Today I am overwhelmed by the coffee shop idea. I think it has something to do with the aisle - AN ENTIRE AISLE - of Torani drink syrups.
I want to throw all these thoughts and ideas at you and see what you think. But first I should say that the idea has morphed a little, from a coffee shop with homemade treats, to a bakery that also sells coffee. I suppose this was always the vision, seeing as how both the FPC and I are infinitely more interested in flour, sugar, and butter than we are coffee beans. Also that both of us have worked barista jobs and aren't particularly excited about doing it again. (GOOD PEOPLE TO START A COFFEE SHOP, EH?!) We've had a lot of fun dreaming up a menu - baked goods, snacks, lunchy items, kid-friendly and kid-sized bento boxes even - and the coffee is... well definitely not an AFTERTHOUGHT, but not the focus. I think that's okay.
And it's not a cafe. We don't want to do REAL food. We will have some TYPES of real food, and things you could order for your kids' lunch that you could feel virtuous about, but we won't be making to-order sandwiches and that sort of thing. After all, the FPC and I are the sort of people who would eat a croissant followed up by a brownie for lunch. Our working name is Little Cousins Bakery & Playroom. Please, I beg you people to think of something better.
So a BAKERY, that sells coffee and encourages you to sit down in our, hopefully, large space full of chairs and tables and couches and things for your kids to do and play with. Which reminds me of the most troubling aspect of this whole thing - I'm not worried about getting customers, but I AM worried about getting enough customers in and out of the store. From what I've read, coffee shops make money by selling lots of coffee. (You can tell I did not go to business school.) And that means getting people in and out. I can see this being the sort of place where there isn't really a quick turnaround. This is why I think it has to be a pretty large space, to accommodate a lot of people who might want to stay on a rainy day. A large space costs more. So. Blargh.
- Even if we wipe things down and disinfect the toys ten times a day, is that enough to kill germs/calm the parents?
- Is it prohibitvely expensive to lease a commercial space with a kitchen? Is this why hardly any of the coffee shops I go to sell their own treats?
- What kind of liability insurance will this require?
- What happens if you take out a small business loan and then, ah, can't pay it back? *bats eyelashes*
Honestly, my biggest personal thing to figure out is if I have the TIME. I'm not a total idiot. I know that people who open small businesses are working crazy hours to get it off the ground. Even if they have employees, no one works harder than they do. And I'm also aware that as hard as I think I'll have to work, the truth is that I'll probably have to work twice THAT hard.
But! In our house, Phillip's career is the priority and because I do what I do, he's able to move up and ahead and do what he needs to do. It would be a big sacrifice for our family, either in terms of time or money or Phillip's commitment to HIS work - likely all three - if I were to devote all my free time and energy (and more than what I currently have free, of course) to opening a bakery with my sister. I'm not sure I want to go there. This isn't my long time pursue-at-all-costs dream. Also, Phillip works a job that pays actual money, whereas I am good at thinking of things to do that will COST us money.
I can't really figure that out, though, unless I figure out what it will take to open a bakery. Maybe we can hire enough help so that we can still be parents too. Which is why the FPC and I went out to price things today. We meant to price out equipment and ingredients, but the restaurant store isn't open on Sundays. So we went to the Cash 'n Carry instead and maybe it was a good thing that we only did that because DUDE. OVERWHELMED.
We went to the Cash 'n Carry because the FPC's former boss would go there when that bakery was low on supplies. It was... well you go in sort of expecting everything to be labeled ACME, but to my surprise there were actually a lot of name brand items, as well as things I had absolutely never seen before. Pouches of bavarian creme filling? That are not refrigerated? Powdered lactose-free soft-serve mix. Enormous bags of specialty flour. Vats of frying oil. Buckets of baking powder. And an aisle of Torani drink syrups, every imaginable flavor, four dollars and eight cents each.
The FPC went down each aisle with her notebook and pen, writing down useful information, while I went around taking photos with Instagram and exclaiming over sizes and amounts and OMG that is a CRAP TON of soy sauce! (Not useful.)
In the car on the way home we talked about how the FPC would translate her notes into "how much stuff we need and how much it will cost" and it just sounds like... well, for one thing, a lot of math. But everything is an estimation and we've never done this before and I am OVERWHELMED. I keep telling myself that OTHER people open coffee shops and bakeries and they are not ALL smarter than me, but yeah, right now I'm feeling fairly uneducated.
At least when we go to price out equipment those will be one-time costs and not this, you know, five bags of flour per week or whatever it is that we'll need.
Since I've been talking about this with real life friends, I've found out that one kid-friendly coffee shop is out of business and one is now charging for playtime. We are not interested in either of those things. I'm worried that this is a great but not terribly profitable idea.
I'm just overwhelmed. I don't quite know what to do next. I feel like I have to figure out all the stuff that scares me, like the capital and the accounting and insurance and rents and omg buying and learning to use a CASH REGISTER. I can't think about anything FUN because those things are FUN and if all I do is think about the FUN parts I'll never get anywhere. I have to concentrate on how HARD it will be and how TIRING and STRESSFUL and EXPENSIVE and RISKY and then, I suppose, if I'm STILL interested, then I guess I really AM interested. Or I have what it takes. Or I could try and SEE if I have what it takes.
I KNOW. I KNOW. I KNOW.
Okay, so my next steps are:
1. Invite some friends to dinner, one of whom is writing a business plan to open his own sports bar, for reals. He's currently the assistant manager at an Actual Restaurant and Isn't A Dummy. Pick his brain.
2. Read. Google. Make lists.
3. Start putting a business plan together, piece by piece, investigating as we go. Phillip is excited about this part, thank God.
4. Talk to the owner of one of the kid-friendly coffee shops I know about. According to the FPC, people in the food business LOVE to talk about being in the food business and will most likely LOVE being The Expert and telling us all about their experience.
I think that's what I need/want most. To talk to someone who's done it before. Even if it's not quite exactly the same. Can you be a mom of young children and pull this off? Can you be successful? Can it be simple or do you have to add in birthday parties and classes and other stuff to make money? Do you have to have EVERY flavor of Torani syrup?