FLORENCE, S.C. -- If the purpose of a business is to make a profit, a nonprofit business would have something else in mind, perhaps something such as having a mission to make a difference in its community (while making some money).
Lula’s Coffee Co., on Pamplico Highway in Florence, has been a nonprofit, mission-minded gathering place since its inception in 2012.
It was founded by Florence businessman Tommy Bolger, and the establishment’s new owners are continuing to operate Lula’s as a coffee shop with a broader mission at its heart.
Kindra and Pete Ludlow and Whitney and August Langley make up Thread & Compass, the team behind the ownership of Lula’s. Thread & Compass owns and operates Lula’s, August explains, adding that Lula’s is a missions-minded company that hopes to connect people to God’s heart for the nations.
The business hopes to do that by serving as a hub for activity, Whitney says, adding that Lula’s does that by creating community through networking with local organizations, including churches and missions programs, and by selling products that support missions and raise awareness about other cultures.
Lula’s serves great coffee, has free wifi, a cushy couch as well as the usual tables and chairs, and also sells smoothies, teas, cookies and muffins. It’s the perfect place for a special cup of coffee – such as a James Bond with white and dark chocolate – and the perfect place where people can gather to have conversations that could lead to changing the world.
“We have the best cold-brew coffee,” August said, “and more than 30 syrups and flavors.”
A new menu is coming, he adds. The team has been transitioning as Lula’s owners for about nine months. If they’ve learned anything during that time, Kindra said, it is that things take more time than you think.
And that good communication is important, Whitney adds.
Whitney and Kindra met nearly 15 years ago on a mission trip to Bosnia. Pete and Kindra met on a mission trip to Argentina. Whitney and August met while working as baristas at the Starbucks on Palmetto Street.
The Langleys have always made Florence their home, and the Ludlows have lived here approximately seven years. Whitney even sang at the Ludlows’ wedding. But she hasn’t sung, yet, during open mic night. Pete does, though.
The couples frequented Lula’s before owning it, they say. When it became available for ownership, it was the perfect fit for their mission-minded hearts. The nonprofit has a three-member board that directs it, August said.
“We don’t take the profits,” he said. “We do mission-minded things with the money. We have to be good stewards of this.”
Whitney said Lula’s is the place where people and groups with like-minded interests get connected, and from which missions work can be done. For instance, she said, during the hurricane that hit the region in 2018, Lula’s was a collection point for food items that were then distributed in conjunction with other area organizations doing the same.
And on a Saturday morning in April, the business conducted a “maker’s market.” The spring market offered a pancake breakfast and selling space for area craftsmen and artisans.
With their six-person staff down by two (one server relocated and another headed out onto the mission field), the timing was right for Pete in April to step in full time to help with day-to-day management.
“When you buy a cup of coffee from us, you are buying a cup of coffee that also impacts the world,” August said. “We have a legal mandate to insure that.”
The business also offers a rewards system for those purchases. Eventually, after gathering enough points, you earn a free cup of coffee.
“Lula’s is a safe place for people to connect, and from here they can make an impact in the world,” Pete said.
“It’s a tangible opportunity to help other artisans ... other people with passions,” Whitney said. “There is a need for them to have a place where they can sell their things. We help musicians, artists – creative people with passions.”
For instance, Florence crooner Bob Ammirati performed his “Perfectly Frank” show on April 26, and open mic nights are Thursdays (sign-up begins at 7 p.m. and performances at 8 p.m.).
“We have a wide range of styles and abilities,” August said, with Pete adding, “We offer an encouraging crowd ... we’ve also had poetry readings.”
“We hope to have bilingual conversations,” Kindra said, adding that whether it’s to learn another language or to just better communicate in a second language, “conversation nights” are in the works. Likely, the business will start with Spanish, she said, but other languages are welcome, too.
Getting the first year of management behind them helps the partners see the coming year as having new opportunities. Whitney says there is much the foursome hopes to see happen, but they are trusting in slow, organic growth over time.
“We want to make the world a better place,” August said.
Visit Lula’s at FaceBook @ LulasCoffeeCo and on instagram @lulascoffee.