46 year old Alonzo Knox is a native of Baton Rouge,La. Prior to opening his own business, he worked mostly with government and nonprofits managing grants and programs. ” have always been interested in having my own business. After receiving my MBA, I had a goal of opening a storefront business. I partnered with a neighbor to open Cafe Treme which was my first foray into the coffee business. From this experience I realized that handling the day-to-day rigors of my own business and interacting with customers gave me great joy and played to my strengths; so after the partnership ended, I knew that I would start another coffee shop. That is the reason I now have Backatown Coffee Parlour which has been open for three months, with my business partner and wife, Jessica Knox. It offers coffee, loose leaf teas, espresso based drinks, and light fare like sandwiches and salads.”
Q: What are you most proud of (related to your business)?
A: I have to sing my wife’s praises on the design of Backatown. It sets the tone. I am also proud that I have been able to hire young people who often look to me to help them achieve their goals whether that is to complete college, start their own business, or become a chef. We also try to allow young people to showcase their talent whether it is art, music, spoken word or something else as we want to contribute to the growth of others as so many have contributed to our growth.
Q: As an African American/Black entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest challenges and/or surprised you faced when starting your business?
A: Some of the biggest challenges my wife and I face were having to work while spending a substantial amount of time starting the business. Although we had a loan, it was limited to specific items, so we had to maintain our 8 to 5 jobs to support start-up.
Q: What advice do you have to fellow African American/Black entrepreneurs starting business?
A: We would advise an entrepreneur to have a business plan that involves more than how much you can make/gain in revenue. The plan has to take into account payroll, purchase of products, start-up costs like equipment & furniture, rent costs, insurance, and many other items. Owners have to know their break-even point to understand what they must do to stay afloat. We would also say that you must invest in your business to make it a place that you and others would enjoy and you have to do this in the beginning. Lastly, you have to know your strengths. If you are not good with paperwork like bill payment or payroll outsource it. If you are not a people person, you should not be in the front of your business or work on interacting with others. If you do not use social media, you learn or you find someone who does! All of this will affect your brand.
Q: New Orleans is such a “robust” entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the resources (people, networks, organizations, programs, books, articles, etc.) that you have found most useful in starting and/or growing your business?
A: We have been lucky to have mentors that own businesses – Naydja & Adolph Bynum. NewCorp has been a resource for helping fund our start-up. Sampson Communications lead by Jared Sampson has been instrumental in our marketing. Howard Conyers, Pitmaster and Rocket Scientist, has helped us garner free print media. Magnolia Yoga, our suite mate, has sent many clients our way. Jessica’s sister and niece, Deangelis Taylor and Melondie Taylor supplied free labor when we first revealed Backatown. We rely on our Creator a lot. It takes a village!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your business or your personal story?
A: Backatown is not just coffee; it is a destination for people from all walks of life to interact, engage, and learn!
Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter: @backatownnola
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Address: 301 Basin Street, Suite 1, New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone number: 504.372.4442