to create brand awareness.

[00:24:26] Joelly: But I love bringing people on like yourself, especially a new business and just showing the value in it and the ROI on it is invaluable, right? And it's out there forever. There's hats and everything out there forever that people are going to see. So, and where? Well, I really appreciate you coming on here today, Paul, and sharing all that.

[00:24:41] Joelly: Before you go, though, I do have one more question for you. I asked all my guests the same question. Yeah, it is a little bit. Okay. What is your badass superpower? 

[00:24:53] Paul: Badass superpower. Good question. My badass superpower, I'd say take action. Just get her done. I've always been a gay. Let's, let's just go do it.

[00:25:02] Paul: We'll figure it out. Just action orientated. Let's go get her done. Let's figure out a way. We'll, we'll figure it out later. Right. 

[00:25:08] Joelly: So are you spontaneous, would you say? 

[00:25:10] Paul: Absolutely. Yeah. 

[00:25:13] Joelly: I'm the same way. That's so funny. I mean, I think it serves me well a lot of times, but there have been times where I'm like, Oh, okay, well, I won't do that again.

[00:25:20] Joelly: But it's, but you know what? I always say too, it's better if you're going to have regrets, regret something you did than something you wish you did. You don't want to say shoulda, woulda, coulda. 

[00:25:28] Paul: Yeah. I want to wait your whole life to do something. 

[00:25:29] Joelly: Yeah. No, that's great answer. I love it. I lied. I do have one more question before we go.

[00:25:33] Joelly: What would be your advice to someone who is looking to start a new business from scratch? 

[00:25:39] Paul: Well, it'd be hard not to say just go do it and get her done, but, uh, cause I it. There's, there's a ton of great ideas and people never implement or go forward with them. But, uh, do you do your research, right? As much as I say, get her done.

[00:25:51] Paul: I did do a lot of research on Lil E, right? So talking to people in the industry, talking to people I consider to be business veterinarian vets to get their input, did the calculus on, okay, what's my financial needs. So I do think you have to, if you can try to de risk it, there's always risk. And I think you got to take risks, but you have to find out what your risk tolerance is.

[00:26:11] Paul: And what impact it will have and I think everyone's at a different stage family wise or life wise on what risk they could take. But I also think COVID's forced or enabled a lot of people to take a risk or a chance that they probably wouldn't have before. And I think a lot of cases when you talk to these individuals are like, man, I wish I would have done that a long time ago.

[00:26:29] Paul: I didn't know. So you always don't know what you don't know. But one of the positives out of COVID and the stats support this is there's been more self employment and new businesses out there. So I think it forced people. Or they put them in a position where they had the extra time or, or they are forced to go find a new employment.

[00:26:45] Paul: So I think, you know, it gets back to what we talked about. 95 percent of success is just showing up going a little bit further that extra 2 percent that breaks through the barrier. But I would encourage if you are looking at doing it. Speak to people in the industry, speak to people outside the industry to get different viewpoints of their challenges and opportunities, try to find out where your cautionary spots or stuff that you're not aware of.

[00:27:07] Paul: And then find a way to risk tolerances, try to de risk it or get it to a risk where you're. Comfortable with taking that next step and maybe you don't need a contingent plan or maybe you're one of those people where you can't fully immerse. So is there a way to blend it? So you have a backup as you're starting to roll into your new code.

[00:27:22] Paul: That's great advice. I love it. Hire someone like you to get a good brand. 

[00:27:25] Joelly: Well, and, and I will just, well, thank you. But I would also add to that and say, you know what I think is also a big lesson that I'm taking away from your journey is. A lot of people get turned off when they think of a business idea, but the market is already quote unquote saturated.

[00:27:39] Joelly: For example, you know, another coffee shop. Why would I ever do another coffee shop? There's like millions of them out there. I don't think that should ever deter you because that's what branding is all about is how you differentiate yourself from everybody else that's out there and that's gonna endear people and get people to fall in love with your brand.

[00:27:54] Joelly: When I talk to people about branding and you look at the Starbucks and the Second Cups and all the other coffee shops out there, you're not trying to be, don't try to be them. See what they're doing and then. Figure out what you do that's differently, that's unique, that differentiate yourself to that.

[00:28:09] Joelly: And that's what you excel at. And that's what's going to create your own unique brand that no one else can offer. Like what can you offer that no one else offers? And I, and you sort of really personified that and what you've doing with the elite. And the only other thing I'd add to that is follow your passion.

[00:28:21] Paul: I think you'd support that too. If you're, if you're passionate about something, you'll make it happen. And even if you don't, you won't regret it because it was your passion. Whereas if you try to chase something just for money or because you're forced into often Those are the ones that have a bigger struggle as passion such a, you talk about super superpowers.

[00:28:37] Paul: I think passion is a superpower. If you could tap into your passion or your flow zone where, you know, you lose track of time, that's when you become a super action hero.

[00:28:43] Joelly: Oh, I know. I totally agree with you. Yeah. A hundred percent. Well, you're obviously passionate about this and your little girl is very lucky to have you as a dad and her mom and, you know, all the support and the opportunities that you're creating for her and for, you know, so many other people is just invaluable.

[00:29:02] Joelly: And it goes back to your purpose. That was the other thing I was gonna say about a business. Find your purpose because that's gonna motivate you. And that probably gets you through the hard time. Absolutely. You know, well, Paul, thank you again. I probably have taken a bit more of your time than expected, but again, I love what you're doing.

[00:29:16] Joelly: So people want to learn more about you and about Lil E. What's the best way for them to connect with you? 

[00:29:20] Paul: Best way is to get their butts downtown and come to the Ampersand building, which is 144th Avenue. Come experience it in person. Fridays would be. Even better. So they could see the dance off. Hopefully they'll see you dancing there, but by all means, uh, come downtown.

[00:29:34] Paul: We have a website, llil e. We're also on LinkedIn. We're also on Ig. So you'll see a lot of people love us on Ig. They follow us because we're their caffeine hit when they're, uh, when they're at work at home, they see our pictures of what our employees doing. And we had a lot of ton of texts that they just love following us and just see what we're, uh, what we're doing now we're changing the world.

[00:29:54] Joelly: So. Amazing. And so my podcast is international, so people who aren't in Calgary, if they want to, let's say, get some merch, can they get that on your website? Will they be able to? 

[00:30:04] Paul: Yeah, there's an order feature on our, on our website. You can order it or you can reach out. There's emails on there too, if you want to reach out for merch, or if you want to learn more about how we built the store and opportunities and we can assist you with building one in your local city or country, by all means, we'd love to help out.

[00:30:20] Joelly: Well, thank you so much. Any closing words before we say goodbye?

[00:30:22] Paul: Just thank you to you. Thank you to, uh, everybody out there who's listening. And I hope we inspire you to create something to make a difference in the world, either for your family or your employees or for other individuals with disabilities.

[00:30:34] Paul: And I just really encourage you to go out there and make a difference.

[00:30:37] Joelly: Great way to end it. All right. Well, thank you again, Paul. And I hope I'm going to see you again soon. Okay. Sounds good. Thank you. All right. Take care. Bye. And there you have it. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed the conversation and hopefully you learned a few things to help you with your branding.

[00:30:53] Joelly: This show is a work in progress, so please remember to rate it and leave a review on whatever platform you listed a podcast. And if you need help building your brand, send me a private message and I would love to help you out as well. You can reach out to me on my website at I promise you I reply to all my messages.

[00:31:12] Joelly: So thanks again, and until next time, here's to all you badasses out there.