Local Entrepreneurial Couple Shares Their Downtown Toledo Experience
When we think “Downtown Toledo power couple”, Andrew Newby and Kristin Kiser immediately come to mind. As owners of AVATAR, Black Kite Coffee and Toledo Spirits, they truly embody the word innovative, and have graced Downtown Toledo with several thriving local businesses.
When asked why downtown, Kristin said, “We have seen many waves of development in downtown over the last 20-years, and nothing has been like it is right now. The landscape has never been this promising, and to be in an environment where so many people share the same vision is very exciting.”
Kristin and Andrew started AVATAR, their web development agency in 1997. They began with the idea of being a virtual company, and then quickly realized that they needed an office. They had friends in the Warehouse District of Downtown Toledo that helped them with connections in the Vistula neighborhood, resulting in AVATAR being moved there in 2002, and they have not looked back since.
“There is no place that we would rather be in business,” said Newby. “We have tremendous customers, employees and partners that open new possibilities constantly. I look forward to the future, and to challenging ourselves while continuing to develop new ideas. Plus, I get to work with Kristin every day, so that is amazing.”
Black Kite Coffee was born in 2012 as a result of seeing limited independent coffee options in Downtown Toledo. Being committed and enthusiastic homeowners in the Old West End, Andrew and Kristin decided that this neighborhood would be the perfect place to open their business.
Black Kite Coffee specializes in delicious coffees, teas and savory pies. They make all food in-house from scratch, priding themselves on fulfilling their customer’s inner foodie.
Quick to follow Black Kite Coffee was The Toledo Spirits Company in 2013 which was opened in partnership with Dustin Wade and Lukas Kummer. “Making whiskey in Toledo just made sense to us from the first time we said it out loud,” said Newby.
“I get most excited about Downtown Toledo’s entrepreneurial density,” Andrew said. “Get a few inspired people in a room and you will see good things happen. Get a few hundred inspired people together and you can reshape the region.”
Both Kristin and Andrew agree that the key is to never settle. They are able to innovate so freely because they are constantly looking for what is next; a next evolution or a complimentary or adjacent business that would be interesting to start exploring.
When asked for advice that they would give to others who may be looking to start a local business in Downtown Toledo, Kristin said, “You must be willing to figure out how to work with all of the different agencies and organizations that are required, and to work a little bit for what you want, but if you are an entrepreneur at heart that should not dissuade you. This is a fantastic, positive and supportive community. Figure out what you want to do, and then figure out how to get it done.”
Andrew’s advice was, “Passion is infectious! Do not be the victim. Balance means planning your life first, business second. If you wait for it to be perfect, you have waited too long. Delegate.”