Apopka, Fla. – A new initiative is underway to grow and expand minority-owned businesses in Apopka. It’s called “Apopkans building Apopka,” said Kate Manley, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce.
Manley said the council is offering a free program for business owners in the commercial industry who have no experience with government contracting to obtain county and state certification.
She said it would allow local business owners to build using local business contractors. A cycle that sustains employment and income in the community.
One good example is local coffee shop owner Danielle Bjork, who says Manley is helping drive the program’s focus.
For many in the Apopka area, the word Birchwood may ring a bell, and when you hear it, you think of the bar. However, for Daniel it simply means family.
“This is my grandmother’s recipe. It’s an amazing field, and we have four tops. We use blueberries, strawberries, chocolate or caramel as a topping. My great-grandmother, we use her sweet potato pie recipe, and this recipe is over 100 years old,” Bjork said.
Everything from the menu items, the staff and the name of the store resorts to the Bjork family. She said she was very young, and after her first drink, she felt at home.
Over the years, she continued to discover the unique taste of coffee, experimenting with different things and passing her love on to her children. This eventually became the mission behind starting her own business.
“It was my goal to build something bigger than myself, and when I opened this coffee shop, my goal was to have more than one location — actually four, and leave one for my kids,” Bjork said.
Birchwood Coffee Company opened on the tail end of the pandemic, a leap of faith Danielle said her children encouraged her to take. Although this decision was unknown, the decision was successful with hundreds of customers per week and enough support from the community to open a second location.
According to Manley, minority ownership is on the rise in Apopka, with natives building in their communities like Bjork. Looking outside of the Central Florida area, Manley shared that the state ranks number one in the number of black-owned businesses and number two for women-owned businesses.
Although starting Birchwood Coffee Company was inspired by her first drinking memories with her grandparents and her children’s push, Bjork says her continued success can be attributed to the support of her community and Apopka’s leadership.
“The mayor, many city commissioners come and support us here, and we feel love. We accept that we are wanted and that we are here,” said Bjork.
The Chamber’s Free Certification Program is designed to provide support to small business owners.
The next course will be held on June 27 from 1 pm – 3 pm