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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Is Starting a Coffee Shop Right for You?


Owning your own coffee business has mass appeal. Picture yourself as the proprietor of a successful coffee shop and just think of the many positive attributes that you associate with that image: freedom to make your own decisions, financial independence, respect from the local community, your family and staff, and the satisfaction of providing a sought-after product to your customers in a social environment that brings people together, just to name a few. Just smell that fresh coffee brewing! What could be better?

Let’s add a shot of reality to that idealized image for a more grounded perspective: picture working 14-hour days, 6 or 7 days a week, smell the unrelenting pungent scent of stale coffee on your clothing and in your hair, feel that painful steam wand burn on your index finger, see yourself driving to your shop at 5:30 am on a dark and cold Saturday morning when an employee calls in sick (again), imagine yourself pacifying the argumentative customer that insists a traditional Italian macchiato includes caramel, “like Starbucks does.” Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?

Surprisingly, many prospective coffee entrepreneurs feel that an undefined “something better” awaits them in the retail coffee business than in their current life, but do not necessarily stop to validate this point. Take inventory of both the benefits and drawbacks of retail business ownership prior to making a serious life change.

Immerse yourself into the industry before you make your leap. Interact with coffee shop owners in neighboring cities; join the Specialty Coffee Association of America and attend their annual conference; visit the online chat forums at the SCAA website, coffeeforums.com, CoffeeGeek.com and 1 Take inventory of both the benefits and drawbacks of retail business ownership prior to making this serious life change. specialty-coffee.com; read Fresh Cup Magazine and Specialty Coffee Retailer.

Before you commit yourself to that new reality, make sure that you are basing your decision on facts and not solely on your desires and a wellintentioned misinterpretation of the facts – accept that there is a difference between what happens and what you want to happen. Every garage band from Seattle or Portland has the dream of a rock star lifestyle; a disciplined few practice their instruments the 4 to 6 hours each day necessary to be good musicians; the fewer still that become famous will understand that practicing 4 to 6 hours each day is part of the real rock star lifestyle – you had better enjoy it.

If you're considering starting a coffee shop for the first time, read Andrew Hetzel's guide, 12 Fundamentals of a Successful Coffee Business, and then consider their complete consulting and training package.

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