Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Kahle.
Amy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It’s hard to know how far back to go. When you begin a new business, the story starts long before you actually take action. I suppose Communion began when our family first moved to Richardson and felt something was missing.
My husband, Tim, and I wanted to create a place where people could gather in our community – a place to inspire creativity and conversation and enjoy a wonderful meal, coffee or drink. A place to also give our neighbors both the business and community resources they’ve been lacking. We just never quite knew how it would come about. Initially, we just knew we wanted to build it close to home and our family. It would require a lot of time away from home so location was very important to us.
Before moving to Richardson, I lived and worked in McKinney for 10 years. After graduating from Baylor with a business degree, I worked for my dad building and developing housing for seniors. I really enjoyed so many aspects of the business and learned a lot from him about business development and what it looks like to build a business and build a brand.
While in living McKinney, I met Tim when we both volunteered for Young Life. He grew up in a family that built, and it was a natural fit for us to work in the family business together building and developing housing for seniors. After we completed the developments, we were working on, we felt like we ultimately wanted to raise our family in an area just outside of Dallas and moved to a great neighborhood in Richardson in 2013.
In the fall of 2016, an old automotive garage in Richardson went up for sale. We knew this was the spot and we immediately started putting the pieces together. We secured a loan, built our team, and started construction. We wanted to combine four departments all in one property: Coworking, Coffee, Food and Beverage, and an Events Venue. As far as we know, we were the only ones pairing everything together like we did.
We opened our doors in November of 2017. Now, it was time to find out how everything works together. There was staffing, menu development, service to members and guests and many different forms of back of the house operations. Personally, I found my role in the operations side of things and menu development. It has been fun to work closely with staff and develop systems to help things run smoothly. I also enjoy baking my grandmother’s pumpkin bread for the coffee shop when time allows. It’s fun to know a recipe handed down from several generations can still be enjoyed by our guests.
Another part of my story is my role as a mom to four sweet kids. We opened Communion with a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, and 2-year-old twins. I wore a lot of hats then and still do today. It’s hard to balance starting a family business and being a mom to kids that were so young. I am so thankful for the encouragement and help of so many that helped me pursue my family and Communion.
We are now 22 months into this and not that far down the road. Every day, we strive to grow our business, support our staff and care for our members and guests. When building a business, nothing is ever truly finished. There is always something to be improved. We have a goal to never settle and always strive to be better the next day. It’s been an ever-evolving process.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The short answer is no. It hasn’t always been smooth. There have been plenty of challenges. We are learning how to run a co-working space, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and an event space. All at the same time. At times it feels like fixing an escalator while it was moving. We’ve learned to make changes on the fly while everyone was still coming every day. This was the first time we had ever done this. Tim and I had a lot of responsibilities at work and at home and each day was full.
If women are going to start a business, here is some advice I’d love to share:
One, find a mentor. Look for a mentor 5-10 years ahead of you. If that mentor can teach you their mistakes, you can avoid making the same ones. You will save a lot of time and get down the road far faster. This is one of the best things you can do.
Two, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t allow them to discourage you. Seek out stories of other entrepreneurs who made mistakes and were able to persevere. Allow them to encourage you.
Three, believe in what you are doing. When you start a business, you are going to have to give up some things. Make sure your business is worth it. For example, you are not going to be as available socially. You will need to know who you will still commit to investing in. Your business may require you to prioritize relationships differently.
Lastly, a lot of women believe motherhood and entrepreneurship are mutually exclusive; that being a mom and running a business is an “either/or.” This doesn’t have to be the case. I didn’t make myself choose between being a mom and being a business owner. My kids are enjoying a classical education which gives us the opportunity to work at school together two days a week. I still believe I get the best of both worlds. I often find it is fun to involve my kids when I can. They keep me grounded and help me find balance.
We’d love to hear more about Communion Neighborhood Cooperative and your role.
As an owner, I regularly meet with Communion team. I also meet with potential partners who are interested in what we are doing and how this brand can be expanded. Behind the scenes, I help build systems that bring order and allow other departments to thrive. I’m highly motivated to see things organized and executed efficiently. Give me any task, and I will find out what it takes to see it done. I feel like my hands touch almost every aspect of this business, from accounting to occasionally running social media. When you own a business, you know that it can be a reflection of yourself. So, no matter your role, if there is trash on the ground or something that needs attention, you handle it.
As a company, we specialize in cultivating community. We create space to share ideas and experiences. Our four departments enable that in different ways. We are excited about paving a way for the four areas to work as a unit and bring people together. I am super excited that Tim is such a visionary and can see the potential an old auto garage can have! It is fun to be on this adventure with him and dream about how we can make each experience at Communion better.
RESTAURANT & BAR
Our outstanding food and beverage program allows guests to eat a meal, enjoy the company of others, and be served by a wait staff that wants them to feel special. We have recently partnered with Victor Hugo of VH in Oak Cliff to launch the experience to another level. As a chef, he is able to make sure all aspects of the food and beverage experience are excellent. Guests dining at Communion can enjoy one of many items Victor has on the newly designed menu. We could not be more excited about this partnership! I love that we have opened a neighborhood restaurant that our community and the surrounding areas can come and enjoy amazing food that is not only artistic but delicious and right down the street. Communion Restaurant & Bar serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. If you have a business lunch, date night or family in town for the weekend Communion is an excellent choice for a wonderful dining experience.
The coffee shop is our newest space that has been completed. It provides an environment that people naturally want to be in. There was a need in Richardson for a local coffee shop that would build a program focusing on the art of really good coffee. It was very rewarding when The Dallas Observer named us Best Coffee Shop in Dallas in 2018! Our baristas have developed an exceptional program where coffee is rotated every quarter. We enjoy featuring three coffee roasters that may be new to our guests. We feature one local roaster, one that is from Texas and one national brand. Guests of the coffee shop can enjoy homemade syrups and a variety of other coffee beverages as well as delicious pastries and grab and gos. It is the perfect spot to come to meet with friends or come to relax for some chill time.
Next, we continue to create that shared environment in our coworking space. People from a variety of fields can come to sit, create, and collaborate together. It has been so much fun to watch people connect with new people in the same industry or different. We offer day passes, open seating memberships all the way to suites. Along with our different membership types, we have conference rooms that can be reserved by our members and also rented by the hour to others that do not have a membership. We have designed a space that is inspiring so our members can have a place they want to come to work. Our staff knows them and have enjoyed collaborating with them to champion their business.
Lastly, our events venue provides a space to let people gather to celebrate, have fun, and share special moments. In the converted auto garage, we were able to bring together a mixture of textures that create a space with a cool urban vibe that is warm and very inviting for our guests hosting an event. In just 22 months we have hosted over 200 events. From weddings & receptions to fundraisers & birthday parties, Communion is a great place to host an event or gathering. Our hosts receive excellent service because our goal is for their event to be a wonderful time of celebration for them and their guests. Having the restaurant right next door also allows our guests to enjoy Communions great catering options and can host smaller parties. We love celebrating life with people!
There are so many things about Communion that I love, but I am most proud of the connection that people feel when they come. Communion makes the world so much smaller, because people actually know people here. If you lack those connections, I assure you the warm environment will help you get to know people in no time. In this digital age, I think a lot of people miss facetime and human interaction. Communion encourages people to talk, socialize, leave our bubbles of solitude, and interact. As the tech industry continues to dominate, a space to feel welcome and talk to people will increasingly become a necessity.
There are other businesses that compete with our four departments individually. However, what truly sets us apart is we have combined all these different elements together under one brand and one experience. Eat. Work. Play.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I believe the biggest barriers to female leadership can often come from the staff or team that women lead. However, it is not necessarily specific to one gender that is under female leadership. Every person will encounter different roadblocks for a variety of reasons. I’ve encountered some men and women that help me thrive and make my job easier. I’ve also known men and women that do the opposite. I’ve found it’s really based on the person. There is resistance from both men and women to accept that women can be in leadership. Women often must “earn” the right to be heard. I hope to empower my daughters to know they have value, worth, and talent that will make the world a better place. It is important that moms and dads provide a safe environment, at home, that encourage girls from an early age to thrive in whatever field they want to explore.
- Coworking: Day passes $25; Memberships start $250
- Address: Communion Neighborhood Cooperative
514 Lockwood Drive
Richardson, TX 75080
- Website: www.communioncooperative.com
- Phone: 972.200.7282
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/communioneatworkplay/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/communioneatworkplay/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ComeEatWorkPlay
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/company/communion-neighborhood-cooperative/?viewAsMember=true
Luke Stephenson, Sprinkles Creative, Lindsay Davenport, Hannah King, Matthew Lucas, Paul Golangco, Kaitlyn Kellam