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Career as a Coffee Shop Owner

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Owning a coffee shop is a career of hard work, long hours and challenging finances. But it’s also full of meeting people, exceptional coffee and plenty of adventure, which can make all of those challenges seem small by comparison. As the store owner, you have the ultimate responsibility for the store’s success. You must oversee everything from the products to the people to the building itself -- and, of course, the bottom line. But if you plan well and make wise decisions, you can find a career bringing joy to others and satisfaction to yourself.

Franchise or Independent

Before you can begin your career as a coffee shop owner, you have to decide whether you want to open a branch of an established franchise or start a new business. While some major franchises don't offer the ability to own stores under their names, a number of others do and they come with both benefits and drawbacks. Franchises allow you to open a store that already has a recognizable name, trusted products and loyal customers. However, if you've always dreamed of creating your own unique store, owning a franchise won't allow you to carry out your vision or put your own stamp of individuality on the business. Depending on your ultimate goal is for your shop, you will be able to determine whether to buy a franchise or open your own store.

Overseeing Your Team

As a coffee shop owner, the most important thing you can do to keep your business going is to create a friendly, hard-working team of employees. It will start with your manager. As the owner, you will want a responsible, honest, skilled manager who is good with employees and customers and who can handle details such as schedules, inventory and employee training. Depending on how involved you are in the shop, you can put as much or as little responsibility on the manager as you want. Examples of tasks that you and the manager must work out a plan to cover are the hiring and firing of employees, the managing of products, inventory and specials and the daily transactions. As the owner, however, you will meet with your manager regularly and be responsible for enabling him to manage your store in a quality manner.

Financial Success

In order to keep your coffee flowing, you must have a profitable business. As the shop owner, you are responsible for the ultimate financial success of the store. Depending on whether you own a franchise branch or your own store, you may be required to raise capital, set prices and establish salaries and benefits. Either way, you must have a mind for business and know what it takes to make ends meet in the food service industry. If you don’t have the natural business mentality, you can recruit help from a trusted friend or business partner and work out the details together. Because it is your livelihood, you will spend most of your time dealing with aspects of the store that either directly or indirectly involve finances.

The Store

Part of the fun for coffee shop owners comes in the development and maintenance of the store. If you opt against opening a franchise, this is where you will exercise your creativity. From creating menus, decorating and designing the interior, and deciding the angle and purpose of your shop, you will work daily to make your dream a reality. After determining your target audience, you can make decisions regarding what music to play, whether to offer free WiFi, what retail merchandise you want to sell and what special events you want to attract crowds, serve the community and encourage local artists. You'll enjoy making your shop more than just a place where customers come for caffeine. Instead, develop it into a unique establishment that carries out your personal vision.

Staying Involved

Even if you have a capable manager and a team of outstanding employees, you, as the owner, will still need to participate in the daily operations to truly know what your store needs from you. By serving on the front lines with your baristas, you stay in touch with what works, what doesn’t and how you can better meet the needs of your customers. Talking to the customers and getting to know the regulars will help you not only understand your business and clientele, but also create a positive reputation for your shop. Word of mouth is a powerful advertisement, and if you stay active in the day-to-day you can make sure the message being spread about your shop is a good one.

Selecting the Product

As the coffee shop owner, you can't lose sight of the basic ingredient: coffee. It's what keeps customers in your store and what will encourage them to come back for more. If you have a franchiser, those decisions will be made for you. If not, you will select the coffee to brew and sell by sampling products, working with distributors and negotiating deals. Whether you want to offer organic, fair-trade, domestic, foreign or local beans are just a few of the choices you will have to make and keep making as the industry changes. Researching distributors and finding a product that fits your budget and quality standards will be part of your responsibility. Depending on where you are located, you may want to develop a partnership with a local roasting company to attract customers.


After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.

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