“We consider the advisors from the SFSBDC to be part of our team,” said Kellie McCord. “They really came through and supported us every step of the way!

Kellie and Ken McCord with SBDC Advisor Vallerie and Jim

Starting a Business is a Journey Worth Taking; Building A Team is Key to Small Business Success!

When Kellie and Ken McCord moved to Visitacion Valley - an underserved neighborhood in San Francisco - in 2014,  they were pleasantly surprised by their neighbors’ warm welcome and generous spirit. Wanting to give back to their newly adopted neighborhood, they thought about what the area was missing. Ken is an experienced entrepreneur who knew the lengthy process of starting a business. After surveying the immediate neighborhood, they discovered that there was no place to grab a good cup of coffee or buy a gift. An idea emerged.

Their long journey began with learning about coffee. Kellie went to work at St. Frank’s coffee shop downtown on Mission Street where owner Kevin Bohlin took her under his wing and taught her about the coffee business. They then had to find a suitable location along Leland Avenue and then source crafts people for merchandise to sell, then work with the city on the permitting process and so on. It took a while.  

They sought the help of the San Francisco Small Business Development Center (SFSBDC) to guide them through the business and marketing planning process. SFSBDC marketing advisor Valerie Camarda helped them realize their vision and advisor Jim Nguyen assisted the owners to obtain a City grant that helped with interior and exterior façade improvements. 

Mission Blue is now a gift shop that also serves amazing coffee and delicious treats. The shop is helping to revitalize the Visitacion Valley neighborhood. It takes its name from the butterfly that is native to the Bay Area and proliferates on San Bruno Mountain and Twin Peaks. Situated adjacent to the entrance to one of Visitacion Valley’s legendary gardens and hiking trails in the neighborhood’s main retail center, Leland Avenue, the retail store is a welcome beacon to all.

When the couple originally formulated their idea of a gift shop that served coffee, their goal was to create a hub for the neighborhood while maintaining what the Visitacion Valley visionaries who came before them had created. Now Mission Blue is a place where all can gather for educational and fun events, as well as buy unique crafts from local artists, many of whom live right in the neighborhood or close by.

“By bringing more commerce to Leland Avenue we’re hoping to encourage other retailers to open and thus, improve the well being of our neighborhood through small business,” said Ken McCord. “Small business is one of the key success factors for a healthy neighborhood. In fact, we already have two new businesses planning to open on the street soon, so it’s working!”

The neighborhood turned out in droves at its recent grand opening to welcome and support the new addition to the Leland Avenue corridor. “Mission Blue has become a safe haven where neighbors can connect, refresh and then get on with their day,” said Kellie. “We love that we’ve become a part of their daily routine!”

Since opening, Kellie has hired four part-time student baristas and sales staff from the community. She’s hoping that the entrepreneur bug rubs off on them so their journey into the business world can begin.

(Photo credit: Zoi & Light Studio, LLC)

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.