Before opening Café Michelle, owner Michelle Richie-Osteria received solid business advice and much-needed guidance from the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Northeastern Region, which is located at Harford Community College and at The GroundFloor on Rt. 40 in Havre de Grace.

As a child growing up in New York City, Michelle developed a passion for cooking and dreamed of one day opening her own café. She followed her dream by becoming a trained chef and working at multiple restaurants up and down the coast. But to achieve her ultimate goal, she needed to secure funding.

Michelle cashed out her 401K plan and worked four jobs to save the money to open the cafe, one of which was working as a Chef Instructor at Harford, where she taught several baking classes in the Continuing Education division.

Logo: Cafe Michelle - Est. 2019 Coffee, Sandwiches, Bakery

Her first endeavor in the business world began by bottling her special sauce recipes, Michelle’s Gourmet Hot Sauce in Original and Exotic Blend. Her goal was to raise $5,000 in 30 days to help finance the bottling. In 29 days, she raised $5,135 with the help of family, friends, and supporters through Kickstarter. Once Michelle had some extra start-up capital, she visited Harford’s Small Business Development Center where she received valuable advice about opening a business.

Michelle, who became a client of SBDC counselor Ryan Del Gallo (Harford ’13), participated in a one-on-one counseling session to create a business and marketing plan. The SBDC helped her with all the required paperwork—filing as a business in the State of Maryland and obtaining necessary permits and licenses; site selection with the City of Aberdeen and Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development; and securing additional financing to cover leasing commercial space and start-up expenses. The SBDC also helped Michelle to prepare a loan package. Although she was approved for a loan and a line of credit from M&T Bank, it was not the entire amount she needed. So the SBDC reconnected her with the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development for their loan fund. Harford County issued Michelle a check to help fund her business.

Café Michelle, the City of Aberdeen’s newest café, officially opened with a ribbon cutting this past May 28. The charming local café serves freshly prepared and conveniently packaged foods that include salads, sandwiches, soups, cookies, cakes and more. The business is located at 6 North Parke Street in Aberdeen.

Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The SBDC offers free, individualized consulting to aspiring entrepreneurs or existing business owners in Maryland, from start-ups to established businesses. It also offers comprehensive training programs for those just thinking about starting a business to executive training, with most classes at low to no cost. The network provides Maryland small business owners with access to trusted business advisors with experience in starting and growing businesses. SBDC offers expertise and keen insights essential to helping you manage your concerns today, and designs solid, long-range plans to secure your vision for tomorrow.

The Northern Region of the Maryland SBDC serves Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Cecil Counties from several regional offices; the office that serves Harford County is located at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD. Business assistance services are also available at a second Harford County site at The GroundFloor on Rt. 40 in Havre de Grace, where they are co-located along with their funding partner, the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development.

Since 1988, the seasoned staff of the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network has provided sound advice, consulting and support to entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state. The Maryland SBDC Network is part of the national SBDC network founded in 1979 that helps more than 500,000 U.S. businesses annually.