Brandon Raby Doubles Down as a Small Business Owner to Build His Community

There’s a lot going on in downtown North Platte, Nebraska, at least for one entrepreneur. Brandon Raby, a past winner of the Center’s REAP Entrepreneur of the Year award, has embraced the challenge of starting a small business in a rural community. His business, Caravan Skate Shop, is the first and only skate shop in the community.

It’s a challenge to convince people to shop locally, but Brandon sees folks warming up to the idea. It’s tough to compete with the selection and convenience of shopping online from home. Also, North Platte isn't the most accommodating environment for skaters. The community desperately needs a new skate park.

But those challenges don’t discourage this full-time entrepreneur. In fact he just decided to pick up another business in an industry where people have to walk in your door. Brandon spent a lot of time in downtown North Platte thinking about how he can make his hometown a better place. His skate shop is located downtown, and he would frequently visit The Espresso coffee shop only a block away. When the opportunity arose to purchase it in November 2014, he didn’t hesitate.

Brandon now spends much more time in that business. He’s able to balance the two acts due to the loyal customer base he built at the skate shop. His customers understand and know he’s not far away if they need to reach him.

The Espresso Shop has a new look, and Brandon continues to expand his vision with it. He’s created a modern relaxed environment, giving North Platte area residents something to do and bringing them to the historic downtown area. He hosts live music at the location twice a month, which is no surprise since Brandon also happens to be a musician himself.

Future plans include bringing in quality beers and mixed drinks so it can be a sophisticated casual place to have a drink, chat with friends, and enjoy some music. Reflecting back on when he started the skate shop, he wouldn’t change a thing.

Brandon went into that business and planned it based on years of experience being a skater himself and living the culture. He learned businesses fundamentals by starting up the skate shop, and that experience has helped him with the coffee shop.

While the coffee shop business is much more complex, having the basics down softened the learning curve, a bit. While Brandon continues building his vision, he also has a goal of encouraging others, especially younger people to do the same.

So many young people are leaving the community because it’s lacking what they can find somewhere else. “Instead of leaving, why not build what you want here and make this community a ‘cool’ place for the years to come.” If you’re ever in downtown North Platte, Nebraska, stop by The Espresso Shop and grab a latte or a bite to eat. And bring your skateboard!