When Michelle Billionis was a little girl, she thought she’d be an artist when she grew up. As a child, she was fascinated by both art and sports, and she followed both passions into college. Today, the right-brained 49-year-old is still drawn to creating and collaborating with others, and it’s this desire to create something beautiful that has led her to become the successful business owner of two Springfield eateries, The Coffee Ethic and Cherry Picker Package and Fare. But her story doesn’t start with entrepreneurship. Instead, it starts in Powell, Wyoming.
Right after Billionis and her husband, Tom, married, the two moved to Wyoming and spent 11 years working in sports ministry. She was teaching art and coaching basketball while he worked for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The couple moved to Boise, Idaho, for a year, then Tuscon, Arizona, for four years before deciding to move closer to family who were spread out throughout the Midwest. The couple knew of Springfield, but it was through family friends, Jim and Tina Hamilton, that they started taking a closer look at the city. They decided Springfield was the perfect incubator to execute Tom’s interest in opening a coffee shop. At the time, Tom was intrigued by the concept of having a “third place,” says Billionis. “Starbucks had introduced this concept of a third place where it’s not your work, it’s not your home, it’s your community space,” she says. “Your third place is where you get to meet friends and find out the latest news in town and communicate with your community. He really loved the idea of introducing new people.”