Hey everybody,

This will be the second time I've posted in this category. The first time didn't quite go totally as I'd hoped, and since I really don't need to be ripped yet another new @$$hole, I'll try to make sure I word this very, very specifically.

As mentioned before, I would like to open a coffee shop of my own. I have put some feelers out already as to what are some possible steps one could take in undertaking what will surely be a very difficult, arduous but potentially worthwhile task. I was just wondering what data my fellow BXers could add to the equation.

I am motivated by a couple of very personal events that have happened in the last year. I gained a child and lost my father. Both events have made me take stock of my life and realize that life itself is precious. The opening of a shop is not something I even expect to be lucrative. I do expect, however, for it to be worth my while, kind of a personal legacy if you will.

If previous comments conveyed a sense of "amateur-ity" then I sincerely apologize. My intent was not to belittle the previous contributions made to this website. I know that we are all here because we all love what we do. The other day, two customers came into the shop I work at here in Sweden and were utterly surprised when I said that I loved my job. They'd been around the city asking various people that very question and I was the first person that answered positively. That's because it was true. I love making coffee. I love seeing people's face light up when they taste a beverage that I've made them. I love knowing the regulars by names (or at least faces) and having their drinks ready for them by the time they get to the counter.

Love it.

As far as the coffee itself, well that's a whole other aspect. I love that such a little cup can contain so many surprises. I love the way that depending on just the tiniest of variables (grind size, dosing techniques, CLEANLINESS) each shot of espresso can totally blow your mind...or make you want to  spit it out. I love the way coffee sourced from one part of the world can cause one reaction in your mouth while coffees from the other side of the globe can cause a completely different reaction. I love that coffee can simultaneously taste like fruit, nuts and candy. I love that folks here in Sweden have their coffee preferences but folks back home in America have their own (for the record all Swedes think American coffee is "weak." The fact is we just like to be able to taste it!)

Why go on and on about this? Because coffee makes me feel good and I want to share that feeling with everyone. Making coffee gives me a sense of purpose topped only by hearing my daughter yell out "Papa!" Opening a shop means more to me than hopping onto a trend. It's the only way I could think of that would combine passion and purpose.

It's not something I want to do but rather something I HAVE to do.

The thing is, all the passion in the world don't mean diddly squat if there's not a solid plan behind it. I know that's what many of you were merely trying to convey. Well don't think that I don't already know that. That's why I came here. For input. Not to be coddled. Not for my hand to be held. Not to be told, "yes you can." I know that Barista Exchange can be a vast well of information but is not the ONLY source. I never expected to find all the answers I needed here by any stretch of the imagination. Nor did I expect you all to tell me exactly the steps to take to accomplish such a task. What I sought was merely information, ideas and input that I could process and figure out which options might be worth pursuing. That's all.


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Nicely said Reggie!!

Four years ago I took my 3 weeks vacation that I had accumulated. First week in I realized I could not go back to the job that I hated. I sent in my two week notice and never returned.

I then went about putting together a business plan and looked for financing. About 8 months later I started my coffee roasting business. As a single father of three with a good deal of personal debt and now business debt I made it happen.

Four years later I haven't regretted the move. Although it has been tough and continue to be so, I love what I am doing and the business is growing. I did this at 40 years of age (screams midlife crises) so I did have some life experience, none in the coffee industry though.

My point is; if you want this to happen you can find a way to make it happen. My advice, have a vision and be a sponge and dive right in!!

Good luck!!
Here are some recent bX discussions that may give you some things to consider:

Clickity, Clickity, Clicky, Click, Click, Click.

Not to stifle further discussion, by any means... just felt like there was a lot of good info there you might not have seen yet.
Thanks Brady,

I've actually (gasp!) been digging through the archives tonight. Just wish my connection weren't so danged slow.
Reggie said:
Thanks Brady,

I've actually (gasp!) been digging through the archives tonight. Just wish my connection weren't so danged slow.

You're welcome. BTW, I wasn't trying to be a wiseass by linking your earlier discussion. It's just that, as I'm digging around, it seems like that thread had some of the best, most complete recommendations from a business-planning side of any recent discussion on the topic. I'm bookmarking it as we speak.

Good luck.
"Just wish my connection weren't so danged slow."

Time to check out the best coffee businesses nearby and use their wifi with your laptop. Faster research and downloads.

This is almost said "tongue in cheek".

Of course, you could always use your laptop at *$, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.

Ron, the Country Guy

Note: An investment in a good laptop will pay huge dividends. Carry it with you as you work on your business plan - you will get the best ideas and insights at the oddest moments. If I don't write things down immediately, I seem to forget them.
I do remember from your earlier post you had asked about finding a location. Though this is a step that seems to be a little bit down the road for you, it is definitely something you should be considering while you do financials. A huge step is determining what area of your city your concept will be best received in, what the traffic and current commerce looks like in that area, what you think you can reasonably expect as your traffic (finding this out can vary widely depending on where you are, i.e. a lonely store front with almost completely drive by traffic will have a much lower expected capture rate than a store front on a busy sidewalk in a downtown area with lots of busy shopping all around). Once you have a grasp on that you can start to realistically ball-park your rent budget, which THE piece of the puzzle for your financials.

Once you have all that in place, and have secured you financial backing, then it's time to really start walking into store fronts. One thing I learned early on is that landlords don't like you wasting their time unless you are ready to sign a lease within the next month or so, so I would not recommend trying to get into spaces now. The best piece that I learned, that would have saved me some time early on, is get a good commercial realtor. Interview a lot of them, find one that you are comfortable with and feel good talking to, and ideally some one that specializes in the area of the city you want to be in. A good realtor will find you your ideal spot (free of charge to you), negotiate with the landlord to get you a good deal, will understand the area and where an ideal location will be, and will ensure you get everything you need from your landlord.
Reggie,

A much more approachable post, and with that I'll gladly retract my "lazy" comment. However I thoroughly stand by the advice given and recommend you take the time to read that portion of it again.

As for our experience. After attending classes through the Small Business Development Center at the local college, we began our business plan, which was a continuing work in progress for over a year. Two years of trade shows, and traveling searching for a coffee or espresso epiphany, and like many, we had our first revelation at Vivace in Seattle. This was combined with visiting roasters, espresso machine manufacturers, and sampling nearly one hundred different espresso from roasters throughout the country. About six months into our pre-opening years, we began scouting locations. Six spaces, serious negotiation on three of them, and finally after about 18 months, we found the right space, the right location, and the right deal. Without all three, you need to pass. Once we secured a space and had a tentative schedule for opening (what a farce THAT is), we left our current employers about a month prior to opening so we could focus on the business. I highly recommend NOT having another job as it will keep you from focusing everything on succeeding. Knowing your only option is to succeed is a good motivator.

We finally selected a roaster after blind tasting several rounds of our final three contenders and flew out to meet with the roasters, continue more barista training, and visit more coffee shops to see what the best were doing. We applied for an SBA loan but in the end found a better rate through a home equity line and went with that. The rest is time, patience, and talking to people smarter than myself and learning from them.

It's been six years since we've opened and we've continued to tweak and push boundaries every year. Trips both here and abroad when we can to study coffee techniques, and redesigning things in-house to be more efficient have proven to work wonderfully. We have been roasting our own for the past four and a half years to take control of another cost/quality aspect of our business. Daily reading whether coffee, business, or other just to keep the mind active is always a good idea.

Always be your harshest critic and improve on everyone's suggestions by preparing more, and working harder at it because your journey really only matters to you. Not to repeat myself too much, but be patient, do it when all the pieces fall into place, don't force things to happen. Good luck.
I am also going through the process of starting a cafe, so this advice is newly learned, from a newbie. If you are this committed to following through with it, I'll assume that you have a good idea of what you're cafe should be, and I think, other than the technical aspects of "making great coffee" which is covered by pretty much this entire site, what people are buying is you, your personality, the environment you create, the kind of people who want to work for you etc, so there's not much advice you can get for that aspect.

So the two big financial things I've learned are these: 1: be extremely careful how you finance your business. Your mentality of "this is something I must do" is essential, but could also be dangerous. If you can't do it without really high interest loans or credit, then wait until you can. I've seen high interest debt bury cafes that were amazing and should not have failed. As you said, you can't expect to make a really high margin of profit, so you're always vulnerable to being squashed by debt.

2: construction. I've found that it's rare to find a building that was a former cafe, in a location you like, the size and layout that you like etc. and so there's a good chance that, like us, you'll want to find a nice building and construct your cafe inside. Cafes are small potatoes for a contractor, meaning they'll take the job a) with the intent of giving you a low bid and stacking thousands and thousands onto it, b) because they're desperate for work, which isn't a great sign of their expertise, or c) because they like what you're doing and would feel good taking on a project like that. I've found the biggest margin of uncertainty is in the construction, so if you're going to build, make absolutely sure you can trust the people doing it not to screw you. Being tricked into buying a bad refrigerator is a lot different than being taken for many thousands of dollars in building.
Great advice & so true!

christopher myers said:
what people are buying is you, your personality, the environment you create, the kind of people who want to work for you etc, so there's not much advice you can get for that aspect.
.
Much better replies on this one. When someone asks "how" to do something and is replied to as if he had asked "if" he should do something it just makes me and others like me not want to be a part of social networking sites(I don't have a facebook, twitter, or myspace) or forums. Why would someone's instant reaction be to make someone question whether or not they should do something and thus putting up giant roadblocks? Reggie, I like that you don't take NO for answer. But, I digress...

I'm actually going through the same thing. I've found a decent site on writing your business plan. here. Check that out, maybe it can help. Finding the funding is definitely what I'm most stumped on, but the advice on getting the business plan as detailed as possible seems like the answer. Thanks everyone who has contributed replies DIRECTLY RELATED to this topic. I'm going to read Brady's links. But what would be nice is a several page article which will sum up the 6 to 24 months it takes to open a shop in numbered steps with as little opinion as possible and as much detail as possible and the best resources available for each step. 1) RESEARCH BUSINESS PLANS. 2) WRITE BUSINESS PLAN. 3) SUBMIT BUSINESS PLANS TO POSSIBLE INVESTORS, etc... You may say that I'm a dreamer...
what people are buying is you, your personality, the environment you create, the kind of people who want to work for you etc, so there's not much advice you can get for that aspect.
.

Actually, that's the part that I'm least worried about. I feel I have a very specific business philosophy that I want to build around. It's just the nitty gritty that appears to be the largest obstacle.
"But what would be nice is a several page article which will sum up the 6 to 24 months it takes to open a shop in numbered steps with as little opinion as possible and as much detail as possible and the best resources available for each step."

I don't really think that a "several page article" can possibly include the important subject areas, much less provide a step-by-step with details and resources.

The current issue (August 2010) of Fresh Cup magazine includes the "A to Z Coffee and Tea House Manual". The manual part is probably 50+ pages. It is available on-line:
http://freshcup.epubxpress.com/cup1

Of course, the Bellissimo Infogroup publishes the startup bible "Bean Business Basics" which is over 700 pages.
http://espresso101.com/books_dvds/top_sellers/bean_business

Two great resources and starting points.

Ron, the Country Guy

Note: I have no relationship with either organization, other than as a paying customer.

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