Starting a coffee business or any business is not for the faint of heart, believe me I know. At first you worry a lot and then research your competition to a point of stalking.
Only later to realize that you’re a community and are all in this together. On the opening day your nervous for all the wrong reasons as you put yourself and your business out there, realizing there is no turning back.
Then in the first couple of months, there is this new kind of anxiety, uncertainty and excitement about what the next day will bring. Looking back, this is when the fun of owning your own business truly begins.
We can all agree the pursuit is truly worthwhile despite being strapped for cash and time. Many of us share the same reasons for starting our own business while others, not so much. For me, I just got tired of working for the man and now enjoy the sense of pride, in creating something from nothing. What was your emotional reason for taking the plunge?
Now for the good stuff… We asked individuals behind some of America’s best cups to share what they wish they knew before opening their coffee shops, or other caffeine-infused operations. The result is 11 pieces of advice that current coffee owners may learn from or maybe had the same type of experiences.
From mistakes made to tricks of the trade, you’re bound to discover at least one nugget of wisdom that will save you time, money, energy and quite possibly your sanity—or all of the above.
“I wish I had become more of a handyman before launching my business.”
– Peter Brown, Six Shooter Coffee (Cleveland, OH)
“I wish I knew… to hire a good bookkeeper! It’s my #1 piece of startup advice. They say, “what gets measured, gets done”. Well, if you can’t trust your numbers then you can’t really measure your business. Good information is critical to making good decisions. We’ve spent the better part of a year cleaning up the mistakes we made when managing our own books.”
– Matt Bachmann, Wandering Bear Coffee (New York, NY)
“I wish I had known that you could lease equipment, and they come with service contracts.”
– Jonathan Rubinstein, Joe Coffee (New York, NY)
“I think the thing I wish I had known was how many little decisions I would have to make! What kind of light bulbs, how many chairs? What kind of wood do we use, how far apart should the lattice be spaced? Do we use brown screws or black screws? What kind of patio furniture do we buy? The list goes on and on; I can’t even remember them all anymore!”
- Elle Taylor, Amethyst Coffee Co. (Denver, CO)
“Starting an online business with no previous experience with an online store, I wish I had known more about operating tools like Ship-station that are available to help small businesses.
Learning that there are tools to help online stores get off the ground and find competitive pricing was game-changing.
We could have saved a lot of time and money if we knew that from the beginning! We would have also benefitted from choosing a large online store platform from the beginning. BigCommerce and Shopify are worth the learning curve in the long run.”
– Lacie Mackey, Caveman Coffee Co. (Albuquerque, NM)
“I wish I had known to work with an accountant BEFORE the first dollar was ever put into a bank account.”
– Colby Barr, Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz, CA)
“The total lack of interest contractors have in keeping to a schedule. Time estimates are virtually useless. If you’re going to hire 3rd parties, contracts need to be made as airtight as possible before work begins. Include ratchets for failure to deliver on time or not meet specific project requirements.
Clearly define milestones along the way with explicit penalties. The more granular you can get contractors to be in the breakdown of their bids, the better. This helps you understand the cost of work for each piece of the project and detect arbitrary markups.”
– Matthew Tervooren, Pourt (New York, NY)
“I wish I had known how important taking the time to eat proper meals and exercise could be for managing stress. When you are run down or not feeling well, no one is going to take care of the business for you. It is imperative you do all you can to try to stay as healthy as possible.”
– Caroline Bell, Cafe Grumpy (New York, NY)
“It’s so hard to narrow it down—I wish we would've known how much we truly didn’t know! Equipment, supplies, accounting, payroll, HR best practices, tax laws, scheduling, ordering and even water filtration systems. The list can go on forever.”
– Janine Awan, Woodcat Coffee Bar (Los Angeles, CA)
“I wish I knew that when we first got our La Marzocco machine in the shop, it was probably not a good idea to take 10 double shots of espresso a day to “train” as a barista!”
– Adam Kallen, JANE Motorcycles (New York, NY)
“I wish I would have known that people will drink specialty coffee above 14th Street I spent years listening to naysayers who said you had to be in The Village or Brooklyn—I wish we had opened earlier on the UES, Midtown, UWS.”
– Jonathan Rubinstein
Article forward from Loyalty Punch，opening a cafe is not as easy as you thought. At Torch we believe that through sharing knowledge can help the coffee community to grow, and avoid unecessary mistakes.
Last week we are given the opportunity to intereview few of the renowed cafe across the china and hongkong, and we will let them to tell more stories about their cafe stories next week. Do stay tuned, if you have any stories / advices you would like to share with us, drop us a comment below. :) see you!