BREMERTON — When partners Suanne Martin Smith and Paul Robinson opened their Home Made Cafe Nov. 17 for breakfast, the restaurant owners most assuredly had an extra bounce to their step and wide grins on their faces.
The partners in business and life had great reasons for starting their day “sunny-side up.” Their proposal to expand Home Made Cafe’s commercial kitchen won the votes of an independent panel of judges from among five competitors in awarding them a $20,000 edg3 Fund grant from Kitsap Bank.
The pair will use the money to upgrade their commercial kitchen with a new commercial cooktop, an expanded pantry and a walk-in freezer.
“I’m so beyond happy,” an elated Martin Smith said the morning after the event. “I’m in shock, to tell you the truth. It feels surreal because the competition was pretty impressive. Every one of the five deserved the money. They all had a vision.”
The edg3 Fund, which is an acronym for “entrepreneurs dedicated to growing” — with the numeral 3 standing for “economically, socially and environmentally” — is a competition among area small businesses that recognizes entrepreneurs dedicated to growing their communities in those three ways.
Home Made Cafe was joined by Bushel & Barrel Ciderhouse of Poulsbo, Morel Compass Mushrooms & Company of Port Angeles, Set & Drift Shellfish of Port Ludlow and SpringRain Farm & Orchard of Chimacum as finalists.
The five finalists appeared Nov. 16 at the Kitsap Conference Center at Harborside in Bremerton, where each gave a five-minute presentation about their business and how they’d use the award grant, if won.
Martin Smith made a five-minute pitch before a large dinner audience and an independent panel of judges.
“I thought my five minutes was going to be so long,” Martin Smith said, “but I actually had to shorten it.”
Shannon Childs, Kitsap Bank senior vice president of marketing, said the Home Made Cafe partner’s presentation was spot-on.
“She really did a fantastic job of engaging the audience without any visual aids,” she said. “Susanne really knocked it out of the park.”
The audience included a sizeable number of Port Orchard residents, she noted, who cheered her on.
“This award is great recognition for our town,” Martin Smith said.
“Port Orchard is a hidden gem. People don’t realize how incredible we have it here, living right on the water.
“We love being involved in our community. There’s a strong sense of community here, especially among the small business people. We really try to promote each other and try to focus on helping each other.”
Matt Murphy, Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce executive director, agreed that the edg3 Fund award will help shine a positive light on the city’s business community.
“We are super-proud of Suanne and Paul, and the Home Made Cafe,” Murphy said.
“It’s a great example of the resources, businesses and shopping opportunities we have here in Port Orchard.”
A semifinalist in the competition, Erin Pocuis, owner of Cascade Hygiene of Bremerton, was presented the $5,000 Community edg3 Award.
Judges awarded it to the company that best embodies the spirit of community, based on its application and video.
Childs said the business was created after Pocuis first visited her grandfather at an area nursing home. She realized that he and some of his neighbors — residents at the home like him — had a difficult time getting out to visit a dental office.
To fulfill that need, the dental hygienist brought her equipment to the facility and cleaned her grandfather’s teeth.
“When people realized she was doing this, they started reaching out to her and asked if she could clean their teeth. She then saw a need,” Childs said.
“She’s a big-hearted woman who I really admire for doing great things for a population that might be overlooked in many cases.”
Judges stopped by after the award presentation to congratulate the Home Made Cafe partners.
“The judges said we have a really strong business with a strong logo. They said it’s very marketable,” Martin Smith added.
She said the remodeling work will begin as soon as possible — but apparently not soon enough for her partner, who also is the restaurant’s head chef.
“Last night and this morning, Paul asked, ‘When are we going to Tacoma to go shopping?’ I told him, ‘Buddy, this giant (ceremonial) check that’s five feet long and two feet wide is not going to pay for anything,’ ” she laughed.
Whenever it is they schedule that shopping trip to their favorite commercial appliance store in Tacoma, the partners won’t waste time trying to decide what to buy — they’ve already picked out the freezer unit they’ll have installed in the kitchen.
“The cooktop and the new walk-in freezer will ease that burden our kitchen staff faces now with a lack of space,” Martin Smith said.
Sponsoring Kitsap Bank created the edg3 Fund competition to provide a $20,000 prize for a small business “with a unique, creative and innovative idea dedicated to growing its community economically, socially and environmentally,” bank officials said in the event’s promotional materials.
“We began this competition four years ago,” Childs said.
“We were really hoping that this would give us the opportunity to meet some really interesting and innovative companies that we otherwise might not have the opportunity to get to know.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the caliber of the competitors that we’ve attracted. Every year, we’re just so amazed by the companies that are represented, like Suanne and Paul, who have everything on the line.”
Childs lauded the partners not only for their dedication to their customers, but for their volunteer work in Port Orchard.
“What Suanne does in the community is quite exceptional,” she said.
“That includes all the meals the restaurant prepares for kids in need, as well as the outreach and support for South Kitsap Helpline.
“They’re fantastic people.”