7 Leadership Highlights from Coffee Mode’s Ribbon Cutting in Wilmington DE.

Members of Wilmington’s business, government, and economic development communities turned up in force to a tiny coffee shop in Rodney Square Tuesday morning.

The mayor’s office in conjunction with Downtown Visions, members of city council, and others from the business community was at Coffee Mode to make a big statement about small business – and cut the ceremonial ribbon.

It was a short, simple ceremony yet there were a bunch of lessons for any business leader regardless of where you live. Here are just seven business leadership highlights I noted from Coffee Mode’s Ribbon Cutting.


1. Perspective

The atmosphere was electric in that shop – and it wasn’t just the coffee.

Photo courtesy Joey Lopes, Coffee MODE barista

We locals are in a time of significant opportunity, cooperation, and partnership. The honeymoon period from last week’s Inauguration of Mayor Mike Purzycki is going strong.

But even that positive vibe was overshadowed by an announcement the previous evening.

Two enormous economic influences (Chemours & Buccini/Pollin Group) just announced they were staying here in Wilmington, ending speculation about a potential departure and its negative impact in the city.

Because of these and other factors beyond my awareness, the morale going into this event was hard to beat.

Leadership Highlight – The Law of Respect says that people naturally follow other leaders stronger than themselves.

I have to wonder how the election of a strong business leader to the mayor’s office played out favorably in this decision. As we see in the national trend of Ford, Carrier, and other companies staying in the US after the recent elections, a pro-business leader can make a huge difference.

2. Track Record

In the Mayor’s remarks it became clear that this special event was just as due to Ben Cordova’s track record as it was about the opening of his newest shop.

Ben’s prior success was making Coffee Mode’s predecessor, LOMA coffee, *the* go-to coffee spot for lower Market (“LOMA”) street between Delaware Tech and Chase Headquarters when no gathering spots were there before.

Lesson – The Law of Victory says that a leader always finds a way for the team to win.

Winning is important, and winning is best when everyone wins. In this case the success of LOMA Coffee created hot coffee for commuters, employees and students, jobs for friendly baristas, and a connection economy that was missing that extra touch in lower market street.

A victorious track record of prior success makes it easy for other parties in the government and economic arenas to celebrate and support others.

3. Vision

Ben being interviewed by Channel 22’s Ivan Thomas.

Owner Ben Cordova gave an all-too-brief message recapping his vision. In his own words, 7 years ago he stood at Lower Market street and realized nothing was happening, even though the location was strategically between a bank headquarters and a community college. Although over 10,000 people were traversing the area on foot, there was no “third space” for them to connect.

Lesson – The Law of Buy-In says that people first follow the leader, then their vision.

And vision is only as good as the leader behind it – and the team that delivers on that vision.

4. The Power of Small

Mayor Purzycki mentioned that as important as big business has been to Delaware’s history, the future is also very much in small businesses. Small businesses just like Coffee Mode. Ben Cordova credited the commitment to small, person-to-person connections demonstrated by his faith community as the factor that makes the difference in a big world.

Lesson – Chaos theory tells us that tiny changes are at the heart of epic shifts.

Change is the only constant. And it takes constant change, intelligently directed, to maintain stability and growth.

5. Partnership

There were several entities that worked together.

  • Downtown Visions and the Mayor’s office
  • Mayor Purzycki and Council President Hanifa Shabazz
  • Ben Cordova also credited the vision and financial support of Hockessin Baptist Church (now Sycamore Hill Church) in putting their resources on the line to enable this success.

Lesson – The Law of Significance says that one is too small a number to achieve greatness.

To accomplish anything of value it takes partnership with other people and alignment to a common purpose.

6. Innovation

Does Wilmington need yet another coffee shop? Ben highlighted 2 distinctives about his “third wave” coffee shop.

Kombucha – a fermented tea with healthy probiotic properties is on tap here – the only location in Delaware with Kombucha on tap.

  • Organic Smoothies – adds to the diversity of drink
  • Ethically sourced coffee – the Elixr Coffee team came in from Philly to support the venture.

Lesson – Be Different – Marketing expert Sally Hogshead says that it’s more important to be different than to be bigger or better.

Once you understand how you are different, you understand what makes you compelling, and how you can niche out your place in the world.

7. Fun

Few things could be more risky than hosting an arty cappuccino throwdown in your own shop. Ben bravely challenged his bean supplier, Evan from Elixr Coffee in Philly… then called for a blind vote.

The moment of truth

True to form Ben was gracious in throwdown defeat. And it was a great day for Coffee Mode and the city of Wilmington.


I’m encouraged to see so much goodwill, alignment, and diverse backgrounds coming together to help our little city and state make a disproportionately huge impact in our region.

What are you most excited about? Let us know where you’re seeing great leaders at work wherever you live.


Thanks Joey Lopes for the closeup photos. Downtown Visions for assistance planning announcing and executing the event. Mike Purzycki – Mayor of the City of Wilmington & Hanifa Shabazz for supporting small business in Wilmington. Ivan Thomas for media coverage and LOMA Coffee / Sycamore Hill Church Hockessin Campus for the success model prototype & resourcing.


Nathan Eckel has been involved in leadership initiatives on 3 continents.

He is a coach, speaker and author who unlocks the brilliance of corporate experts, teams, and individuals for maximum impact and purpose.

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