Entrepreneur Spotlight

Business Owner: Nisa Salmen

Business Name: Hardline Coffee Co.

Main Products/Services: House roasted coffee and handcrafted beverages

Location: 515 4th St, Sioux City, IA 51101

Website: hardlinecoffeeco.com

Short description of your business: I operate a third-wave coffee shop and roastery in downtown Sioux City. Our focus lies in roasting ethically sourced coffee and using fresh ingredients to create unique handcrafted beverages. 

What motivated you to start your business? What drives you each day?

I started my journey with a hand-built mobile coffee unit shortly after graduating from Morningside University. During my years as an undergrad, I developed a passion for the craft (and consumption) of coffee. Combining my previous experience in the food and beverage industry with my formal education in the sciences, I decided to explore the crossroads of coffee and chemistry. This quickly led to founding a brick-and-mortar coffee shop and micro-roastery on 5th Street in downtown Sioux City.

What began as a mild curiosity about single-origin coffees soon transformed into a passion for sharing my creations with the community. My inspiration stems from the connections I make with my customers and the ideas we generate together.

What’s unique about your business?

Our coffee is always roasted in-house, and our syrups and pastries are made by hand. This allows us to offer a high-quality experience with every beverage. It also ensures that we know exactly what goes into each drink, so we are able to offer many gluten-free and vegan options. Our baristas are highly trained in brewing methods, so you know you’re going to get the best tasting cup every time.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as you’ve grown your business?

Business ownership is often fraught with challenges. Three days before Hardline’s grand opening, I found out that I was pregnant with my son, Ezra. Growing into motherhood and growing as a small business owner are similarly difficult yet often incompatible paths. Fortunately, all of that growth led to a surprising amount of resilience. Eight months after my son was born, the Covid-19 pandemic began. During that time, I navigated through a major equipment failure, revenue loss, hiring and training a new team, and closing down the shop to quarantine and heal from the Coronavirus twice.

What has been your greatest reward?

Working with a team of like-minded but incredibly unique individuals, as well as engaging with the community, has brought me a lot of satisfaction and joy. I like to think that Hardline has grown along with the people who support it, which in turn has made it a very colorful and exciting place to be. It’s always great to see people show some love for specialty coffee.

How have you benefited from the start up community in Sioux City and the region? What resources did you use?

I have enjoyed working with local organizations like Downtown Partners and Iowa’s West Coast Initiative to get involved in community events through the coffee shop. Attending networking events like IWCI’s First Friday Coffee and Sioux City Growth Organization’s Innovation Market have helped me make connections with other small business owners in the area. The Sioux City Farmer’s Market and IWCI’s mastermind groups have provided me with a platform to grow my business and hone my skills as an entrepreneur alongside others.

Are there any experiences that were particularly influential in that regard?

My mastermind group has been a great resource for inspiration, and it helps me hold myself accountable and challenges me to grow. I’ve also been fortunate enough to connect with a number of people who share a similar passion for arts and culture. Some of these connections are what led to our partnership with the Art Sux Gallery and the revitalization of the former Karlton’s building on 4th Street, where we have opened our new location.

Why is it important for the community to support startups and small businesses? What more can be done to help them?

Small businesses and startups infuse tons of resources and culture into their communities. Many of you have heard that every dollar spent at a small business goes right back into the community. That can also be said about your energy. I’ve been blown away by the support Hardline has received from our customers. It allows me to support my team, many of whom have their own side hustles, and reinvest my energy into Sioux City in new ways.

There are many ways to support your favorite small business or startup. Shopping locally, sharing their posts on social media, leaving a Google review, or even offering a partnership or service can be mutually beneficial.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when starting your business?

Relationships make all the difference.

I am fiercely independent by nature, so it has been a struggle to ask for and accept help from others. I’ve learned that I truly enjoy playing to my strengths and watching others flourish while they utilize their skills. Building a well-rounded team has been one of the highlights of business ownership for me. Now, I love that we can lean on each other for support and celebrate our victories together.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business?

So many tidbits of wisdom! You get out of it what you put into it. Approach your business plans with good intentions and a positive attitude, and don’t be afraid to change it up. Adaptability is one of the best qualities an entrepreneur can have. Do your research and really think about your long-term goals, but don’t forget to be flexible and enjoy the moment. One day you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

How can the community continue to help your business?

Visit our new space at 515 4th Street! Buy a cup of coffee, a bag of beans, or some merch. We are always here for a friendly smile and some pleasant conversation. If you’re feeling philanthropic, tip your barista and leave us a 5-star review online! Snap some photos and share them with your friends. At the very least, word of mouth is always helpful. And don’t forget to support the arts and shop local!

What are some future goals for your company?

We are currently looking forward to upgrading our roasting and brewing equipment to provide a larger variety of single origin coffees and coffee blends. Additionally, we are accepting new clients for our wholesale program, in which we roast and deliver coffee to other businesses in the area. 

We are also excited to have adequate space to host art gallery receptions, mutual aid events, and more local art and small business pop ups.

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