Serving Up Resilience at Sulu’s Espresso Café in Tower

Entrepreneur Fund

May 29, 2021

Brenda and Linda, owners of Sulu's Espresso Cafe in Tower, Minnesota

"Are you crazy” were the words sisters, Brenda and Linda, of Sulu’s Espresso Café, heard when they made the announcement in 2006 that they were opening a gourmet coffee shop in Tower, Minnesota. Both loving the town of Tower, although deemed crazy, knew they wanted to bring a fun, cute coffee shop and café to their growing town.  

Sulu’s, a local gourmet coffee and food café, got its name based off the sister’s middle names, Sue and Lou. The sister’s take pride in serving up some of the area’s best coffee, sandwiches, and soups – all made from healthy ingredients that don’t include any chemicals or additives. 

Shortly after Sulu’s opened their doors, the Great Recession hit the area and several years went by where Brenda and Linda continued to operate the café without taking any pay home for themselves. 

In early 2020, Linda and Brenda were referred to the Entrepreneur Fund by the Tower Economic Development Fund (TEDA) after receiving a storefront renovation loan that they needed help refinancing. The Entrepreneur Fund stepped in to refinance the loan on their building, which helped Sulu’s save money each month.  

Like many small businesses in 2020, COVID-19 caused Sulu’s doors to close for more than two months. Additional family challenges shortly followed, which made it difficult for the sisters to operate at their regular business hours for the rest of Spring and into Summer. With 70% of their annual sales coming between May and September, their business took a dramatic hit. 

The sisters were connected with a local Entrepreneur Fund business advisor. With EF Business Advisor, Miranda’s help they navigated the PPP application program and were approved for two PPP loans. The two loans lifted a huge weight off their shoulders. With their summer payroll covered, the two were finally able to take a deep breath. Being the resilient women they are, they didn’t wait long to shift their focus to the projects that had been pushed to the side. 

The Entrepreneur Fund has aided the café by updating their marketing to better reflect the quality ingredients that goes into their food items while also providing technical assistance through the Women’s Business Alliance to help them focus on advertising that will increase local traffic both during the offseason and summer months. 

Sulu’s is excited about their upcoming expansion, has plans to hire additional staff and offer more products.  The Entrepreneur Fund is proud to support entrepreneurs like Linda and Brenda. Entrepreneurs who are resilient when faced with adversity and possess the ability to not just bounce back, but to bounce back better than ever. These entrepreneurs increase the vibrancy of our community and region. 

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