Business Proposal for Coffee Shop & Restaurants: The Madam Walker Theatre

History and Why the Business Fits

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My business proposal is to start (re-start) the coffee-shop/restaurant that once existed in Walker Theatre (it was then named The Coffee Pot). The Madam Walker Theatre was named after Madam C. J. Sarah Breedlove Walker, an African-American entrepreneur who specialized in hair care and beauty products that were manufactured and sold in the building that now serves as her namesake. She developed and initiated plans for the building to be built and after her death in 1919 the completion of the project fell to her daughter ALeila Walker. The building opened in 1927 and served as both the headquarters for the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Companyone of the biggest and brightest examples of African-American ingenuity and industry in the 20th century (National Park Service, 2019)and as an entertainment theatre for the African American community, where jazz bands played and showmen performed. There was salon and beauty school, a ballroom, a movie theatre, a drugstore, professional offices, and there was the Coffee Pot restaurant.

All told, it was a sensational building full of life and vitalitybut by mid-century the neighborhood began to decline and the fortunes of the Walker Theatre did as well (Benedict-Browne, 2019). Still, the Walker Building represents the heart of Indianapolis African-American communitys past and present, as Benedict-Browne (2019) has put it. And that is why my business idea will fit into it. I want to bring back the Coffee Pot restaurant and re-realize the ambition of Madam Walker to be part of the lifeblood of the community, offering the daily cup of Joe and food to boot. As an African-American, my lifeblood is connected to Madam Walker and no Walker Building restoration could be complete without its coffee shop.

Connecting African Roots

As an African-American with roots in South Africa, my heritage is linked with the African heritage of the Madam Walker Building. She was the first female African American millionaire in the U.S. and that is a great inspiration to manybut what is most inspiring to me is that fact that she gave so much back to the community: she helped fund the local YMCA and donated to a to help stop and prevent violence against her African-American brothers and sisters. That is what makes her a millionaire in my eyes, for I know all too well, hailing as I do from South Africa, the impact that violence can have on a community. My aim is to use the Coffee Pot as a community center where people of all races can come together as one and put an end to the decades of violence and bigotry that have persisted in communities since the Civil Rights Era, when so much seemed within Americas grasp and yet has eluded it even still.

The Walker Building has long been an icon in Indianapolis of the power and culture of the African-American community. It is filled with African emblems, highlighting and promoting the beauty and charm of African heritage and culture: there are African-inspired masksa sphinx (a nod to Egypt), a spear, a shieldand lots of art deco design. The building is the perfect blend of African-Americanism: it unites the American art deco style with a true African taste and sensibility.

In South Africa, such a building as this would be praised for hundreds of miles in all directions. It would be the glory of the nation, representing a moment in history that uplifted the community. In Indianapolis, Madam Walker gave her all to make sure her business and her community would benefit from the money she made as an entrepreneur. South Africans of all stripes can appreciate such a gesture. That is why I want to be part of the revitalization.

Differentiating My Coffee Shop from the Rest

As Madam Walker herself stated: I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for opportunities to come. Get up and make them (Madam Walker Legacy Center, 2019). That is exactly what I aim to do. To make my opportunity I understand the need to differentiate myself and my coffee shop from what others are doing. As Trout and Rivkin (2006) have shown, one must differentiate or die. For me that means creating a product and providing a service in an environment that is unlike anything anywhere else. What makes people want to come to a place like a coffee shop day in and day out where there coffee shops dotting every corner of every community? First, the product must delivery at a high level. Second, the service must shine. And third the environment must speak volumes and give people that extra pick-up-and-go that they want when they step foot into a coffee shop.

They would get that from my coffee shop because I would specialize in serving coffees and teas from African countries, such as Egypt, Bahamas, Jamaica, Morocco, with South African rooibos tea, etc. This coffee shop will offer authentic coffees and teas from African nations, beans and tea leaves that leave mouths wanting more. The smells in this shop will be out of this world enticing, drawing noses from miles around just so nostrils can delight in the fragrant aromas that will daily be a staple in the renewed Coffee Shop of the Walker Building.

Plus, there will be African and African-American specialty foods and deserts, such as Pap en vleis/Shisa nyama from my own South Africaso that people in the community can get a real taste of Authentic African cuisinewhich is not something many people anywhere are often able to receive. Just listen to a description of these dishes and see if this is not mouth-watering: chops, steak, chicken, kebabs and boereworsa spicy farmer’s sausageaccompanied by maize porridges in many different forms including phuthu and stywe pap, krummelpap (crumbly porridge), and suurpap (soured pap) (Hobbs, 2017). Well have bunny chowone of South Africas most famous street foods: a hallowed-out quarter loaf of bread filled with spicy, hot curry. And well have Cape breyanianother South African favorite: a big one-pot feeds all meal that consists of marinated meat, lentils, rice, spice, and hard-boiled eggs on top. For all ones ethnic food and coffee and tea needs, the new Coffee Shop restaurant will be the place to go.

Connecting with UI

As UI is a major funder in the revitalization project, it is important to connect with UI and help make a difference in the community. For that reason, I plan to offer internships to UI students and give them the chance to put their business management skills into practice, their cooking knowledge and training into practice, and their customer service and HR learning into practice. Part-time work will also be available to UI students throughout the year and this will enable the school and the Coffee Shop to develop a special relationship based on ethnic pride, diversity and inclusivity. The Coffee Shop will be more than just a local brew for the communityit will become part of the lifeblood of the community, just as Madam Walker envisioned the building being when she developed its plans a century ago.


A 1000 sq. ft coffee shop and restaurant will require equipment, supplies (food items, beans, tea leaves, brewing materials, and so on). That will require a hefty up-front investment of $380,000but that expense will go a long way to covering costs, including labor and materials.

Employee costs will include 4 full-time cooks plus 6 service counter and wait staff for a total of 10 employees. Employees will most likely be students and costs should be approximately $360,000 per year.

Food costs should come with a $10,000 credit from the supplier, which will cover the first month of food ordering operations. Food costs should be approximately $120,000 per year.

Cost of renovations will be approximately $100,000. This will be required for setting up the kitchen, counter and seating.

Advertising and promotionals will be at a minimal cost, using primarily social media, so these will not be significantly impactful on the overall cost associated with the business.

To finance operations, a business loan will be required, with personal assets offered as collateral. The loan amount required will be to pay for first 6 months of rent–$40k plus renovations at $100k plus 6 months of food costs at $60k and 6 months of employee costs at $180k. The total loan needed is $380k. The loan should be serviced at 4% interest rate or better and the life of the loan should be for 10 years.

With a service counter available for takeout, the expected average sales revenue is $250,000 over the first 3 months of business, and $1 million in revenues over the first year. Factoring in costs, including rent and loan repayments, the expected net sales revenue is: $300,000. This will go to cover the second half of the years costs and the following years as well, as the shop/restaurant gains steam in the community and becomes more and more popular with locals, travelers, tourists and site-seers seeking to relive some of Indianapolis old glory.

This initial budget was developed using the base model case for a building space four times as large, but keeping in mind inflation costs, the price was halved instead of quartered.


The business will be marketed using word-of-mouth marketing and social media. One of the best ways to help a business like this one grow is to really get in touch with the local community and be a part of what is happening there. Because the Coffee Shop restaurant will target students at UI as well as workers and consumers in the surrounding neighborhood, the Shop will look to use promotional and positive marketing strategies as well: such as by sponsoring student events at the college, speaking tours, art performances, etc., all of which are excellent ways to generate and foster good will with the community while gaining visibility for the brand.

Using social media to get the word out will help as well. Social media is one of the most popular platforms among web users today and it is where by far the majority of people today get their news and informationwhich is why social media marketing is so important for businesses to use in this day and age (Evans, 2010). I will be posting pictures of foods, coffees, the restaurant, the ambiance, updates, news items and more all to get people hip to what is happening in the Shop.

I will also be using the Marketing Mixthe 4 Ps of Product, Place, Price and Promotionto make this business pop with people and burst in their minds like a firework on the Fourth of July.


The product is the most important part of this market strategy as it will focus on delivering top-notch, authentic African cuisine, coffee and tea, using all-organic and locally-produced food whenever possible. The menu will sizzle and the coffee and tea will delight all day and night long.


The place will of course be spectacularly located in the Madam Walker Building, giving it the pizzazz and glamour it deserves. It will be in walking distance of many surrounding businesses and members of the community.


Products will be affordably priced. Customers will be able to order lunch or dinner for under $12 per person. This is competitive but fair pricing that will attract numerous customers interested in healthy, authentic cuisine at a good rate that will not break their budgets and will allow us to be profitable. We will have coffees and lattes and teas for under $3, which will make us very affordable to even the most seasoned of Starbucks fans.


The Coffee Shop will promote itself by sponsoring local activities, events, sporting contests, and more. It will also and social media marketing to connect with consumers throughout the city. There is even the possibility of having trivia night, local acts playing, and much more.

Other Offerings

High Tea events, catering for other tenants in the theatre, and a place for local comics, musicians and artists to come, collaborate and shine as they perform or showcase their talents in the Coffee Shop and restaurant. This will be a place where the community really comes together to feel connected and alive.

Why Giving a Minority Female an Opportunity Would Benefit the Development, the Partnership, and the Legacy of Madame Walker

As a minority female I know what it is like to be on the outside looking in. It is not just my experience but rather the experience of millions of people like me. Many of us have longed for the chance, the opportunity, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. This opportunity, for me, is that moment. It is a chance to reach out and connect with both the past and the future in a moment that is full of meaning, history, and a bond that connects us all here in Indianapolis to that other home we share in Africa. It is an opportunity to shinenot just for me but for the whole community.

Giving a minority female like me an opportunity to do this would benefit the development of this project tremendously as I pledge to be faithful to the concept that UI and the Madam Walker Legacy Center are putting together to bring the Theatre back to life. As the Madam Walker Legacy Center points out, the collaboration and the future renovations are all part of a larger strategic plan to elevate its profile and reach and ensure long-term sustainability. Long-term sustainability means a lot of different things, howeverand what it means to me is having a culture that is vibrant and alive, a culture that a community can embrace and hug and make its own; a culture it can learn from and promote and pass on to its children and the next generation of people who grow up in this neighborhood, in this city, in this state and in this nation. It is about creating something special with our time, our talent, our money and our vision. We do this together. We all live this dream of passing on what we have been given, of leaving things a little bit better than they were when we found them. That is what sustainability meansit is the lifeblood that we all depend upon. Culture is the heart that pumps that blood, and the Madam Building with a female minority like me representing the Madam Walker Coffee Shop, and representing South Africa and other African nations, and representing the local community, and representing UI and the Madam Walker Legacy Centerit would be a spectacle to rival all spectacles in my book. It would make this community want to hop and celebrate the past, the present and the future.

Giving me this opportunity would benefit the partnership between UI and the Legacy Center and it would benefit the Legacy of Madam Walker as well. First, it would benefit the partnership because I would never do anything opposed to the principles and ideals promoted by the partnership. My aim would be to support the partnership and its vision so that all know who and what made this development possible. I would want that partnership to flow through everything I do so that every customer knows that it was the partnership that made it happenthat I was just an instrument.

And it would benefit the Legacy of Madam Walker as well because it was she who first made it all possible, who started the idea, who brought this building to life. She planted the seed for this culture to grow, for this dream to take place. She gave back to her community and now it is time for her community to give back to herand that is what I want to doall for her and her achievementsall for her and what she did to support and honor her people.

So, in closing, consider this proposal as my vision of what I would like to see happening in the Madam Walker Building. To bring back Africa to Indianapolis and to honor the legacy of Madam Walker, I feel it is absolutely essential to bring back the Coffee Shop restaurant and to infuse it with a real African experience in authentic ethnic African cuisine, teas and coffees. It would be an experience unlike any other. And it could potentially change the lives of so many people, inspiring a whole new generation with a sense of what it means to be African and African-American, positive and successful.


Benedict-Browne, T. (2019). The Icon of Indiana Avenue. Retrieved from

Evans, D. (2010). Social media marketing: An hour a day. John Wiley & Sons.

Hobbs, J. (2017). 15 of Africa’s favorite dishes. Retrieved from dishes/index.html#targetText=Pap en vleis/Shisa nyama, South Africa&targetText=Chops, steak, chicken, kebabs,and suurpap (soured pap).

Madam Walker Legacy Center. (2019). Retrieved from

National Park Service. (2019). Madame C. J. Walker Building. Retrieved from

Trout, J. & Rivkin, S. (2006). Differentiate or die. In The marketing Gurus (ed. Murray). NY: Penguin.