Your $4 latte is doing so much more than merely keeping you awake.

If you’ve been in the Columbus area for more than a day, chances are you have witnessed the amazing things going on across the city. This is true if you are talking about the revitalization of our neighborhoods, the success of our sporting teams, our awesome libraries, our delicious and unique restaurants, and essentially every facet of our economy. When asked about what things are stimulating the business growth in our community most people quickly jump to the age old concepts of venture capital, business plans and legislation. But one of the unsung heroes of the growth in our city is our local coffee shops.

A common thread that baby boomers, gen-Xers and millennials all have in common is their love for coffee. Per ICO, the International Coffee Organization, coffee exports to the US have increased by 8.9 percent from October through January. This data, coupled with millennials’ rise to most populous age demographic, has inspired a whole new brew of baristas.  

Learning from the corporate, operationally-focused culture of Starbucks and its clones, many of our local shops have evolved the concept of what a coffee house should be. Startups like Coffee Connections of Hilliard have sprung up with a grander vision than just peddling cake-flavored caffeine.

Co-founders Nate and Sharon Grenier are fulfilling their company’s and life’s mission of “Love your neighbor, serve your city” by providing the community with free rooms for small group discussions and a nominal fee for large groups to meet and discuss ideas, aspirations, and business plans. Nate Grenier focuses on some of the more altruistic ideals of the rising social entrepreneur movement when developing his business plan.

“My business model is service. Money will come later, but right now we are just here to help people,” he says. 

Many new entrepreneurs lack the initial capital to fund a location in the early phase of startup. In a society of less wires and consequently less tangibility, many new CEOs use the neutral, low-cost setting of local coffee shops to meet with potential clients, investors and business partners. If you are sitting in any local shop across the city, you may hear the electric words of passionate business leaders who are motivated to energize the city in the coming months and years. The support of these local shops provides these trailblazing coffee aficionados with the capital to continue expanding this connection based business model into larger facilities, more staff and continued growth to our economy.

All this value to the community is given for the mere entry cost of a $4 latte. So, the next time you visit Fox in the Snow, Stauf’s, Coffee Connections—or any of the other great coffee shops—remember that you aren’t just supporting a local business, you are supporting the stimulation of our economy from one of the most important areas possible.

Eric is a social media and business consultant who has spent the last decade managing several multi-million-dollar retail locations, and is currently a manager at the Easton Barnes and Noble. You may contact Eric via email at eric@whataylesyou.com.