Susan Radke never intended to run her own restaurant. A mom of twin girls, she started a landscape design business in 2001, and sold hand-painted silk scarves, denim jackets and t-shirts on the side. After a decade Radke turned her side hustle into a business and opened Seranya Studios Art Boutique in 2013. The boutique features a mix of professional artists and local students from the small town of Plymouth, Wisconsin.
With less than 9,000 people in the area, opening an art store wasn’t an idea everyone initially thought would take off. Gradually Radke convinced local artisans to teach classes and display their artwork. She also began donating floor space to students to show their artwork — with one caveat: they had to learn some of the inner workings of running a business in exchange for being in her shop.
That meant teaching all the mundane tasks a small owner must sometimes do – from learning how to write a sales ticket and light cleaning chores, to talking with professional artists and promoting a small business.
“They are encouraged to learn all they can about the business of art,” says Radke who also helps students create their own social media accounts specifically for their artwork.
Radke soon realized she wanted to make her art gallery a larger meeting place for local businesses, entrepreneurs and organizations.
“I began hearing a need from people in the community,” she says. “They would stop in the gallery and comment about needing another place to go for coffee in the afternoon or a place that served clean food.”
Radke also knew she needed to add something to make the gallery more sustainable, something to draw in additional people.
Business Planning for a Restaurant
For a year and a half, Radke worked on creating a strong business plan, marketing strategy, and securing enough financing.
She hired a local marketing agency who coordinated the creation of all her company graphics and crafted branding guidelines, saving her time and money while she coordinated other aspects of the business.
At the same time, Radke worked with a business coach to build a comprehensive proposal with a first year startup plan and a five-year plan.
“Having a business coach helped me to stay focused, stay on track and to get financing because you have to have a business plan to get the financing,” says Radke, who was able to secure private financing and funding through several local banks. “Do not underestimate the power of hiring a business coach and someone to help you with branding.”
Radke then had her business plan reviewed by the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit corporation that helps with workforce development and entrepreneurship. She also sought guidance and networking opportunities from her local chapter of Business Network International and Chamber of Commerce.
With her financing in place, Radke renovated a former gas station and auto repair shop into a 4,500-square-foot multipurpose space.
In May 2017, she moved into the new space and opened The HUB, a coffee shop and restaurant that focuses on sourcing locally-grown, organic food and sustainable practices by composting food waste and recycling much of the garbage.
“I want this to be a hub for people to interact, host business meetings and be a makerspace for artists to learn, create, collaborate and sell their wares,” says Radke, who now runs The HUB and Seranya Studios Art Boutique with two full-time employees and seven part-time employees.
The move allows customers to browse artwork, grab a coffee, nosh on food, or host a business meeting.
In a year’s time Radke has more than quadrupled her business.
A Hub for the Creative Community
To help area small businesses, Radke also sells locally and regionally sourced raw honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies, roasted coffee beans and homemade chocolates. Fruits, vegetables and other greens come from local farms.
In turn, local businesses have sought out her café and art studio.
“She’s very involved in community and I like the fact that she gives back,” says Eric Desjarlais, a financial advisor at Edward Jones in Plymouth, Wisconsin. “I enjoy sending my clients there for a good cup of coffee and conversation.”