August 27, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Commercial airline pilot Robin Kidder has lived in the Hebron area for about 20 years. She’s seen the community grow by leaps and bounds. When she was laid off by her airline more than a year ago, she saw it as an opportunity to pursue another of her passions – coffee.

Kidder realized that she and her fellow workout buddies at a local fitness center would sometimes like to have a cup of coffee and continue their conversations, but there were no coffee shops anywhere near the fitness club. Soon after, the idea for her new business, The Coffee Blend, was born.

“People were driving more than 10 miles just to get a good cup of coffee,” she said. “I talked to my husband and we decided a coffee shop would work right here, right now. Hebron has changed so much. It wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago, but right now it will.”

Kidder first contacted the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) to ask questions about how to start a small business. She then attended a meeting of the Small Business Owner’s Association (SBOA) in January 2004 at the Boone County Cooperative Extension office where she met many contacts, even one who helped her formulate a business plan.

“Almost everything about this shop has been done with people that I met through SBOA,” she said. “I met my banker, the lady who does my water filtration system, computer person, and my lawyer and insurance broker who introduced me to my accountant. I would not be at this point without the help I got from SBOA.”

The Coffee Blend opened in June and has already become a popular stop for many Hebron residents. Kidder said in the first two months of operation, she has come close to breaking even, which is very rare in a new business, she added.

Kidder and other small business owners have been meeting at the Extension office for more than two years. During that time, SBOA President Karla Thompson has seen tremendous growth in the organization. Membership is nearing 100 people.

“Membership has more than doubled since I joined 2.5 years ago,” she said. “The SBOA is typically a networking group and plenty of referrals pass through it. But more than that, it is a wonderful support group. One of the things I learned early on in my own business is that normal networking groups didn’t understand the needs of small business owners. In the SBOA, we really put an emphasis on education since a lot of small businesses fail just because they don’t have the knowledge and support they need. We are all really supportive of each other.”

University of Kentucky Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Boone County Diane Mason started the SBOA northern Ky. because she believes Extension can be a catalyst to bring people together.

“I wanted to find something to support home-based business in northern Kentucky,” she said. “The goal was to provide educational support in areas small business owners weren’t comfortable in. We had 20 people at the first meeting from all areas of business from antique dealers and lawn care professionals to bed and breakfast owners and photographers.”

Mason said a side benefit of the SBOA has been leadership development of the members. Since the organization began she’s seen many new start-up businesses, growth of existing businesses and even business owners who got out of one type of business to start another because of the training and support they received. Members come from northern Kentucky, Southern Ohio and Indiana.

“It’s really amazing what can happen when a group of people come together,” Mason said. “We provide the meeting rooms, leadership development training, assistance with their mailings and advice; they do the rest.”

Tim Smith has been a photographer for 25 years. He and a friend recently started a joint venture, T.M. Pro Photo. They cover anything from school pictures to weddings. He joined SBOA about a year-and-a-half ago.

“When you have a small business, you have to build relationships and the only way to really do that is through networking,” he said. “The better your relationships, the better your business. SBOA helps us find people to do business with. You’d much rather do business with friends and through SBOA networking, friendships are developed.”

As for Robin Kidder, she’s recently been called back to work by her airline and she plans to return to the skies, but that doesn’t mean The Coffee Blend will go by the wayside. She’s already made plans for her husband to help in the day-to-day operations and she’s set up many things on the computer so she can manage the big things while she’s on the ground. She expects a smooth transition thanks to her friends in Extension and the SBOA.


Writer: Aimee D. Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Source: Diane Mason 859-586-5101