The SBAC Micro-Business of the Year is given annually to a business who has demonstrated profitable growth and longevity, has a total of five or fewer full-time employees, and is active in the community. The 2019 recipient is Friendship Coffee Company, a thriving small business which meets all these standards, especially community involvement.
Gay Fortson and Elizabeth “Libby” Miller’s successful business was born out of a tragedy. Libby’s brother, Scott Miller, owned and operated Ogeechee River Coffee Company, on Habersham St. While Scott roasted the coffee, Gay and Libby began helping in the shop and quickly found that they really enjoyed working the business.
Scott passed away in early 2013 from an unexpected illness but Gay and Libby realized they loved the business so much that they decided to open their own coffee shop. They began by selling coffee wholesale at the Farmers Market in 2013. They purchased a roaster and green coffee beans and were in business bottling a special cold brew that resulted in FCC being named finalists in the Flavor of Georgia beverage competition.
Landing in their current location on Wilmington Island, they wholesaled out of there for a year before opening to the public. They made a bottling plan and began producing thousands of fresh bottles of cold brew at a time. They also opened a front room to customers to purchase products such as packaged coffee, bottles of cold brew, cinnamon rolls, crumb cakes and chicken biscuits. This evolved into the coffee shop it is today when Gay’s Mom set up a few tables for customers to sit and enjoy the coffee and pastries.
FCC now offers hot and cold beverages, breakfast lunch and desserts. (They still do wholesale and sell to individuals, restaurants and bars.) The location has a small stage for open mic events and they offer a comedy show on the last Saturday of the month. FCC is a hub for local community groups, and also work-mentors and hires high-school students and graduates with special needs.
“As our company thrives we will continue to be good stewards of business and a beacon for the SBAC,” said Libby Miller after accepting the award. “If not for the SBAC assistance, Friendship Coffee may not have become what it is today – a place where good friends gather for more that just great coffee.”