Many successful business owners out there have multiple years of experience in their respective fields. Thankfully, the experience isn’t everything when it comes to opening your own store or shop. It is certainly possible for you to be a successful entrepreneur even without any experience whatsoever.
To start a coffee shop with no experience, you must talk to your community about their needs and desires, learn from as many sources as possible, develop a plan for your business, and specialize in your coffee shop.
While there is a lot to starting any type of business, it truly is doable. At one point or another, every successful business owner had no experience just like you. If they could pull it off, you certainly can too.
Talk to Your Community
A crucial step to starting any business, but especially a coffee shop, is to understand the perspectives of those around you.
In business terms, this is called market research.
In market research, you research your market… In this case, that means your local community or the community that you hope to start your coffee shop within.
You need to learn everything that there is to know about the community your future business will reside in.
- What kind of people live there?
- What do they do for fun?
- How much money do they make?
- Do they have other coffee shop options?
- Why do some people not enjoy those coffee shop options?
- Why do others like those particular coffee shop options?
- What is the average age of those who are interested in having a local coffee shop?
It will be key for you to focus on those who are most interested in seeing a local coffee shop come to town. Ideally, as you conduct dozens and dozens of interviews with community members, you will start to observe a pattern of who is most interested in your future business.
When you start to notice a standard demographic of who is most interested in your coffee shop, pay particular attention to their desires for your business. While they should not get to call all of the shots in your decision making, their preferences can be held to a higher worth than others.
Why hold one type of person’s opinions above others?
If this is your ideal target client, then they represent hundreds and hundreds of others just like them. It’s not that their perspectives matter more individually, but if you want to attract more people like them, they are opinions worth listening closely to.
Develop Your Experience
Just because you are starting with no experience in business, does not mean you cannot develop any experience between this moment and the day you open your coffee shop’s doors.
Experience does not only mean time spent running a coffee shop business.
There are many other effective ways to gain knowledge that will help you with your future business. For example, read books!
Reading business and personal development books is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge and prepare for when you will start a business of your own. The beauty of reading multiple books on the subject is that you are bound to hear multiple opinions.
Having multiple perspectives bouncing around your mind will only help you to make your own informed decision about the many aspects of the business that will soon become your responsibility:
- Cost vs. Profits
- Legal Issues
These days, books don’t even need to be read! You can listen to many recent audiobooks on each of these subjects on multiple free and paid-for websites.
Another way to expand your business knowledge before you open your doors is to read more blogs like this one. On our blog, we dive into every aspect of opening a coffee shop business from the day you dream up the idea to while you are actively running your shop.
Blogs can also be more manageable than books because you can easily jump right to the specific topic that you need to read about the most. This saves you time while giving you valuable information.
Blog posts can also be read in between other tasks. This means you can sprinkle in your coffee shop business reading within even the busiest of days.
Finally, conversations can be especially enlightening to those who want to start a business. Particularly, with those who have gone ahead of you.
When you sit down and have an honest conversation with someone who has already started a successful business, you get to learn from not only all of their successes, but all of their failures as well.
Any business owner will tell you that failure can be one of the best possible teachers out there. Speaking with multiple different people means you get to learn from all of their failures, without actually being the one to face those specific difficulties.
Develop Your Coffee Shop Business Plan
To start your coffee shop on the best foot possible, you will need to develop your business plan.
A business plan will be especially helpful to you as you are just starting because it will give you the encouragement you will inevitably need along your way. It will remind you over and over again that you have thought through much of what is about to happen. As long as you follow it step-by-step, you will make your coffee shop dream a reality.
A business plan will also be helpful to anyone who you ask to fund your endeavor. Sometimes, businesses require an investor or a loan to get started on the right track. Often, these people will want to see proof that you actually have a plan for your business before they are going to let you borrow their hard-earned money. A business plan is exactly the proof they will need.
What should go into a business plan? Glad you asked!
- These are just the basics.
- The name of your company, the entity structure you will utilize, and the location it will operate from. You might not even have all of this information decided on yet; you can put a place holder here if that’s the case.
Coffee Shop Mission Statement
- Decide on this early as it will be the driving force for you and all of your employees. You are not just a business operating to earn money, you are a mission-focused entity that is going to change the life of your community for the better.
Community Market Research
- We talked about this one. Include your findings so that any potential lenders understand the work you put into researching your community.
- You need to be sure this endeavor is going to actually make money. Do all the necessary calculations to prove this will happen for your lenders and yourself.
Procedures and Protocols
- You will want to set some good practices in place before you even open your doors. This can be as simple as the hours you will keep or as complicated as your employee training and safety practices.
- Tell your potential lenders how you plan to get the word out about your coffee shop. This can and should include everything from print media to social media communications.
Click HERE for a step by step guide to writing your business plan!
Specialize Your Coffee Shop
Last but not least, you need to consider early on how you will specialize your coffee shop. This means intentionally deciding on a trait that will make your business stand out from other coffee providers in your area.
This specialization will help your business be the one that comes to customers’ minds when they need a cup of coffee, so they will be more likely to visit and return to you often.
There are two main ways you can decide on your specialization:
- When you did your market research, what were your target clients missing?
- What are you especially passionate about?
Each of these answers can provide insight into what might be a beneficial focus for your coffee shop.
When you focus on what your ideal client is missing in a local coffee shop, you are bound to make an impact in an area where they see a need for improvement.
Alternatively, when you focus your specialization on what you are particularly passionate about, your energy will also take you far.
Frequently Asked Questions
Your business plan should remain fairly confidential. It is quite literally the plan for your business, so you don’t want to be just sharing it with anyone and everyone.
In a worst-case scenario, someone could steal all of your precious ideas and copy them before you even get a chance to try your hand at them.
Keep your business plan to your employees, business partners, lenders, and family. Always use discretion when it comes to sharing it.
There are many ways you can make your coffee shop stand out to your customers. For example, you could give your entire coffee shop a theme. Anything from underwater to superheroes to rock music and beyond. Everything from your décor to your staff uniforms to your drinks could then play into this theme.
Another way to specialize could be making your coffee shop particularly healthy. This could mean healthy drink options as well as other organic food options.
A final way to stand out to your community is to offer a service along with your coffee shop. Whether that service is delivery or subscription services or even space for local events, your people will never forget that you are more than just a standard coffee shop.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!