Injera*. Wat*. If these words are unfamiliar to you then you probably have never tried Ethiopian food. And you certainly have not tried Lalibela in Mt. Kisco, NY. Lalibela is a small neighborhood restaurant established in 2010. Before that, it was the dream of Selamawit Tesfaye, known to her customers as Mimi, who emigrated to the United States in 1995 and began her life here as a nanny. At night, she took ESL classes and then she began the slow but steady path that led not only to Lalibela but also, in December 2018, to the opening next door of Mimi’s Coffee House, a coffee bar.
With strong reviews from the New York Times and Westchester Magazine, among others, Lalibela has become an integral part of the Mount Kisco restaurant scene. Mimi’s vision and energy got Lalibela to its current place. Lalibela is unique, certainly for Northern Westchester (If you haven’t yet sneaked a glance below, injera is the spongy sourdough flatbread served on a large tray that serves as both bread and utensil. It is used to scoop up ‘wat’ (stew) and other wonderfully spiced Ethiopian dishes that are served on top of the injera).
Mimi went to Community Capital (a non profit alternative community lender in the Hudson Valley and Fairfield, CT) seeking a loan that would allow her to to open Mimi’s Coffee House. Before approving the loan, Community Capital introduced Mimi to TAP, asking TAP to advise her on how she could both grow Lalibela and start Mimi’s Coffee House.
TAP focused on marketing strategies and financial analysis for both businesses. For Lalibela, TAP consultants worked with Mimi to develop marketing strategies that she could pursue, in both the near and longer term, to build her clientele. TAP and Mimi discussed brand development to distinguish Lalibela, increased marketing to gain a larger lunch business, advertising at the nearby Mt Kisco train station to increase takeout business, and outreach to local corporations for catering or private parties. TAP believed that Lalibela and Mimi’s could also benefit by looking for opportunities to collaborate in the community (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, local sporting events) to help increase visibility. TAP and Mimi also went through the menu, item by item, to ensure that Mimi was maximizing her revenue.
For Mimi’s Coffee House, TAP helped put together detailed revenue and cost assumptions. TAP consultants worked with Mimi to “stress test” the assumptions under different business and financial scenarios. They even sent Mimi on a sleuthing assignment to the nearest competitor to gather intelligence on how many units were sold of drinks/food as well as peak times throughout the day. With a five year plan in hand, Mimi was able to demonstrate the viability of her coffee house to Community Capital and secure a loan.
Mimi notes that without TAP’s guidance on the financial aspects of Mimi’s Coffee House, she would not have gotten the loan from Community Capital. Furthermore, Lalibela has seen 20 percent growth since working with TAP and Mimi’s Coffee House just got a terrific write-up in Westchester Magazine online.
Both Lalibela and Mimi’s have become go-to destinations. Mount Kisco residents are delighted to have an alternative to chain coffee stores and they continue to flock to Lalibela for its food and ambience.
*injera: a spongy, sourdough flatbread
*wat: a spicy stew or curry like dish served on the injera
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