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How to Open a Coffee Shop



It’s been a few decades since Starbucks emerged from Seattle to take over the world and made a coffee shop on every corner the norm. As a result, the way Americans drink coffee has changed drastically. This has also created a window for entrepreneurs looking to start a business. While the big coffee chains have expanded, so have specialty, independently run shops. According to an article in the New York Times, Americans drink less coffee today than we did in the 1930s, but we’re drinking higher quality, better-brewed cups. As such, many entrepreneurs are wondering how to start a coffee shop to serve their own high-quality brews.

How to open a coffee shop in 7 steps

Wondering how to start a coffee shop of your own? These seven steps will take you through everything you need to know.

Step 1: Decide whether you want to open your own shop, a franchise, or buy an existing business.

When it comes to starting a business you usually have at least two ways to go about doing it, and with coffee shops, you’ve got three.
When it comes to how to open a coffee shop you can do one of the following:

  • Completely start from scratch and open your own shop

  • Open a coffee shop franchise

  • Buy an existing coffee shop that’s for sale

Each of the options has its pros and cons and varying degrees of work required by you. If you choose to open a franchise you’ll be bound by many of the aspects of that franchise like the beans they use and the decor of the actual shop. If you buy another coffee shop you might have less construction to do to set up the space as a coffee shop. These options come with limitations as well. Once you determine which one you want to do, you can move on to the next step, which is coming up with a business plan.

Step 2: Create a business plan. 

A well-thought-out business plan is key to creating any business, and a coffee shop is no exception. If you want to open a coffee shop, you probably already have a love of good coffee. To create a successful coffee shop you have to decide how you’ll get other people to love coffee as much as you do. A business plan will help get your ideas focused and in one place. Besides the basics of what your coffee shop will be and the products you’ll sell, a business plan also includes a marketing and sales plan, as well as financial projections.

An important consideration you’ll need to take care of in the early stages, and that you’ll include in your business plan, is to decide on the business structure you want your company to operate as. There are several business entity options you can choose, including a sole proprietorship, LLC, C-corp, and more—and the entity you choose will have both tax and legal implications for your business. It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a business attorney when making these big decisions as you start your coffee shop. if you choose to open a franchise, you might already have a business entity that you have to use.

While creating your business plan, you’ll have to come up with a name for your business and an idea of where you want to open your coffee shop. Once you find the perfect location be sure to add it to your business plan, it might happen before or after you’ve written the plan.

You’ll also want to outline the pricing of your products, what goods you want to offer, the type of coffee shop you want to have (sit-down, drive-through), and more. It’s a lot to think about, but a business plan is where you can get all of these plans down in one place. Beyond that, if you’ll need outside capital to make your coffee shop dreams a reality, you’ll need to provide a business plan for funding consideration. Luckily, there are several options for business loans for a cafe, and whether you’re looking for funding to start your coffee shop or want to leave the option open for expansion down the road, having a solid business plan from the start will make the process easier.

Step 3: Find the right location.

This step can not be glossed over and you should take your time and consideration when completing it. The location of your coffee shop can make or break it in terms of success. There are some things to look for when looking for a coffee shop location.
Coffee shop location considerations:

  • Size: You want to make sure enough people can fit in the space without feeling cramped. Coffee shops are relaxing areas where people tend to hang out with friends or colleagues and you want the space to be accommodating.

  • Accessibility: Make sure your cafe is accessible and anyone can enter.

  • Parking: Will you be dependent on foot traffic? If not you’re going to want to make sure there’s somewhere for your customers to park either a lot or street parking nearby. If biking is popular in your area, consider adding a bike rack.

  • Seating: Will customers be limited to seating indoors or is there some outdoor seating you could set up when the weather is right for it?

  • Rent: This should be one of your top considerations when deciding on a location. How much a business location will cost you is going to be a significant chunk of your budget and you should be sure to include this in your business plan.

Step 4: Register your business and get the proper licenses and permits.

The city or county where you plan to open your coffee shop will dictate the specifics of registering your business, what taxes you’ll be responsible for, any necessary licenses and permits, and more. The details of registering a business vary from state to state, but you will need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) and establish your business structure before you can start the registration process.

You also need to make sure that since you’ll be serving coffee, and most likely some food, that you have the right business licenses and permits for that, as well. Usually, health licenses and permits are necessary for serving food. Other types of business licenses include building, zoning, and land-use permits. Be sure you consult with your local business resources so you have the proper documentation in place before you open your coffee shop.

Step 5: Find suppliers.

Customers are looking for a quality experience when they come into your coffee shop. That means quality ingredients and coffee, but also quality service and experience.

While it’s tough to produce the same quality every time, this is crucial in the coffee business, especially in a time when people are becoming more knowledgeable about specialty coffee. Having consistent and quality providers, from the beans to cups and everything else customers interact with can help keep your coffee shop running smoothly and customer experiences consistent.

When you’re first starting your coffee business, don’t be afraid to spend the necessary time finding the right coffee supplier for your business.  Though if you’re starting a franchise, they’ll take care of this step for you by having their specific grounds. You may have to try a lot to find the right one that will work for the products you want to offer, at the right price, with the perfect taste.

The other way to create consistency is by training employees extensively. If you want patrons to walk past all the other coffee shops on the block and go into yours, you need to offer consistent quality.

Step 6: Create a warm, inviting environment.

A coffee shop is never just about a good cup of coffee. Many people frequent coffee shops as a place to do work, catch up with friends, or to take a break from the workday.

You want your coffee shop to have a warm and inviting atmosphere that’s conducive to meetings, relaxing, and chit chat, but also one that’s easy to keep clean and orderly. When choosing how to design the shop, be sure to take into account how many people you want the shop to fit and the kind of atmosphere you’re looking to create for them all.

Remember when we were talking about the location of your shop? Here’s where that comes in because the location can only do so much work for you. The work you do to design the cafe on the inside will also greatly matter. You’re creating an entire atmosphere that also serves a purpose.

Step 7: Adopt a good inventory system.

Pay attention to your inventory. At first, you won’t really know how much you need when it comes to things like beans and baked good, you probably won’t even know how many cups you need a day. So track these things carefully at first so you can get a good handle on how much you’re using.

There are a number of inventory management apps available to small business owners who need a way to manage their inventory and budget. Some point of sale systems also offer inventory management, which is something you might want to consider when choosing one. There are specific coffee shop POS systems out there to consider. No matter what you choose, you want to make sure you have a way to manage what you need for your business so you don’t run out of customer favorites or over-order on what you don’t need.

How much does it cost to open a coffee shop?

We’ve gone over many of the expenses you’ll face when opening a coffee shop. The rent of the location, everything for the interior design, the machinery, the supplies like beans and cups, employees and more will all add up. Some of these things may cost far more than you’re expecting them too, a good espresso machine along can run you up $20,000.

In all you can expect that opening a coffee shop will likely cost you upward of $200,000 when all is said and done. This goes for some franchises as well, Dunkin’ for example, requires that you have $250,000 in liquid assets to start a franchise with them. You could consider starting smaller, with a coffee cart or a small pop-up location if you’re unsure of the cost or if you don’t want to dive in headfirst. But know that none of these options will be cheap or require no money up front.

The bottom line

Running a small business is no easy feat, but for all of those coffee enthusiasts who have dreamed of opening a cafe of their own, now might be the time. Consumption and interest in the specialty coffee culture has increased steadily in recent years and doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. While competition from bigger chains might have been a problem at one time, modern consumers prefer to support local neighborhood shops—especially if they’re offering what the big chains can’t. So if you’ve been wondering how to start a coffee shop, start thinking about the above steps to see if this is a feasible business venture for you.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.


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Business Ideas

How to Start a Niche Foam Party Business: Kid’s Party



Foam parties have become popular and are great fun. If you didn’t know what a foam party is, it is a party or event where participants have fun dancing amidst foam created by a machine. The machine creates bubbles of foams that envelop the place, creating a fun environment at the party. If you are a business person, then a foam party business is a great idea.

You can get a foam machine and use it to throw foam parties and make money from it – relatively affordably.

photo credit: Roaring Foam

Can you make money through foam parties?

Yes, you can make money if you have a foam machine. Parties are common, and party-goers get bored with the usual stuff. A foam party is an innovative way of partying. It allows participants to let go, dancing in joy amidst the foam. This kind of party would be popular, and you can make money by offering a different experience to participants.

Creating a niche market

When you want to make money from a business, you will find that there are many others with the same idea. You need to do something different so you can succeed. This is where finding a niche market helps. A niche market is a specific category to which you can cater. Kids Foam Party is such a niche market. While there are many businesses catering to foam parties in general, foam parties for kids is a niche idea. This is a business idea that can help you succeed and make money.

Planning your business

Now that you have found your niche, it is important to plan your business before you get started. The first thing is to be clear with what you are offering. You are offering a foam party, which is an event where there is a dance floor filled with suds. When this party is offered for kids, they will enjoy it the most. They would not only dance but play in the foam and have a great time in general.

Taking proper safety precautions like setting the depth of the foam and insisting on face coverings ensure there are no problems.

What do you need?

It is obvious that you need a foam machine if you plan to run foam parties. A foam machine is not too expensive. However, you need not buy one immediately. Since you are starting off with a new business, you can get a foam machine for rent. This is a cheaper option allowing you to rent a machine and use it whenever you need it. This will allow you to do a pilot run of your party business.

If the response is good and you start getting many events, then you can consider buying your own foam machine. This would work out better for you.

Kid having fun in foam
photo credit: Roaring Foam

Planning and executing foam parties for kids

With these basic concepts in mind, it is time you start planning your parties. Since you have chosen the niche of foam parties for kids, you need to explore different options. You can have foam parties to celebrate birthdays. There can even be parties for no reason but just to allow kids to have fun. Explore different themes for foam parties and plan the events.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while planning and executing foam parties for kids:

  • You need to find a venue to host the foam party. The ideal location is outdoors, so the foam does not create a mess inside. When the weather does not permit, you need to find indoor venues with a fairly big hall to organize the event.
  • Apart from the machine, you need the foam solution to create foam. You need to have sufficient foam machine solution to last the entire party.
  • Safety is a very important issue in foam parties. This is all the more important when you are dealing with kids. You need to have a clear plan for ensuring safety in your foam party. Communicate the plan with your clients so they are assured of the safety arrangements.
  • If you are doing the party indoors, you need a tarp to cover the floor and walls. It is important to cover up all the electric and other outlets to avoid them being damaged.
  • Placing plastic furniture is better since it won’t get damaged due to bubbles.
  • Safety arrangements for the kids are very important. Wearing shoes is a must. You can insist on goggles or face coverings to prevent allergies from the suds. You need to take adequate precautions to prevent kids from skidding and falling during the party. There is always a risk of accidents at a foam party, and you need to do everything to prevent it.
  • Preferably, get a waiver from guests to protect against liabilities.

With all this planning, you are now ready to execute foam parties and make neat profits from them.

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Business Ideas

What open source-based startups can learn from Confluent’s success story



It’s common these days to launch an enterprise startup based on an open source project, often where one the founders was deeply involved in creating it. The beauty of this approach is that if the project begins to gain traction, you have the top of the sales funnel ready and waiting with potential customers when you move to commercialize your business.

In the past, this often meant providing help desk-style services for companies who appreciated what the open source software could do but wanted to have the so-called “throat to choke” if something went wrong. Another way that these companies have made money has been creating an on-prem version with certain enterprise features, particularly around scale or security, the kind of thing that large operations need as table stakes before using a particular product. Today, customers typically can install on-prem or in their cloud of choice.

“A key aspect of these kinds of technology-developer data products is they have to have a combination of bottom-up adoption and top-down SaaS, and you actually have to get both of those things working well to succeed.” Jay Kreps

In recent years, the model has shifted to building a SaaS product, where the startup builds a solution that handles all the back-end management and creates something that most companies can adopt without all of the fuss associated with installing yourself or trying to figure out how to use the raw open source.

One company that has flirted with these monetization approaches is Confluent, the streaming data company built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project. The founding team had helped build Kafka inside LinkedIn to move massive amounts of user data in real time. They open sourced the tool in 2011, and CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps helped launch the company in 2014.

It’s worth noting that Confluent raised $450 million as a private company with a final private valuation in April of $4.5 billion before going public in June. Today, it has a market cap of over $22 billion, not bad for less than six months as a public company.

Last month at TC Sessions: SaaS, I spoke to Kreps about how he built his open source business and the steps he took along the way to monetize his ideas. There’s certainly a lot of takeaways for open source-based startups launching today.

Going upmarket

Kreps said that when they launched the company in 2014, there were a bunch of enterprise-size companies already using the open source product, and they needed to figure out how to take the interest they had been seeing in Kafka and convert that into something that the fledgling startup could begin to make money on.

“There have been different paths for different companies in this space, and I think it’s actually very dependent on the type of product [as to] what makes sense. For us, one of the things we understood early on was that we would have to be wherever our customers had data,” Kreps said.

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Business Ideas

5 Hobbies That Make Money and How To Get Started



Money-making hobbies range from walking dogs to blogging to creating and selling homemade goods.

Read about these profitable hobbies, as well as what you can expect to make.

1. Driving

Enjoy cruising around town? Give others a ride and make money by becoming an Uber or Lyft driver. Uber drivers make an estimated $5 to $20 an hour, and Lyft drivers earn about $5 to $25 an hour, according to, a review site for money-making platforms. Note that earnings depend in part on when, where and how often you drive.

To become an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be the minimum age to drive in your area. You must also meet specific requirements related to your driver’s license, insurance and vehicle. Learn about these exact requirements in our guide to becoming an Uber or Lyft driver.

If you enjoy driving but don’t want people in your car, look into becoming a full-service Instacart shopper, which involves shopping for and delivering groceries. Uber Eats and Amazon Flex also offer opportunities to deliver food and other products to homes. Each of these gigs has its own set of requirements, though, so do your research before signing up.

2. Caring for dogs

If your favorite hobbies involve belly rubs, smooches and long walks in the neighborhood, try Wag or Rover. These apps enable you to walk, dog-sit or board pups overnight for money.

Rover and Wag work in similar ways. They both require you to be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and meet other requirements. For both, you create a profile, set your own rates, and use the app to choose which gigs to take. (See our Rover vs. Wag comparison for more specific sign-up and payment information, as well as how the apps vary in the services they allow.)

On both apps, the amount you earn depends on what you charge, how much you receive in tips, and which types of services you provide. As you would guess, boarding typically pays more than walking a dog, for example. But both companies take a bite from your earnings. Rover charges a 20% service fee per booking, and Wag takes 40%.

3. Blogging

If you have a blog that gets decent traffic, try making money from it. Blogging for money can take a few forms. One way is to host ads on your blog through a service like Google AdSense, which is free. Here’s the gist, according to Google: If your website is approved, then you choose where on it you would like ads to appear. Then advertisers bid to place ads where you designated, with the winner’s ads appearing in that spot. (People make money on YouTube through the same service.)

You earn some money when a reader clicks on one of these ads — but determining exactly how much you’ll make is tricky. Explore our guide to Google AdSense to learn more about it.

You could also try writing sponsored content, meaning companies pay you to write about their products. Or, become an affiliate through the Amazon Associates program. That involves linking to an Amazon product from your content and earning a commission when one of your readers clicks through and buys that item. Learn more about how to make money on Amazon through your blog.

4. Posting to social media

Love posting to social media and building a following? On Instagram and TikTok, many users earn money through sponsored photos and videos. Say you regularly post about your at-home exercise regimen. You may agree to post about a retailer’s resistance bands or sweatpants in exchange for cash or free products. (Sponsorships and affiliate marketing are also ways to make money from podcasts, in case that’s one of your hobbies.)

Sponsors may reach out to you to set up this kind of arrangement; you could contact them; or, in some cases, you may consider working through a third-party agency.

The type of content you post, as well as your number of followers and their engagement, will likely impact sponsorship opportunities. Learn more about how to make money on Instagram or on TikTok.

5. Selling your wares

There’s a marketplace for just about everything. So if you’re skilled in a hobby, consider trying to profit from it. For example, if you create jewelry or have an eye for thrifting quality clothes, try selling those items at a local flea market or yard sale, or on a neighborhood website such as Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace.

Or look into an online market that could attract a wider range of buyers. Consider Etsy for crafts or Poshmark if you want to sell clothes online.

These websites charge fees that will cut into your profits. This guide to selling stuff online will help you think through the math and determine if your hobby can become a viable business.

What to consider before making money from your hobbies

Before taking any of the routes listed above, keep in mind that this work will likely affect your taxes. See our guide to self-employment taxes, which includes expenses you can deduct, and how to avoid penalties.

And as you aim to profit from your hobbies, consider whether you will continue to enjoy them through this new business lens. Let’s say knitting helps you relax. Will it continue to do so if you’re pricing, promoting and shipping your homemade wares through an online marketplace? And that blogging hobby: Will writing still be fun or cathartic if you’re occasionally throwing in a sponsored post?

It may be hard to answer these questions until you give the money-making approach a shot. But it’s worth reflecting on the potential trade-offs as you think about turning your hobby into a job.

Money management made easy

NerdWallet tracks your income, bills, and shows you ways to save more.


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