Starting a Coffee Shop – Are you ready?


Starting a coffee shop, or most businesses, is not for the fainthearted. In fact, it was just yesterday where a stressful whirlwind was occurring of things that needed to get done all. at. once. Even Ernest remarked, “I can see how this is not for everyone.” And he’s the level-headed entrepreneur out of us.

And maybe it’s just that starting a coffee shop can be so easily romanticized. After all, you’re reaching your dreams, tasting delicious coffees, and picking out decor to your liking. You’re building your brand and getting customers hyped for your opening, so naturally social media is buzzing with perfectly edited pictures of all the #goodvibes. But it would be a huge disservice to start a business on good vibes. Because there is the other side. I’m not talking about the failure stories that you can read about on your own. I’m trusting you’ve assessed your risks, done your research and have strategically decided this venture profitably outweighs the pitfalls. I’m here to give you a reality of what you may have to deal with before you’ve even opened your doors. So get ready, stand your ground, then proceed at your own risk!

Starting a Coffee Shop - Are you ready?

Starting a Coffee Shop – Are you ready?

Here are some things we’ve encountered throughout this process thus far, and of course everyone has business has their own story. A glimpse of our non-romanticized side of the process entails, often times on a daily basis:

Wearing many hats.

If you’ve started a coffee shop because you love coffee and community, you might want a business partner to help with ALL the rest. We’re not even talking about running a coffee shop, even in starting one there are many things you need to be. You’ll be using market research, interior design, finance, marketing, communications, negotiations, bookkeeping, project management, planning, barista, and good old secretary skills too, to name a few. If you’re a small business, you can’t afford to stay in your comfort zone, or neglect/hire out for what you can’t do. You’ll have to stretch yourself, and learn to utilize your team or other professionals that can make everything happen smoothly.

Handling everything at once.

Get ready to multitask to the max. It’s like juggling fiery balls, and if you drop one, you might get a little burned. There are so many moving parts that all need to come aligned in a short window of time. What is so important and time sensitive? Finding a location, signing your lease, getting permits from the city, getting contractors in the space– all these things need to be coordinated so you’re not wasting time or money. It’s like planning a giant party and all the components need to come together in the right order and time frame. Make lists, stay organized, and try to keep your head on straight. And yes, I’m always constantly wondering if I’ve overlooked anything.

Sacrificing prior comforts.

I don’t know about you, but pursuing what we want often requires letting go of some momentary things, but we do it because it’s worth the cost. If you’re starting a new business, especially if this is your main focus, you don’t have flowing income to just spend on snowboarding passes and a car (practical, Colorado-couple we are). You have to invest into your venture, to offset today’s comforts for tomorrow’s success. We personally decided to prioritize our shop even before buying a house, and with Denver’s high-rent market, we’ve been living with our family this past year. As awesome as they are, it’s still uncomfortable, in addition to having to say no to other simple pleasures like eating out, shopping, traveling like we used to, and “settling” into a home. It may not be so bad to let go of a few comforts, but when it’s several things, over a long period of time, magnified in high-pressured moments, it can get stressful!

Starting a Coffee Shop - Are you ready?

Learning lessons the hard way.

It’s very true that life’s experiences teach us what we learn in theory. To be a good business owner, be willing to pay the price for becoming one. It’s only in dealing with natural obstacles you’re pushed to learn patience, tenacity, problem solving, communication, decision-making, and many other skills needed to be a coffee shop owner, manager, barista, marketer, a good wife, and whatever else you need to be. I can look back at this past year and recall many lessons and growing moments we’ve encountered. I’ve gained something now, but in the moment it was quite painful, confusing and aggravating. There will be many chances to adapt, learn and grow. And repeat.

Problem-solving.

For a solution to exist, there needs to be a problem, and problems are not fun. But the world of business is full of problems that are waiting to be solved. Embracing this reality has been quite a stretch, for encountering sudden problems often shocks me into an overwhelmed, stressful state. And yes, most problems are sudden surprises. This past week we were steps away from getting city permits when, for the first time, we were told we need to get a consultant out to our location to check for asbestos! After a long day of points 1-4 seen above, we were relieved to figure out it wasn’t necessary in our case. Yet in the moments of chaos, it’s hard to stay positive, stand your ground and seek solutions. Dealing with unexpected problems and making hard decisions are an everyday part of the process.

Breaking down, getting back up, & wiping the dirt off.

In isolation, these points aren’t really that bad. But often in starting a business, they’re all at once, back and forth, under the heat of pressure, and it can really wear you down if you’re not grounded with eyes fixed on your vision. I think the hardest part about this process is keeping an emotional-mental-physical-and spiritual balance throughout everything. There have been many breakdowns and many dead ends, when in the moment I have no idea how to proceed. It’s not easy to stay focused and keep your head in the game, and yet it’s human to take a moment and admit you don’t have it all figured out.

Know that nothing good comes easy, and starting a coffee shop is far from an easy, follow your dreams, shoot-for-the-stars journey. You might need to take some time and determine if it’s for you. What makes it worth it? The vision to overcome. If you’re starting a business, it’s because the reward is greater than the costs, and you have no choice but to move forward. You’ve risked all you have because the gains are greater if you do, and losses greater if you don’t. If you know someone who’s starting a business, realize that although yes– there is excitement, adventure, and purpose in it, there’s also a hidden side full of stresses, fears, worries and doubt that may at times be a hard obstacle to deal with. It really does help to understand this!

So… are you ready to start a coffee shop? Thanks for listening friends, and for following our journey along!

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6 Comments

  1. Great article and I’m glad you shared this side of starting a business. When someone walks into a business they see the end product that had it’s beginning long before “the Grand Opening”. This is the time that is the most critical as with raising a child, what you do and how you proceed could determine the “baby’s” future. As my partner and I start down the road that you are travelling on, I appreciate the articles you share as it help in our journey as well. I have done a lot of research and found that most “start a business” guides lack in the actual process of starting. Most say do “this” and do “that” without really helping with the “how” part of it. Reading your roadmap is a great help.

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    • Julia

      Thanks, really appreciate your comment! Yes you said it perfectly, people see the end result and not all that went into it! That’s exactly one of the reasons why I started this blog; all I could find were general articles as well and figured I couldn’t be the only one wondering how it’s REALLY done. If I’m going to learn from experience, why not make that accessible to others? Let me know when you guys open, I’d love to learn more about your story too. Glad you shared!

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  2. Inspiring me,……

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