NEW BRITAIN, CT (WFSB) -- Local business owners are stepping up and working harder to keep the doors open, and many have had to pivot during the pandemic.
In this week’s edition of Small Business Spotlight, Channel 3 took a trip to New Britain to check out INI Sips - Premium Coffee & Tea.
Husband and wife team, Davina and Gulaid Ismail have had business ventures in the past.
They previously owned a children's clothing store, and then they brewed up INI Sips - Premium Coffee & Tea.
The name was born from the initials of their three children, and their individual love for the beverages.
"We then decided to open up a small coffee shop with the idea of it being a place where people can come and have more of a community setting, so we had two, 6-foot tables so people could sit together, talk, get to know each other, and that was January of last year,” Davina Ismail said.
Everything changed with the pandemic, including their business model.
But the one thing that stayed the same was their commitment to the community.
"So, what we decided to do was provide bags of coffee for free to essential workers and community workers around Connecticut. So when our customers bought two bags of coffee, we would donate one,” Davina said, adding “Connecticut just got on board and it was really exciting going to all the hospitals and first responder locations and non-profits, just everybody that's helping to keep the community going while we were on quarantine,” Davina said.
They partnered with Kits to Heart, which is a non-profit that sends care packages to cancer patients, and Work Vessels for Veterans, which is a Connecticut-based organization helping veterans start careers and businesses. It’s also an organization close to their hearts.
"Ironically, my dad gave me two things when I went to get deployed. He gave me a journal and a bible. And both of them, I was like ‘dad, well I’m going to combat. What can I possibly do with these?’ But the writing was actually a way to escape everything that was going on around us,” Gulaid said.
Gulaid is a Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2006. He took that journal his dad gave him, and now he’s using it to name coffee at INI.
"So, the Marine Corps moto stands for motivation, like you need to get up and get moving! That's what this one does,” Gulaid explained.
Their motivation continues to be to serve their customers, one bag of coffee or tea at a time.