Support for Tonic Coffee Pours Over with Crowdfunding Success!
Updated: Jan 10
On the busy thoroughfare of Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, you can leave the chaotic street behind by entering the calming, sophisticated space of Tonic Coffee. Located in a historic Art Deco building, the Tonic Coffee shop is minimalist and elegant, much like the specialty coffee drinks and mocktails that are crafted there.
Owner Stephanie Nicolaas began the process of opening Tonic Coffee in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, out of a desire to meld her experiences traveling around the world with her passion for coffee.
Since opening in May 2021, Tonic Coffee has been serving up beautiful coffee drinks, balanced mocktails, and enlightening, globally-inspired tasting experiences focusing on flavors from Colombia to Ethiopia.
In order to complete the build-out of this new space, Stephanie looked to a crowdfunded loan from Honeycomb Credit, raising nearly $30,000 from 40 investors. With this, she was able to equip the store with coffee-making equipment, commercial refrigerators, and hire full-time baristas to run it.
“The support I received for the campaign truly means the world to me,” says Stephanie. “The investors believed in my vision and became part of this journey!”
Local flavor and inclusivity abound in Lawrenceville
Lawrenceville has turned out to be a perfect location for Tonic Coffee, and Stephanie knew that her decision to locate there would benefit both her business and the community itself.
“Lawrenceville is such an artistic and inclusive community,” she says. “I felt like my vision for combining coffee, crafted mocktails, design, art, and beautiful aesthetics fit right in with the community.”
Inclusivity is one of the key values that Stephanie puts into Tonic Coffee. Lawrenceville is one of the current hotspots for dining, breweries, wineries, and cideries, and Tonic Coffee provides a just as exciting alternative for people who might not want to drink.
“We are a safe space for people of all cultures, orientations, and identities,” Stephanie says. “We want everyone to feel free and safe within our walls, and to enjoy themselves. Serving crafted non-alcoholic mocktails also means everyone can enjoy a truly intentional and balanced drink.”
By entering into the Lawrenceville market, Stephanie is able to not only take advantage of the neighborhood’s burgeoning artistic and young professional population, but also the passion that Pittsburgh has for small businesses.
“I love how Pittsburgh supports small businesses. It's evident when you see how many mom and pops are thriving here over the big franchises,” she says.
This collective support that the Pittsburgh community has of small businesses was also important to the success of Tonic Coffee’s Honeycomb campaign.
“I chose Honeycomb Credit for the community aspect,” says Stephanie. “I wanted to connect directly with future customers and potential investors.”
This desire to connect with the community certainly came to fruition with the success of the campaign!
“I was about to raise [over] $20,000 through local Honeycomb investors, this assisted in helping with my final coffee bar buildout cost which was over $75,000,” Stephanie notes. “Having this help from Investors allowed me to finish the buildout process in a timely manner.”
Another benefit that Stephanie found through the process of crowdfunding through Honeycomb was how helpful the team was in helping her reach the finish line.
“The experience with Honeycomb Credit was amazing, from the start, my points of contact John and Becca made the process so easy for me,” she says. “They were engaging and walked me through this while touching base weekly. It’s a collaborative effort and as a business owner you also have to be engaged in the process!”
This spirit of collaboration reaches beyond just crowdfunding, as Stephanie seeks out connections throughout all aspects of her business.
Building a local and global network through coffee
One of the unique aspects of Tonic Coffee is their ability to be both grounded in the local community while also fostering relationships around the world, from the ingredients they use to the events they put on.
Stephanie makes it a point to purchase coffee from women-owned coffee farms in order to support them and increase their exposure. “As a woman in coffee, I understand the importance of supporting other women in the coffee industry, because it's often an uphill battle in a male-dominated industry,” she explains.
She’s also built connections with local female business owners in Pittsburgh, and has been able to use that network as a valuable resource in starting her business. “You’d be surprised how supportive the community is and I’m so grateful for those that helped me along the way,” says Stephanie. “It was a very uncertain time, living through a pandemic while planning my build out. I took a risk and it was worth it!”
The buildout for Tonic Coffee, like most buildouts for any small business, was a consuming yet rewarding process.
“I think the unexpected ought to be expected in a startup business,” notes Stephanie. “During the build out process, there were additional expenses that certainly could have delayed the build out. However, with the help of Honeycomb investors I was able to keep the project moving along in a timely fashion. I am so grateful for that!”
Now, nearing the one-month anniversary of Tonic’s opening, Stephanie is still continuing to build these relationships with the investors in her community as she grows her business.
“I have also connected with some investors and their families after opening,” says Stephanie. “It’s amazing to feel connected to my customers before even opening, it’s gratifying to meet them in person and be able to serve them directly.”