Maine Business School

Sipping Success: Keane’s Logical Sip merges business and baked goods

Combining her MBS training with her love for baking, recent graduate Alison Keane has opened Logical Sip, a cafe and bakery featuring natural and healthy foods, in Brewer, Maine.

Keane, who graduated with an MBA in May, says she always planned on opening her own business, but didn’t anticipate it happening this quickly.

“I figured I would gain experience working for someone else for a while,” says Keane, who earned a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in entrepreneurship from MBS in 2013.

“But after I started applying for jobs, I realized it was silly to try so hard to convince someone else of my worth. I thought, ‘Why wait?’”

Now Keane’s days fly by as she manages Logical Sip, which opened April 22 and held its grand opening June 3. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, the cafe’s extensive menu features fresh food at reasonable prices.

With four employees, including two trained bakers, Keane does much of the food preparation, but makes it a priority to be at the front counter as often as possible.

“Interacting with customers, preparing their orders, and serving them quickly and with a smile are my most important tasks,” says Keane, who grew up in Brewer and lives in Eddington. “My staff is great, but I figure nobody takes greater pride in this service than I do. Connecting with customers also helps me network, since right now, in these early stages, many are neighbors and fellow Brewer/Bangor business owners.”

Reflecting on her journey since opening the downtown Brewer business, she can’t believe how far she has come.

“I have learned a lot about myself during these past few months,” she says. “I am proud that I have been able to handle something completely new with great risks. I am working harder than I ever thought I could, but I know that if I stay patient and persistent, the reward will be worth the wait. My hope is that I can work hard enough now so that I can spend the next chapter of my life traveling the world.”

Why did you choose the name Logical Sip?

The term ‘logical’ refers to food made from scratch with no preservatives or strange ingredients. We use ingredients you have heard of: flour, sugar, cinnamon, etc.,

with no additives. We offer many healthier choice items, but also a wide variety of sweet treats. It is logical to eat simple, homemade food, and to have a balanced diet of health food, as well as ‘treat yourself’ foods.

All of the original recipes are mine, practiced and perfected in my kitchen at home over the past year. My two bakers like to experiment, though, so I think new bakery items will be a frequent occurrence.

All the baked goods — including our bread — are made in-house, from scratch, with the exception of the gluten-free items, which we purchase locally.  

Who helped and advised you as you wrote your business plan?

I reached out to MBS associate professor of entrepreneurship Jason Harkins and met with him many times to discuss my business plan. He was a huge help. He helped me establish a target market and figure out how I was going to differentiate my business.

I also sat down with D’arcy Main-Boyington and Nicole Gogan, the economic development team in Brewer, who went above and beyond to entice me to choose Brewer. I knew they would be great support when I started operating and contributing to the city.

How is your MBS training helping you run your business?

My MBS education gave me a solid foundation of essential business skills as well as an awareness of the importance of having a detailed business plan, including accurate expense and sales forecasts. I think many people who open restaurants have culinary experience without business experience, but I was the opposite. The business skills I got at MBS will give me a huge advantage over competitors.

Now that my staff is fully trained, I have had time to sit down and plan out the ‘bigger picture’ business duties. Many people stress the importance of marketing and bringing in revenue, but that is not my top priority right now.

MBS taught me the importance of customer satisfaction and loyalty and listening to the demands of the people. I am focused on quality of service and food now, as opposed to quantity of sales. I want to make sure we are organized enough behind the scenes to handle increasing business.

I think my MBS education will come into play even more later on, once we are established and need to determine a strategy going forward. So far, I have been able to limit marketing expenses since social media exposure and word of mouth have been huge.

Of course, MBS also taught me the importance of accurate bookkeeping and monitoring numbers. I can’t wait to be in business long enough to have some numbers to analyze.

MBS also taught me the importance of culture. My operations manual initially included a much more rigid culture, but once I hired employees and opened the business, it became clear that a casual environment would be more productive.

How did MBS prepare you for your career and for life after graduation?

When I took executive-in-residence Shawn McKenna’s leadership class, I learned that not all leaders are the same — you have to figure out your strengths, decide your strategy and then own it.

I have a unique approach for dealing with employees. My focus is on keeping them happy and engaged with the business. They respect me for the work I put in everyday, but they also like me and are rooting for me to succeed.

For more about Logical Sip, visit logicalsip.com.

Written by Ruth-Ellen Cohen, Writer for the Maine Business School.