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'Bringing the caffeine to the people'

  • Story Highlights
  • Lucy Valena traveled to Seattle to learn from the best baristas
  • She returned to Boston and launched a mobile espresso catering company last fall
  • Valena started with $2,000 of her own cash and a $4,000 loan from brewer
  • Beer maker helps small food and beverage businesses get funding, advice
By Stephanie Elam
CNN
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JAMAICA PLAIN, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Lucy Valena is hooked on coffee.

"I love Lucy's dedication to the quality of her product," says Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch.

Lucy Valena went to Seattle to learn from the best baristas before opening her Boston espresso company.

"I had my first shot of espresso when I was 14," she says. "And it was pretty amazing for me."

With the dream of opening a coffee house, Valena -- a 24-year-old artist -- went to Seattle, Washington, to learn at the aprons of the best.

"The first time I went into a cafe, I saw someone pour the leaf, the rosetta, on top of a latte, and I'll never forget, I just saw that barista pour that rosetta and I said, 'I'm not leaving this town until I learn how to do that.' "

Valena returned to Boston, Massachusetts, and launched Voltage Coffee, a mobile espresso catering company, last fall.

"When I was in Seattle, I kind of was amazed by this kind of wired culture that they have going on there. People are just obsessed," Valena says. "They just make this amazing coffee and are just really caffeinated and just getting stuff done. It's a very exciting place to be.

"So when I moved back to Boston, I really wanted to kind of bring that energy back with me in a way. And Voltage Coffee is a way to bring that on the road and bring it into other peoples' environments instead of bringing them into a separate place. It's bringing the caffeine to the people," she says. Video Watch Valena talk about her enthusiasm for coffee »

Her corporate headquarters is her bedroom, and she wrote her business plan "with all these Business Plan Writing for Dummies books," she says.

Valena then took her plan to the Small Business Administration and was directed to Accion USA, a company specializing in microloans. Accion had just begun a partnership with the Boston Beer Company -- brewer of Samuel Adams beers -- to help small food and beverage businesses get funding and free advice.

"I love Lucy's dedication to the quality of her product," says Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch. "I'm a big believer that a great product, and the passion that an entrepreneur brings to that, can carry a long way if you have a helping hand.

"Lucy stands out as an entrepreneur because she's got a lot of energy, she's got a huge amount of passion for coffee, for her product. And she does wonderful things about quality.

"She makes her own flavorings from scratch with fresh ingredients. So, that reminded me a lot of brewing and how we make our beer, and of course you know I believe that anything brewed is good."

Valena started Voltage with $2,000 of her own cash and a $4,000 loan she got through the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program.

That $6,000 "covered the espresso machine, the grinders, my table, some membership costs, licensing ... and my costs for a few months with the commercial kitchen facility," she says.

Now she's focused on opening a storefront. But she has to incorporate, find a space and get a loan.

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"I need to convince someone to give me 180 grand," she says. "That's a good chunk of change."

Despite the economy, Valena remains undaunted: "I'm just going to keep working at it. I'm not letting up. I'm not letting up, Boston! I don't care!"

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