Thunder Mug Cafe’s Lizette Apy Hopes Her 76ers Partnership Will Inspire Black Business Owners

Lizette Apy worked three jobs in Chicago as a single mom, doing what she needed for her children to attend high school and college. Yet even while she was spending those long hours – Apy was a full-time retail manager, part-time retail manager, and part-time accountant – she kept her dream alive.

She yearned to open a cafe like the ones she worked for while also funding her studies at the University of Illinois. But opening a cafe, Apy said, was quickly becoming “a fleeting dream” over the years.

Then the company she worked for suddenly closed, laying off all employees but offering severance pay. And Apy – who had recently become an empty nest – saw an opportunity to start from scratch.

Apy’s daughter had moved to Philadelphia and persuaded her to follow. She made the trip and took her dream with her, opening the Thunder Mug Cafe in East Falls in September 2019. When the pandemic started six months later, she continued to spin the dream – and that dream is now. a thriving small business on Ridge Avenue. .

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On Thursday, Apy was selected by the Sixers to be this year’s partner in their Buy Black program, which “was developed to promote local black-owned businesses and provide them with expert marketing advice, advertising value. , educational programs and additional tools for success. . “

“I look at the coffee and I’m like, ‘Wow, I made it,’” Apy said. “I always tell people that I’m not just dreaming. I dream and then I put it into action. I always knew this was going to happen to me. It’s just a very long dream. I finally put it into action. This is the cool part for me. If you follow your dream, it will never guide you in error. Never. Because that’s what’s in your heart. It’s your passion. The things that we feel and do with the heart, we do our best.

The Sixers selected Thunder Mug from a pool of 350 applicants, as David Gould, the team’s head of diversity and impact, said that not only would coffee benefit from the partnership, but that “the strong sense of Apy’s community and desire to give back is pretty much what we are, too.

The Sixers will highlight Apy activities on their digital and social media channels, provide advertising on their website and in the arena, promote Thunder Mug in emails to subscription holders, will feature the coffee on TV shows and broadcast radio commercials each Game. They will also host an in-person event to promote the coffee.

Thunder Mug will receive roughly the same treatment as traditional team sponsors. But it will be free.

“We know that black-owned businesses are under-represented, under-capitalized, and tend to be smaller than their regional counterparts,” Gould said. “We want to do what we can to provide different tools, resources and platforms to help them grow and that seems like a very natural way that we can do that.”

A sign on Thunder Mug’s front door reads “BLACK BUSINESS” and Apy is proud to be a black business owner – “There are only a few of us who survive and thrive here. She said – but getting there was not easy.

She held a credit score of 820 but was refused a loan by three banks before finally obtaining the financing to help open the cafe.

“As a black woman it was so hard to get a loan and get started,” Apy said. “A bank even said that in order to give me a loan, I had to ask a friend to put his house as collateral. I was like, ‘What?’ You could have bought me for a penny. I was so stunned by it and disheartened.

A secured loan, Apy devised a business plan before opening and outlined any possible challenges she might face. But there was nothing in there, said Apy, “which says quarantine and pandemic.”

The cafe was forced to rotate constantly, Apy said, as they navigated the pandemic with orders online and eating out. Thunder Mug survived and now Apy is hoping his partnership with the Sixers can inspire others.

“This program showed that I was able to stay open. I flourish. But it also gives me the tools to mentor and help future black entrepreneurs to open up and open up. I can be a resource, ”said Apy. “I feel like when I win, we all win. I want to uplift everyone. I would like to see the Black Business community grow, strengthen, prosper. I don’t want the pandemic to deter future black business owners from chasing their dreams. “

Apy’s coffee is named after a chamber pot in tribute to her great-grandmother, who lived to be 114 years old. Thunder Mug evokes “happy childhood memories” of her great-grandmother’s visit to Mississippi.

The cafe’s proximity to the Schuylkill River immediately reminded Apy of the lakeside Chicago, offering a slice of home in his new hometown. And a reminder of the life she lived while still clinging to her dream.

“My mom was a single mom and she had two jobs and that’s all I remember is my mom had two jobs,” Apy said. “I know my mom was more than that. She was a friend. She was a sister. She was a mother. She was a colleague. She was so much more than my sisters and I saw of her because she worked so hard.

“I wanted my kids to see me more as an individual. I wanted them to see me not only as a mom, but also as that person who also wanted to make her mark in the world. They are so proud.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement