APOPKA, Fla. — A new initiative to grow and expand minority-owned businesses is underway in Apopka. It's called "Apopkans building Apopka" according to the Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Cate Manley.

What You Need To Know

  • Apopka Chamber is hosting a free certification course on June 27 from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

  • Florida ranked #1 when it comes to the increase in Black owned businesses

  • Florida ranked #2 when it comes to increasing the number of women owned businesses

Manley said the chamber is offering a free program that allows business owners in the trade industry to receive their county and state certification if they're inexperienced when it comes to government contracting.

She shared that it also allows local business owners to build by using local contractors; a cycle that keeps work and revenue circulating within the community. 

One great example Manley said helps to drive the focus of the program is local coffee shop owner Danielle Bjork.

For many in the Apopka area, the word Birchwood might ring a bell, and when you hear it you think of the coffee shop. However, for Danielle it simply means family.

“This is my grandmother’s recipe. It’s amazing plain, we also have four toppings. We do blueberry, strawberry, chocolate, or caramel as a topping. My great-grandmother, we use her sweet potato pie recipe, and this recipe is over 100 years old," said Bjork.

Everything from the menu items, to the staff and the name of the shop resorts back to Bjork's family. She said at a very young age, and after her first sip of the drink, she felt at home.

Over the years she continued to acquire a special taste for coffee, experimenting with assortments and even passing the love down to her children. Which eventually became the very mission behind starting her own business.

“It was my goal to build something that outlived me, and so in opening this coffee shop my goal is to have more than one location- actually four and leave one to each of my children," Bjork said.

Birchwood Coffee Co. opened up at the tail end of the pandemic, a leap of faith Danielle said her children encouraged her to take. Despite the unknown, the decision has proved to be a success, with hundreds of customers a week and enough support from the community to embark on opening a second location.

According to Manley, minority ownership is on the rise across Apopka, with native residents like Bjork building in their community. Looking outside just the Central Florida area, Manley shared that the state is number one when it comes to growing Black-owned businesses and ranks number two for businesses owned by women.

Although starting the Birchwood Coffee Co. was inspired by the memories of her first sip with her grandparents and the push from her children, Bjork says the continued success can be attributed to her community and the support from Apopka leadership. 

"The mayor, a lot of the city commissioners they come and they support us here, and we feel the love. We kow that we are wanted and welcome here," said Bjork.

The Chamber's free certification program is meant to ensure support for minority business owners.

The next course will be held on June 27 from 1 p.m - 3 p.m.