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Meet Sarah Lieberman of Dandelion Cafe in Bellaire

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Lieberman.

Sarah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up working in our family restaurant in Dover, Delaware from the time I was 12 years old, so you could say hospitality is somewhat in my blood. I left my small town in 2001 at the age of 20 to pursue bigger things in Philadelphia and studied at The University of the Arts where I received my BS in Industrial Design. During college, I worked at a small coffee shop in the heart of the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. This is where my love for coffee began. I worked on and off there for seven years.

After college, I took a break from working in coffee and started a job working for Fuji bicycle company for several years as a product designer. After being laid off from there in 2009, I spent a lot of time traveling around different parts of the world and eventually I decided to leave Philadelphia for Houston in January 2012 where I got a job working in the oil industry. After a year and a half there, I realized that life wasn’t for me and returned to working in the hospitality industry in 2014. In June of 2015, my dream of starting my own business was becoming something I couldn’t ignore; naturally, I wanted to have my own coffee shop, my favorite job of all. I began business mentoring with SCORE, a mentoring offshoot program of the Small Business Administration. They believed in me and saw that I had the drive and abilities to start the business. I began the process of writing my business plan and opening my business over the next year. I wanted to be the sole owner of the business and was able to find funding with the Bayou Microfund who loved my determination, the concept, and my dynamic experience. They decided to invest in me! I finally opened Dandelion Cafe in August 2016.

The first year was the most stressful of my life. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of closing the business and losing my entire savings. I have never felt that type of stress before and no one could possibly understand it unless they have opened their own business. Honestly, having never managed people before in that capacity, I was constantly turning over staff but I quickly began to figure everything out. by the summer of 2017, we were breaking even. In November 2017, I was able to hire a manager and begin the process of pulling myself out from behind the counter from making coffee to actually managing the business. I learned that as much as I love coffee, creating food and serving the community, I also love the business side of things. Dandelion had been my only baby until I found out I was pregnant; this was perfect timing to shift my focus. While we were pleasantly surprised to welcome our new little girl, it certainly added an unfamiliar element of positive stress to live and running a restaurant. The business, like any other, has ebbs and flows, but we continue to grow. I’m thrilled to have gotten in on the ground floor of the development that has been happening in our Bellaire community.

We have an amazing staff of people who love what they do, enjoy engaging with our guests, and they have stuck with me through it all. We have a new delicious menu designed by in house chef J.C. Ricks. We have the best regulars and, in general, our customers are the nicest people. I feel very fortunate to have gotten my business to this point. It has been a hard road to travel, and people don’t generally shed light on the tough aspects of being a business owner. I’ve learned more about myself, my abilities, and my confidence than ever before. The best advice I have received through this process was to listen to my community and by doing so I know that it’s what has kept us alive and thriving.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road is much smoother now even though it’s never without its bumps. My most difficult struggle was the lack of support I had during my startup phase. I have no family in Houston and felt like I was grasping at straws within the restaurant industry. In the beginning, it taught me a lot about the industry. There were some amazing people within the industry who stepped up and helped me with advice, labor, and even food prep. I was such a baby restaurateur at the time and still am in many ways. I try to share my experiences, be kind, and help people as often as I can while sharing what I’ve learned along the way.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Dandelion Cafe – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
We are a breakfast/lunch/brunch place with fresh smoothies, juices, organic teas, and beer and wine for happy hour. For food, we have a versatile breakfast menu, colorful salads, and hearty sandwich options. Everything is made fresh in house, from dressings to jams, and even my famous scratch-made sugar cookies I decorate by hand based on the holiday. We also do homemade pies during the Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we don’t make it at Dandelion, we source locally where we know the people are making it in their own space. We use locally roasted Greenway and Amaya coffees. All of our coffee syrups are housemade and we even make our own almond milk. One big thing we take pride in is our team is incredibly friendly and all about hospitality. We’re not your average coffee shop, we have a chef-driven menu, and also offer custom catering for all types of events, in-house or offsite. Chef J.C. is really amazing and creative with his culinary talent.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The international food scene here is amazing! I could eat in Chinatown every single day.

I do wish the city was a little prettier, a little less industrial and more public transportation friendly.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Marlen Mendoza

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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