IS anyone REALLY successful running their own coffee shop?


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poeticdiabetic said:
The closest college is up the street with a student population of 36,000.
As I type now, colleges kids are having their spring break and most coffee shops in university town are quiet. You have to make sure you have local business during summer vacation, winter vacation and spring break. Or you have to make sure you can make so much during school year that you can afford the quiet times. And yes, if the shop is conveniently located to both car (parking) and foot traffic, and you have good amount of out door seating and if you are lucky AND if you know what you are doing, you can make WAY more than 65K a year, first year. I don't mean to imply you don't know what you are doing, but creating a successful business is hard, even when all the elements are in place. By the way this is not a Mormon school where drinking coffee is against the religion, right?


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Jan 19, 2008
Cocoa Beach, FL
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I recently started a coffee business too. My current goal is to get the average sale above $7. If all you sell is coffee you have to sell to a crapload of people to make decent sales and a lot of folks want more than coffee. We're still messing with product mix but the big sellers seem to be fresh baked bread (banana, pumpkin, etc), sandwiches (scratch made chicken salad, tuna salad, etc) and similar wraps. My cousin is the manager of a bistro at a college up in Michigan. At the beginning of the school year he took it over and daily sales were around $500. He changed the menu to wraps and sides and he's up to $1500/day. I also recommend visiting similar ops at other nearby colleges for ideas.
Quality.... that is the key to making you as an owner happy, prosperous and sucessful. Quality is a word that gets kicked around a proverbial football. However most business owners give lip service at best to this concept. Quality is product (coffee, foodstuff as described above), the environment and most importantly the people who deliver service.


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Mar 7, 2007
Atlantic City, NJ
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While I certainly understand wanting to keep your FT job, you have to dedicate being on location 12-18 hours each day to your business, especially in the beginning (ie the first year). (I know someone who had a person run/manage their business and three years later he's still fixing mistakes.) I honestly think it will be tough to do both. Perhaps you can take a short leave? I think I have an incredible staff, but none of them would run this the way I would, or pay attention to detail the way I feel I would. We've been open over a year, and I am just now taking a day here or there, with the exception of giving birth to my daughter.

Then again, if you have the drive... you can make anything happen. Good luck! I look forward to hearing what you decide.


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Oct 14, 2009
Boulder, CO
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I agree, sounds like you have a well thought-out plan, poetic. It sounds like you have the right kind of space, a defined target market and plenty of a market there without much competition. You may already know, but I'd look into the demographics of the students - is it a big area for artists or more the sciences? And if there's any way to do a little market research to see what college students in similar areas spend their money on, that might be helpful.

Do you have any room for a stage to incorporate the artist's playing their own music, doing poetry readings, etc? Many of the coffee bars I know of that are open into the night and have events also have a beer/wine license. Guess you'd have to determine what the costs and liabilities are in your state and if that would be worth it.

Sounds like a great idea, and I agree too, that it takes more than a love of coffee to run a successful business. Keep us updated!


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Jan 11, 2009
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I'm sorry but the original question sounds like way to under researched! I have started 2 companies from scratch and built them both to the level you are referring. So I know a little here and there about business. and the first thing I do when I am interested in investing my time in something is develop a business plan. Usually doesn't even have to be very detailed to tell me if it will work or not. If I see that it is viable then I add in the detail to estimate the green date, and costs involved.

Maybe I am wrong here but it sounds like you are excited about this and are wanting to make a decision. Frankly it doesn't matter if everyone on here owned a shop and made 7 figures. It doesn't mean you will. That is something that you yourself will need to find out, by doing the appropriate research over time, not by asking half the world. It boils down to small details like you may have the best coffee in the world, but if you are in a spot that is hard to get to from the road, you won't do good.

So I strongly encourage you to do this research yourself. And I realize that you are not going to take this forum as your sole factor in this decision, but it sounds like you are new to this. Not trying to be a pooper either, but I love when people step up to the plate like this, and I just want to see you succeed. :) -Victor.