what would you say was the hardest part of starting your own business? Any sound advise for a future entrepreneur? Is it all location? Quality? a combination? Demographic?  Plus, is it better to hook up with local roasters? Inindate me with knowledge please!

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Stacy,
I want to take time to thank you for this topic. At the core of many barista's hearts is the strong desire to have a shop. You have brought out many great professionals to offer up unconditionally some very very nice suggestions. Each and every one of us comes from a different perspective on the coffee business. When you add all this up, here you will find one of the best "Real Time" resources out there today. I can't even begin to to share with you how much I have learned from this list/social networking site and applied to my business. Stay with us here, there is much much more to come.....
Joe
Ohhh, A big Happy Easter Bunny to you
and I do believe there is gold at the end of the rainbow.
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
Brady,
It does read well. Thank you for your interpretation. I am absolutely on this page with you.
Cheers,
Joe
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.

Brady said:
Dr. Joseph John said:
Matt:

I assume you re referring to my post.

If one wants to be the best and serve the highest quality, one needs to seek out the sources that provide the best and of the highest quality. There might be a lcoal roaster that provides the best in the world, but it is unlikely, except perhaps in a few locales.

I have no problem focusing on the local sources if one's goal is to support the local businesses. Then they need to quit talking about serving the best. That is what I meant by people talking about serving the best and make all kinds of compromises along the way and end up being mediocre.

The other compromise I see is about machines. Serving the best and getting a machine with local support are not always consistent.

This is great. Had to read this and your first post a couple of times to really get what you meant... but I think I get it now, and you are absolutely right.

Serving the best means that you have to place quality absolutely above all else. All else (employees, customers, revenue, profitability, community, sustainability, equipment reliability, etc). That's why so few places nail it.

The key is to define a balance that you are comfortable with, that you feel fits you and your market. There is nothing inherently mediocre about a place that has made compromises, assuming that those compromises are smart and fit a well-executed concept. (Not sure if that reads like I intended it to, so will clarify if need be).

Food for thought, for sure.
Maybe I missed a similar response in scanning this post, but Jeremiah's reply was the first "business related" that caught my attention.

I spend most of my time developing, training and supporting small businesses in my primary industry, which isn't coffee. But having founded and owned two medium sized companies, I've done both the start-up in the garage, and also the buyout of a small firm to make it bigger. Coffee is a passion, but shortly after the love affair, I looked hard at the business side. I've always said that there's the art of espresso (coffee), the science of espresso (coffee), and the business of espresso (coffee). In my strong opinion, it's merely "pipedream pondering" if one doesn't deal with each. (art = skills of the kitchen, so to speak, science = understanding product and process, and business..... which is really what this is all about.)

Stacy, I'm more venting than directing this to you or anyone else, and I'm only speaking for my own interests, but anytime I enter into a "I want to start a business.... what do I do?" discussion, especially in the context of a seminar, my question to the person or group is to quiz them on where they are in respect to knowing product, processing and the business skills in that, or in any similar small business. Without some background in all areas, especially business management experience, the discussion easily can go off course. Best example is... "I've always enjoyed cooking my Italian food for friends and family...... I think I wanna' start a small, romantic place, where I can share my love with the world!" And that from a school teacher that only knows the education biz.

And to directly address your questions? What's the hardest part of starting one's own business? FOCUSING ON THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS AND NOT A DREAMSCAPE OF WHAT YOU PERCEIVE THE BUSINESS TO BE.
Advice for ANY entrepenuer? SEEK OUT CONSULTANTS AND CURRENT SUCCESSFUL OWNERS THAT HAVE, OR ARE DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. Location? LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION...CART, KIOSK OR BUILD-OUT LEASE SPACE, IT'S PRIMARY TO SUCCESS. Demographics? YOUR LOCATION TIES INTO THE DEMO'S. Quality? YOU'LL ONLY DO THIS ONCE, WHY WASTE OPPORTUNITY ON RUN-OF-THE-MILL. Local Roasters? IF THAT WERE IMPORTANT, YOU COULD BUY YOUR SUPPLIES AT THE 7-11 DOWN THE STREET...... SCHEDULING OF INVENTORY WITH OUT OF TOWN SHIPPERS IS COMMON.

I've often told friends, who failed in start-ups....... "If I had offered to sit you down in a chair, have you write me a check for $10,000 and then I slapped you up one side and down the other for even thinking of going into that business...... what would you have said?" They usually respond with a meek, "...yes, I would'a thought you were nuts........ but after walking away from my investment, I admit, it would have been cheaper!" And that's the truth for many start-ups.

I would only wish the best for you or anyone that actually wants to start their own operation, but the statistics are heavily against you, and me, and anyone starting a business. And the sad thing is that none of us, well, maybe some, listen to advice... and we rarely ingest free advice as much as advice that we've paid for or learned from our own hard knocks. From experience, I've found that your chances are better if you find a consultant that has no financial interest in "selling you a startup package", or brokering you to a franchise. Just start by sitting with a general business consultant, or a coffee consultant that only consults and doesn't have fiduciary ties to your investment, and share all of your resources, (your life background and current financials). Discuss the merits of taking those resources into the coffee biz. You might find, and accept, that this isn't your best option?

You may just be testing the waters with your "starting my own shop", and that's great. But when one is seriously considering this huge life change, a "face to face" contact with those successful owners, consultants and also shop owners that failed miserably, is in order...... in my very humble opinion.

Jeremiah Perrine said:
Think about how much it's going to cost. Every Detail involved.

Buildout of an empty space is costly with lots of details
All the machines of course (Espresso, Coffee, Refridgerator, Grinders, ETC)
All smallwares (mugs, saucers, tampers, mats)
All the paper goods
All the coffee/pastries/milk
City Fee/Permits
State Fee/Permits
Deposits (Rent/Insurance/Utilities)
And so much more.

After your extensive research in learning the industry, you're going to spend months, (and I mean months), developing a business plan. If you're looking for investors a detailed business plan will help them clearly see what your vision is and the numbers that they really care about.

*A business plan clearly states what the goal of the business is, who you are and how that's going to grow the business. Plus, it outlines your menu and other services. Spend a lot of time on that so that it only becomes second nature to speak about it.

DONOT be surprised, though, if your investor skips straight to the financials. At the basic level, they could care less about what your serving. Instead how much does it cost? how much can you sell it for? and how many in what time period can you sell?

No your costs just as well as your know how to pull a good shot of espresso.
John,

Just emphasize the latter half of the sentence, instead of the first part. I doubt Salt Lake City is one of those said "locales," lol. And it was Dr J who added the "best in the world" reference (we were just talking about "the best" before--whatever that means). Sort of an absurd benchmark. Is a roasting co. like Intelligentsia a compromise because it does DT forward on contract and works with some smallholder cooperatives who "pool" lots? After all, there's some dude in Taiwan who roasts nano-lot, "zero defect" (sorted multiple times pre-and post roast) coffee on a two kilo.

I know I'm nitpicking, or just itching for a fight. I know many shop owners (and roasters) make decisions out of convenience (or something aside from quality and general excellence), and then justify them after the fact. And, generally speaking, you're going to have a better chance of serving "the best" if, for example, you are using coffee from some of the more highly-regarded roasters in the country than if you are using coffee from Local Roaster X. But I am quite certain that I've had shots and capps from a few "local" outfits that would rival the big name folks in major metro areas.

Your observations on deciding what you want to do, and who you want to be, are very important. I really respect that path that you've chosen to take. But I also know that actually following through--"in certain locales"--without compomising can be tricky. A local shop owner out here, in a town of fewer than 6K, is a purist at his core. He is grinding with an Anfim SC and pulling shots on a three group Mirage. But a couple of months in, he realized that if he did not offer a sugar-free hazelnut latte that he would soon be out of business, and so pulling beautiful ristrettos for the customers who wanted those would be moot. So, he compromised. He's got syrups. And soup! But he's still in business, and I can still get a real macchiato within ten minutes of where I live. Is it "the best"? I don't know. But it's pretty damn good, lol.

BTW--

What's the deal with Hario's halogen beam heaters? I wanted to order a couple through Barismo, but they said that Hario has gotten scared, and has decided not to ship them anymore. Is it possible to bring them in anymore?

Cheers,
Matt





John P said:
Matt,

I have to disagree, and Dr. Joseph John can correct me if I'm wrong, but he says,

"If one wants to be the best and serve the highest quality, one needs to seek out the sources that provide the best and of the highest quality. There might be a local roaster that provides the best in the world, but it is unlikely, except perhaps in a few locales."

He clearly states there MAY be a great local roaster... he never implies this is the road to mediocrity. He says if your sights are on excellence your first point is to source excellence, and if it's local, then more power to you. The reaction seems to be kind of defensive, like trying to justify a decision based on ease of access and not on quality.

For any new owner who opens a shop they have to decide exactly who they are at their core and be it. They can be honest with themselves or not. Nobody says, "I want to be average!" but many places are, and average is fine. A lot of people like average. But customers will always gravitate toward quality, so again to Stacy: Stick to your guns and actually BE great.


Matt B said:
There are lots of "local" roasters who roast inferior coffees and generally don't do a very god job. I'd probably even say this is usually the case. But going with someone local--assuming the quality is there--does not necessarily mean that you are compromising and that your product is destined for "mediocrity," which is what Dr J's posts suggest. And there are real benefits with sourcing roasted coffee locally. Will it be the "best in the world" (whatever that means)? Maybe not. Then again, maybe it will be.
Matt B. shared a classic marketing study-story; "He is grinding with an Anfim SC and pulling shots on a three group Mirage. But a couple of months in, he realized that if he did not offer a sugar-free hazelnut latte that he would soon be out of business, and so pulling beautiful ristrettos for the customers who wanted those would be moot. So, he compromised. He's got syrups. And soup! But he's still in business, and I can still get a real macchiato within ten minutes of where I live. Is it "the best"? I don't know. But it's pretty damn good, lol."

And herein lies another important issue; optimizing your business to best serve your clientel. Many successful businesses do not necessarily provide the "best possible product or service", but tailor their offerings to match their market. I know this flies in the face of the purist. And without being judgemental, this is where objectivity is so important. When and where do you "losen up" on your convictions and standards?

I still look at "In-n-Out Burger", here in the Western states, as the ideal mix of quality and business. With an extremely short menu, and focusing on fresh ingredients, they have thrived and grown in a sea of fast food burger chains. They opitimize the phrase, "Get 'em in and get 'em out... and make sure they come back for more." However, from my own early research, I couldn't find any reason to lessen quality in the area of equipment nor supplies. This is a labor intensive driven business. IMO, having a foundation of quality beans and the best and most servicable gear is the least of one's investment concerns in turning their investment of personal time and money into profits. And reduces one of the most critical variables in coffee. And I'm presuming that most new business owners are closer to wanting financial success than to be known as one who was dedicated to the art of coffee and charitable... although maybe not still in business. Can we do both? Of course, but that's all about the mixing of the art of coffee and business of coffee.

I couldn't agree more with the gentleman's modification of product mix, when he added "syrups, flavorings and soup" to his offerings. At least he started with a focus on the one investment that can't go wrong; quality supplies and equipment.
Thank you so much. I have enjoyed every bit of this discussion. Also, everyone has been so great and I will take all of this knowledge with me as I start my journey. What a great community and a great resource. I feel fortunate to have found you all!

Joseph Robertson said:
Stacy,
I want to take time to thank you for this topic. At the core of many barista's hearts is the strong desire to have a shop. You have brought out many great professionals to offer up unconditionally some very very nice suggestions. Each and every one of us comes from a different perspective on the coffee business. When you add all this up, here you will find one of the best "Real Time" resources out there today. I can't even begin to to share with you how much I have learned from this list/social networking site and applied to my business. Stay with us here, there is much much more to come.....
Joe
Ohhh, A big Happy Easter Bunny to you
and I do believe there is gold at the end of the rainbow.
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
Been a good thread. While I'm not looking to open another new shop at the moment, am in the process of planning a re-launch of both my locations. Part being specifically taken all ingredients up another notch to match my coffees. Namely doing away 100% commercial pre-made syrups etc. Been making my own choco sauce for years but even in the process of re-formulating it getting rid of some compromise ingredients and going with Scharffen Berger cocoa powder base. (For me, even that's a bit of a compromise over like Bernard Callebaut, one of my faves but just not realistically financially feasable, even Scharf's gonna double the cost:) Been worrying about what I was going to do for the sugar free crowd. Already planned on making a few Splenda based syrups. This thread woke me up to also making sugar free top knotch choco sauce. Gonna cost 'em more, but taste will be worth it.
Wow miKe,
Talk about working your own niche. Good for you. I thought "Mostly Organic theme" was tough.
Thanks for reminding me to get off the sugar too. That's a personal issue.

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
Been a good thread. While I'm not looking to open another new shop at the moment, am in the process of planning a re-launch of both my locations. Part being specifically taken all ingredients up another notch to match my coffees. Namely doing away 100% commercial pre-made syrups etc. Been making my own choco sauce for years but even in the process of re-formulating it getting rid of some compromise ingredients and going with Scharffen Berger cocoa powder base. (For me, even that's a bit of a compromise over like Bernard Callebaut, one of my faves but just not realistically financially feasable, even Scharf's gonna double the cost:) Been worrying about what I was going to do for the sugar free crowd. Already planned on making a few Splenda based syrups. This thread woke me up to also making sugar free top knotch choco sauce. Gonna cost 'em more, but taste will be worth it.
I think this is probably the most real response I have been given. There is a lot to process here, and a lot of truth. What are the real chances for success, and so forth. I appreciate honesty, thats what I am looking for.

Al Sterling said:
Maybe I missed a similar response in scanning this post, but Jeremiah's reply was the first "business related" that caught my attention.

I spend most of my time developing, training and supporting small businesses in my primary industry, which isn't coffee. But having founded and owned two medium sized companies, I've done both the start-up in the garage, and also the buyout of a small firm to make it bigger. Coffee is a passion, but shortly after the love affair, I looked hard at the business side. I've always said that there's the art of espresso (coffee), the science of espresso (coffee), and the business of espresso (coffee). In my strong opinion, it's merely "pipedream pondering" if one doesn't deal with each. (art = skills of the kitchen, so to speak, science = understanding product and process, and business..... which is really what this is all about.)

Stacy, I'm more venting than directing this to you or anyone else, and I'm only speaking for my own interests, but anytime I enter into a "I want to start a business.... what do I do?" discussion, especially in the context of a seminar, my question to the person or group is to quiz them on where they are in respect to knowing product, processing and the business skills in that, or in any similar small business. Without some background in all areas, especially business management experience, the discussion easily can go off course. Best example is... "I've always enjoyed cooking my Italian food for friends and family...... I think I wanna' start a small, romantic place, where I can share my love with the world!" And that from a school teacher that only knows the education biz.

And to directly address your questions? What's the hardest part of starting one's own business? FOCUSING ON THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS AND NOT A DREAMSCAPE OF WHAT YOU PERCEIVE THE BUSINESS TO BE.
Advice for ANY entrepenuer? SEEK OUT CONSULTANTS AND CURRENT SUCCESSFUL OWNERS THAT HAVE, OR ARE DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. Location? LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION...CART, KIOSK OR BUILD-OUT LEASE SPACE, IT'S PRIMARY TO SUCCESS. Demographics? YOUR LOCATION TIES INTO THE DEMO'S. Quality? YOU'LL ONLY DO THIS ONCE, WHY WASTE OPPORTUNITY ON RUN-OF-THE-MILL. Local Roasters? IF THAT WERE IMPORTANT, YOU COULD BUY YOUR SUPPLIES AT THE 7-11 DOWN THE STREET...... SCHEDULING OF INVENTORY WITH OUT OF TOWN SHIPPERS IS COMMON.

I've often told friends, who failed in start-ups....... "If I had offered to sit you down in a chair, have you write me a check for $10,000 and then I slapped you up one side and down the other for even thinking of going into that business...... what would you have said?" They usually respond with a meek, "...yes, I would'a thought you were nuts........ but after walking away from my investment, I admit, it would have been cheaper!" And that's the truth for many start-ups.

I would only wish the best for you or anyone that actually wants to start their own operation, but the statistics are heavily against you, and me, and anyone starting a business. And the sad thing is that none of us, well, maybe some, listen to advice... and we rarely ingest free advice as much as advice that we've paid for or learned from our own hard knocks. From experience, I've found that your chances are better if you find a consultant that has no financial interest in "selling you a startup package", or brokering you to a franchise. Just start by sitting with a general business consultant, or a coffee consultant that only consults and doesn't have fiduciary ties to your investment, and share all of your resources, (your life background and current financials). Discuss the merits of taking those resources into the coffee biz. You might find, and accept, that this isn't your best option?

You may just be testing the waters with your "starting my own shop", and that's great. But when one is seriously considering this huge life change, a "face to face" contact with those successful owners, consultants and also shop owners that failed miserably, is in order...... in my very humble opinion.

Jeremiah Perrine said:
Think about how much it's going to cost. Every Detail involved.

Buildout of an empty space is costly with lots of details
All the machines of course (Espresso, Coffee, Refridgerator, Grinders, ETC)
All smallwares (mugs, saucers, tampers, mats)
All the paper goods
All the coffee/pastries/milk
City Fee/Permits
State Fee/Permits
Deposits (Rent/Insurance/Utilities)
And so much more.

After your extensive research in learning the industry, you're going to spend months, (and I mean months), developing a business plan. If you're looking for investors a detailed business plan will help them clearly see what your vision is and the numbers that they really care about.

*A business plan clearly states what the goal of the business is, who you are and how that's going to grow the business. Plus, it outlines your menu and other services. Spend a lot of time on that so that it only becomes second nature to speak about it.

DONOT be surprised, though, if your investor skips straight to the financials. At the basic level, they could care less about what your serving. Instead how much does it cost? how much can you sell it for? and how many in what time period can you sell?

No your costs just as well as your know how to pull a good shot of espresso.
Hello,
I have participated in the expansion of retail coffee locations for 12yrs. If you'd like to get some prelim info on where to start you can email me at dandymonkey@gmail.com.
I can give you some lessons I've learned in the past 6 years. Location is key if you don't already have a legacy in the community. The number of parking spaces is essential. I have seen data that demonstrates a 10% increase to daily sales per space for some locations.
Here is a fast & easy trick for location selection-
C.O.R.E. ...who will be your core customers?
C. commuters- what side of the street are you on? How does traffic flow in the morning? How is parking?
O. office- can you herd in the business folk? are you walkable (.5 miles max) for the 3pm break?
R. Retail- are you inside or adjacent to a mall? are you positioned near the food court of restaurant? Are you near a big box retailer? (Target, Grocery Store, Wal Mart)
E. Exception- Are you in the "perfect pathway" of a school, college, or church (maybe a church with frequent AA meetings?) Train Station entrance? Bus Stop Hub? ...still, this category is not always reliable.
I usually rate each of these categories on a site. like a 1 to 10. If I score it around a 25 or above, it might work.
Email me and I'll tell you about "V.A.S.T."
I agree with this. The shop/restaurant that I work at has a strong focus on local produce because we have a lot of great local farmers here in New Mexico. However, we get our coffee from Intelligentsia, and not from a local roaster because we don't currently have any exceptional local roasters in the area.

That being said, I feel that if you truly have passion for the business, which it sounds like you do, then hopefully you will not make such compromises.

I started out at Starbucks, which, as Jared said, is the McDonalds of coffee. However, starting corporate is not necessarily a disadvantage. You know what you do not want your shop to be, based upon your experience. Also, you get an idea of the lack of coffee culture that is being served to the masses. So, you want to change things. The next step is figuring out what you do want to be. I suggest that you get a job at an artisan coffee shop, if you have one in the area. Starting at the bottom again sucks, but you will get a great coffee education, and probably have a better idea about what it is that you want out of your business. If there is not an artisan coffee shop in your area, then do a ton of research. Visit cities where there are an abundance of such shops and ask questions.

I too am planning on opening up my own shop, but right now I am zeroing in on my concept and doing a ton of research. I am sure it will take a couple of years before I am ready to open shop. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, Stacy!

John P said:
Stacy,

Dr. Joseph John hit the nail on the head with probably the most salient advice given.
Take it with the kindness that was intended.

I know someone (not an isolated incident) who talked about being the best, and quality this and trained barista, etc. etc., and they couldn't understand why they were failing. After a while they say they are sourcing beans for about $4.50 per pound --ROASTED! Well, I don't need to taste their product to know that you can't source anything quality for that price... probably need to start in the neighborhood of twice that. Point being, many owners - both new and old alike, talk quality, but compromise from day one.

Don't compromise.
And everyone, especially you, will be happy.

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