29 May 2013

5 Coffee Shop Business Secrets for Beginners.

1/ Know what you are selling...

You are NOT selling coffee, it's usually something else, for instance in our shop, we are selling a good feeling, community, comfort, an experience and usually a change of mood, from grumpy to grinning in 30 seconds!

2/ DON'T tie your money up in loads stock.

Strict stock control is an absolute must, having lots of stock hanging around means that you are paying effectively for storage space, when those things could be at your suppliers, until you need to order again. You'll find that as with anything 20% of your stock will sell about 80% of the time, concentrate on never letting that run out. But don't waste rent money on space, stocking stuff that sells only slowly.

3/ Don't be a leader!

That's NOT the aim, just be different. When you compete on difference, that enables space for other people to enjoy success within a similar sphere to you. Coffee shop owners needn't be in competition with each other, as long as their differences are highlighted and strong, that then leaves opportunities to collaborate with each other.

We enjoy an excellent cafe round the corner from us, called Michaelangelos and we enjoy supporting them and spending our money in another independent, we love recommending them to our customers too. Yes, we both sell coffees and cakes which is a large cross over but there's also massive differences between us, for example, they do fabulous lunches and we do fabulous networking and events.

4/ Change your way of thinking.

If there is something that you perceive to be a huge negative factor, in your business....twist it around and see the positive! Believe me there is a positive in every negative, you just have to look very hard for it.

When we first opened our shop at the end of a train station platform, people said it was in a difficult location, not much footfall right up to the door and so on. We looked at the premises and saw it's potential as a hidden gem, that turns it around doesn't it! Now it's a truly magical moment when someone discovers us, they open the door from a cold platform and the atmosphere of our coffee shop seems to glow, with warm and welcoming shades of oranges and browns, laughter and chatting, books and flyers, they are amazed by the contrast of how it is outside to how it is when they open that door and the warmth embraces them.

5/ Keep Your Door OPEN!

When you are open, keep your door open! At first people are scared to walk into a new place, you have to remove any barrier that you can and that door can be a big barrier. I have seen people push on our door handle half-heartedly and then walk away when it doesn't open easily.

Keep your door open and make it easy for them to make the transition from outside, to inside, at least until you are established. Bring tasters outside to them on a platter, bring coffee out to them leaving the sugar and so on in the shop, so they have to come in to use the sugar.

What would one of your top tips be to start up a coffee shop?

Please let me know by commenting here.

9 May 2013

Is Facebook Boring?

Honestly, I did NOT want to go on Facebook ever, I viewed it as low cultured, a time drain and addictive. All that insight, without even holding an account!

It was in 2008 when colleagues at LBC Radio kept nagging, or suggesting to me that I 'should really' get onto Facebook but I resisted.

In August 2009, after about 6 months of running My Coffee Stop, with my partner, Gunter Hollenstein and several suggestions from my peers that it would be good for my business, I reluctantly set up a Facebook account and a Twitter account.

I have enjoyed an amazing amount of success using these two and other social media platforms to raise the profile and the profits of my business, resulting in great press, tv exposure and translating into real cash, with sales increasing too. I was frustrated that other businesses didn't know these secrets, so I set up a forum for an exchange of ideas about how best to use social media for your business called, The Ideas Station. A once a month meet up in my shop in the evening for free, with coffee, tea and cake provided.

Attendees said it was so good, I should charge, then a few months later, they said I should charge more. Individual business owners started coming to see me for some spot on free advice and help for their business, so I could train them in how social media would help them. I wanted every independent business in my local area to be able to have the choice to use these different platforms to connect with their customers, potential customers and their community. I had to start charging for the one to one sessions after being let down by some no shows.

So, I had now grown from a coffee shop owner into a social media trainer too and the two businesses feed off and support each other.

I have now successfully applied for funding from the Enfield Residents Priority Fund, to teach business women in the Edmonton area, how to successfully use social media in their own businesses.

However, just recently, I've had a niggling doubt about the effectiveness of Facebook, it's becoming less personal and more corporate every second.

Forget about my business for the moment, looking at this as a personal user, I just looked at my newsfeed and rather than seeing lots of lovely updates about what my friends have done, I'm seeing lots of business updates, I'm invited to some 83 different events at the moment, some of which I have no interest in whatsoever, why did they invite me? I know I can change my settings and change what is shown but I'm feeling dissatisfied and turned-off of Facebook.

It's been so successful and worked so well, for a time, that it is now crowded, noisy and just UNCOOL! I'm saying this despite the fact it has helped me so much in my business and even helped me to run a very successful campaign to increase the profits and profiles of local independent businesses, through SHOCK Cash Mobs.

My original view that it is addictive and a drain on your time still stands true but I feel I've had a reluctant love affair with the Facebook beast and now it's time to find something different because conversely, what was working for my business on Facebook isn't so powerful anymore. The dilution of each post becomes more apparent, each time we crowd our Facebook connections with inappropriate invites and randomly add them to new groups that we don't even really know if they have an interest in.

So, yes, I'm admitting it, I AM BORED WITH FACEBOOK! I feel jaded and worn out with it. That exciting ping as I'm notified of an invitation to a local event, has deadened into an unwelcome thud, a drain on my resources, as I decline again and again, or can't decide between 10 great events in one day.

Then there is the responsibility of being a publisher, each and everyone of us is publishing when we press that 'post' button and sometimes the decision to post something that seems informative, can actually just stir up anxiety and Chinese whispers style speculation.

Facebook has maybe become the red topped, tabloid equivalent of the social media world, loads of people love that style of journalism. I don't.

What do you think?