A First on Many Fronts

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Photo by Wezz De La Rosa
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By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

When Ximena Rojas set out to make her entrepreneurial vision a reality, she wasn’t expecting to be a trailblazer. “We ventured into uncharted territory by introducing a novel concept, a fusion of a coffee shop and a coworking space nestled in the suburbs,” she says of Blue Bean Studio. She and her husband had a lot of “what if” conversations as they brainstormed ideas for a business. They wanted to open a place that breathed life into their values and allowed them more control over their future. “It was this blend of passion, purpose, and the desire to make meaningful contributions that fueled my journey into entrepreneurship.” 

The couple noticed there were places to enjoy a cup of coffee, but not all of them were comfortable for working. Co-working spaces were popping up across the country but were hard to find in Iowa. “My husband and I have been living in Iowa since 2006. This state has become our home, a place where we’ve laid down roots, built our life, and raised our family,” says Rojas. “So, when the entrepreneurial spirit took hold of us, it was only natural that we chose Iowa as the birthplace of our business venture.” They opened in January of 2019 after months of meticulous designing and planning to create a space where comfort meets functionality and caffeine. 

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Photo by Wezz De La Rosa

The couple were excited to incorporate their Bolivian roots, including salteñas on the menu alongside gourmet toasts and pastries. Salteñas are Bolivian empanadas stuffed with meat and vegetables, often containing a hard-boiled egg and olives that Rojas made every night according to her family’s recipe. As more Iowans warmed to the idea of a co-working space where you can buy a membership for access to meeting rooms, A/V equipment and hi-speed internet, Covid shut them down and sent patrons home. Rojas wasn’t daunted. “Every challenge taught me to adapt, to pivot, to reinvent. The hurdles don’t get smaller; you just get better at jumping. Or sometimes, finding a new path around them.” Once businesses opened, more people were looking to get out of their homes, while remote work took off. Blue Bean became more of a destination. During the hiatus, Rojas perfected her recipes and came up with new ideas. Their shop was the first to offer coffee flights, which gained popularity on social media and has become a staple of their business. In 2023 Rojas and her husband opened a second location in Johnston where they sell the same delicacies as the Ankeny location, plus bagged coffee beans, mugs and other branded swag. 

While Rojas didn’t set out to create a business with so many firsts for Iowa, she believes it is an inevitable part of being a business owner. “There’s always going to be a first version of everything you do, but it’s the next versions, how you grow and evolve, that really count.” Clearly, she has a lot more ideas to debut and we’ve only seen the beginning of her vision coming to life.

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