Want to Sell Roasted Coffee Online?
Can you sell coffee online and make money? Yes.
Can it be profitable? Yes.
In this article, I will tell you exactly how you can break into the coffee scene and start making money – and sell coffee online, which can eventually lead you to opening up your own coffee shop or setting up your own coffee stand business. (Hey, why not?)
In addition, I will share a couple of sure-fire way to make money that works with some real life examples.
This is exciting to write about because there is just so much potential in this online coffee space. And if, done right, it can literally change your life… well, at least your business!
In writing about selling coffee online for a wide audience, I realize that many people will be starting from different places. So, I will first try to cast a wide net to be inclusive as possible and then narrowly focus on the specifics and “How-To’s” of setting up your online coffee business.
But let me be clear right from the start. Starting any business takes time. It can be hard. There will be challenges. When you sell coffee online, it can be the same. It can take some time to gain traction and start making a profit. When you are essentially starting out on your own – you will have to wear multiple hats.
That’s just the way it is.
But…if you hang in there, adapt, follow the steps that I give you, and stay persistent throughout the process, your success will be that much better.
Now, I’m not promising anything. Nor am I promoting any quick-rich ideas here (that’s not what this website it about). But if you are able to generate a good product, have a good website, and be consistent at promoting your website, then I believe that you will develop a successful online coffee business. Let's create an online business that you can be proud about and be profitable with too!
With that said, let’s move forward!
First, if you are still sitting on the fence about selling coffee (or anything else) online, let’s talk about the potential of this online selling niche.
Why sell coffee online?
- People love coffee! I love coffee. And chances are that you love coffee too! We are not alone! Nearly 8 out of ten people drink coffee regularly in the United States. That means, in the U.S. alone, you’re customer base in enormous.
- People are willing to pay a premium for great coffee that comes with a story. People enjoy sharing the coffee and the story that comes with each cup.
- People love to try out new coffee profiles. Every day people are becoming more educated about the coffee that they drink. That means they are generally interested and open to trying new coffee roasts, blends, and single origins from different countries.
- People love to share and give coffee as a gift. Coffee makes a great gift for any occasion! Birthdays, holidays, or just as a ‘Thank you!” Coffee can be a great gift and thus, a great product to promote year-round!
- People love to buy local or support local coffee roasters and retailers. With an online coffee business you are in the unique position to offer local coffee literally anywhere!
- Just like food, the coffee you drink can be so different from the next coffee. There are many variables that guarantee no-two coffees roasts are the same. By offering your coffee, you automatically offer something “different” for your customers. This built-in product differentiation is important to realize in a competitive market.
- Green coffee beans have a pretty decent shelf-life (if you’re roasting your own). This means that you can hold on to inventory as you slowly build your roasting business.
- There are many “right ways” to get started to selling coffee online. This means that there is room for success regardless of whichever path you choose!
- There’s money in it. You can create a profitable online business with selling coffee (and I’ll show you how).
Of course, there are 101 other reasons why you should be selling coffee online. Most notably, by first selling your coffee online you can take the first steps in developing your own local coffee brand and establishing yourself as a future coffee shop (if that is what you want). Many, many, many coffee shops start out this way.
Where You Might Be Starting Your Business From…
Chances are if you are reading this, you will be starting your online coffee business from a different place from another reader. So let me acknowledge a few starting points here.
So who might you be?
- You might be a coffee roaster enthusiast who wants to branch out and sell your coffee online.
- You might have very little coffee experience but you are looking for a space and niche to make money online
- You may simple love coffee and want to sell coffee from your favorite region to the rest of the world
- You may want to start your own coffee shop one day and want to develop your branding, your local customer base, and make money at the same doing it.
Where do you fall in? You might have a totally different starting point. And that’s okay! Hopefully, I will address the major avenues that cover all of these points and yours too. (If not feel free to email me and I will add it to this article in a later update.)
Let’s Start With The Basics: What Do You Need to Sell Coffee Online?
1. You’ll need coffee beans (of course!)
2. You will need a website (for people to find you!)
3. You will need to develop your brand (a logo, for example, is a part of your branding)
4. You will need a shopping cart (to accept payments)
5. You will need to market your coffee (identify your target market)
6. You will need shipping materials, coffee bags, etc.
7. You will need to establish your business
Alright, so let’s start going deeper here and address all of these points. It’s important to recognize that there is no “right way” to start your online business. You can probably do most of these steps in a different sequence and in a different manner. But for simplicity sake, I will address them one at a time.
Some, of you might have an entirely different way. If so, great! Like I said, there is no “right way” to start an online coffee business!
Building Your Online Coffee Business on Quality, Branding or Both?
Regardless of where you are starting from and what your ultimate business goals are, you want to aggressively lean towards offering a quality product and back it up with great service. It’s our assumption that your branding efforts will reflect the quality coffee offerings that you are trying to develop.
Therefore, developing a high quality brand and offering high quality coffee requires an investment in you (your expertise), your business (your equipment) and your product (the quality of your beans).
Delivering all of this in an acceptable price range will be your challenge. People, especially coffee lovers, who believe in your brand, your quality and everything your coffee represents, will definitely be willing to pay slightly higher prices (but not that much higher). So keeping prices low as possible, developing your brand and customer base is essential, and starting out small and growing out will help with all of these elements.
The important thing is to identify what it is that you want to do. This is your business that completely dependent on your resources of time, money, and expertise.
What's your ultimate goal? Do you want to establish a coffee brand? Do you want to offer unique coffee profiles? Do you want to make money doing it? Of course, you probably want ALL three of these but, they require time, investment, and economies of scale (that means that you will need more customers to lower your prices) to make a profit.
My recommendation is that you start out small and grow steadily. Don’t put all your money into inventory. Invest in your website and developing your local followers. Invest in your expertise by learning as much about coffee, vendor, coffee roasting, and marketing.
Establish Your Online Coffee Business Goals
You will want to establish your online coffee business goals before you set out start your business. Consider the following questions:
- How much coffee do you intend to sell?
- Who are you planning to sell your coffee to?
- What are your ultimate business goals?
Take a moment to address these questions. Go ahead and look at them again and ask yourself those three basic questions.
As an example, let me answer these questions for you and let me use them in the upcoming example.
Here is my sample scenario:
I would like to sell at least 40 pounds of coffee every week to people who want to try coffee from roasters from my region (The Greater Seattle Area). I will not sell my own roasted coffee, but I will develop relationships with 10 local coffee roasters. My customers will be local and national customers who want to send gifts to family and friends or who just to try local coffee from their own home.
My goal is to make a profit online and grow my side business so that I can leave my current job. I wish to work from home to be able to spend more time with my family. To do this I will need to sell X pounds of coffee.
This is just a sample or example scenario. I want to give you a basic picture of where one of you might be coming from. In this sample scenario, I've chosen to skip the roasting of coffee beans altogether. However, I recognize that some of you might be roasting your own coffee beans. That's great! The only thing that changes is where you get the supply of coffee beans from (In this case it would be from you!). So, stick around, we’ll be getting to you next.
Selling To Coffee Shops
You might have a different goal for your coffee sales. While selling to individual consumers might be good, you may be interested in selling your coffee to new or existing coffee shops or restaurants or any place that serves coffee. This is great goal. Just a few commercial accounts can offer you large or bulk orders on a weekly basis that bring in steady revenue.
If you sell your coffee for $8-10 a pound and your coffee shops order 100 pounds a month, you can see the income (minus your costs) can be very beneficial. Multiply (to varying degrees) my multiple cafe establishments and you will be well only your way to generating significant revenue.
Before you approach any coffee shop, you want to make sure that you are able to roast enough coffee for their needs as well as your needs (for online sales). Additionally, you will want to ensure that you offer different options for each cafe. At the very least, you want to offer an espresso blend, a decaf blend, and a pour-over blend (at minimum).
Roasting at such a large volume will require you to make larger capital investments, adhere to local building and health codes and provide delivery options for your clients. If this is the case, I would make sure that you write a comprehensive business plan for your coffee roasting business.
Establish Your Business Structure
Now would be a good time to think about your actual legal business structure. Setting yourself up as a legal business entity will help open up some important doors and provide you the legal protection that you will want. Additionally, it will help you establish a bank account, allow you to write off legitimate business expenses, help you get insurance, etc.
All these things will be important as you move forward. So, make sure you consider doing the following:
1. Establish your business structure within you state.
2. Open a bank account.
3. Determine any further operating requirements
Step 1: Getting Your Coffee
You will need a product to sell. In this case, we are talking about selling roasted coffee beans.
You can either roast your own coffee beans or you can buy them wholesale from a local roaster. That is what my sample scenario will have me do. So my job is to visit 10-12 local coffee roasters and cafes, try their coffee and see if you can meet with them.
If you decide to roast your own coffee beans, you will need to have a couple of things:
- Green coffee beans
- A coffee roaster
- A little expertise
Green Beans – You can order green coffee beans from Sweet Maria's and experiment with different origins. There are plenty of other places you can get green coffee beans, but some of the green coffee retailers are also out to make a profit so, you need to be aware of your costs.
For example, on Amazon one retailer is selling their green coffee beans for $10.95 a pound. For average coffee that price may be a bit too high, especially when your selling point will be roughly $12- $15 dollars per pound. There are also some green coffee suppliers that might be able to sell you coffee from the “spot” market, but if you just starting out consider ordering from Sweet Maria’s. Additionally, they are a great resource for actually learning about coffee roasting.
A coffee roaster – there are some really good table coffee roasters available if you want to make the hefty investment. For example a Diedrich table coffee roaster (the IR-1) can cost up to $3500. It’s capable of 1 Kg batches at about 3-5 roasts per hour. For a much larger roaster, the costs go up considerably. You will also have to figure the costs of transporting, setting up your roaster, and having all the amenities it requires such as gas and power.
You can also get a much smaller roaster on Amazon, like this one. However, if you are planning on steady growth and more commercial clients and online sales, you may want to pick up a larger commercial roaster, made by companies such as a Diedrich or Probat. Additionally, you will need to check with your local health and building departments to make sure that you are up to “code” in the space you are roasting in.
Expertise – Roasting coffee is an art. Sure there are some common benchmarks to look out for, such as the first and second “cracks” but much of your roasting will consist of a lot of experimenting. My recommendation is that you collaborate with existing coffee roasters in your area.
Additionally, here are a couple of books you might want to invest in:
Step 2: Getting Coffee From Local Roasters
In the above sample scenario, I described how I would be meeting with the top 10-12 coffee roasters that I like and who’s coffee I want to promote. In your city or town (or state), you may not have that many independent coffee roasters. (Though I believe they are out there!)
Let’ say that there are only six or so roasters. That’s fine too! I would work with them to buy their coffee beans at “wholesale”. They would sell their coffee to me as if I were a new coffee shop in town. I would use their label and sell it in smaller sample bags that are less than a pound.
Like this one below:
Approaching Local Coffee Roasters
Local coffee roasters are interested in two things: Sharing their coffee and making a profit. This means that they will most likely be willing to meet with you and talk to you about creating a wholesale account. Leveraging the expertise and convenience of having an established roaster take care of the coffee for your online business is very appealing.
It's also good for the local roaster! Having a new business actively pushing to sell their coffee is always an endearing idea. Still others may not like you selling coffee this way. Don’t worry about those coffee roasters that don’t. Move on and try to approach the next coffee roaster.
My recommendation is that before you approach a coffee roaster about selling your coffee, you should be aware of what kind of business you are doing and you should have your website up.
Additionally, you might also want to have a printed business card with a logo already on it.
Nobody likes their time wasted. By having an established website, logo, business plan, and social media accounts with engaged followers, your local coffee roaster would take you seriously.
So, let’s talk about your online presence…
Step 3: Your Online Coffee Business Website
I have a secret to tell you: To have an online coffee business, you will need a website.
Well, that’s not really a secret, but many people still wonder if they can get away without having an actual website. And the simple answer is No! No! No!
Your website is your place and space for visitors to reach your online coffee business and buy from you.
So, YES, you will need a website!
Even if you decide to sell coffee beans on Facebook, Etsy, or some other online platform, there is nothing more basic than to have your own business securely tied to your own website.
That comes to my next point, your website not only sells your coffee items but it tells your story. People want to read about you or your coffee offerings. They want to see your pictures, your videos (if you choose to put them up), and even share your business with their family and friends.
The bottom line is that you need a website!
Fortunately, creating a website is a lot easier today than ever. When it comes to your coffee shop business, you have many options, but I always recommend three of my favorite:
- Create your own self-hosted website (this is the cheapest way to go but also requires you to spend a little time learning how to do it, which is NOT difficult! But it requires some time.)
- Use a service like Shopify.
- Use a service like Selz.
Pick an online platform that works for you and your business model.
Let’s explain these options a little more:
- Shopify – Shopify is by the far the easiest and most elegant solution. It incorporates a seamless, safe, and robust shopping cart and allows you to have a beautiful website and collect payments easily. (By the way, you can get your special FREE Shopify trial here)
- Selz – Selz is a GREAT platform to sell your coffee beans on (this what we use here at CSSU to sell our Coffee Shop Startup Kit). View Selz and their monthly pricing options here.
- WordPress – You can create your own WordPress website or blog. WordPress is a robust and free software that you can use to create your own website. Though you will need to pay for your own hosting and domain name, it is by far the cheapest way to set up your online coffee website.
Again, to have your own WordPress website, you will need:
- Your Domain Name
- Your Website Hosting
- Free WordPress software (which you can upload directly using your Blue Host account!)
I explain in this video how to attach your domain name to your hosting account (if you bought your domain name through a different registrar).
“Pros & Cons” of Each Website Platform Recommendation
(Free goodies below with our recommendations!)
Pros and Cons Shopify
Shopify Pros: You can get a beautiful website up and running fast and easy. If you have the ability to create your own Facebook profile, you can easily create your own Shopify store (Yes! That’s how easy it is!). Shopify has a secure and easy to use shopping cart which allows you to start taking payments right away.
Shopify Cons: There is a monthly charge that starts at $29. While there is a free theme, using a custom them can be expensive.
Start Your Free Trial With Shopify
Pros and Cons of Selz
Selz Pros: Easy to set up. You can sell anything from digital products to physical products. You can utilize and integrate a number of applications. There are a variety of plans from free to premium per month. They are all very affordable. You can embed Selz into your WordPress site and use it to sell on your social media accounts like Facebook. They shopping cart is secure as any other major shopping cart. Also they have great customer service.
Selz Cons: Not many cons that I can think of… there are a few minor customization issues that I have seen, but you can easily work around these in your shopping cart.
Start Your Free Trial With Selz
Pros and Cons WordPress
Pros of WordPress: WordPress allows you to do so much. It gives you the freedom to create the website that you would like to create. WordPress is Google friendly – meaning that Google generally likes WordPress websites, which is very helpful when you depend on organic web traffic. You can use multiple plugins for a variety of customizations on your website. Also, it is probably the least expensive option. Additionally, if you want multiple websites, you will not have to pay for additional website, which works out to having considerable savings.
Cons of WordPress: You will need website hosting and your domain name. You will need to upload WordPress to your hosting provider (which is easy). You will need to choose a WordPress theme and customize it. There is no shopping cart, which means you will need to use a WooCommerce plugin or you can use a third-party site, like Selz.
Step 4: Your Logo and Branding Development
Your logo and subsequent branding efforts are important to your online coffee business. Especially when people don’t know who you are. People don’t care if you are a small business. They care if it’s a quality business and your logo and branding will embody that quality.
You will need a logo to use on your website, your coffee bags that you sell, any materials that you make for your customers, as well as your social media accounts.
Hire an affordable graphic or logo designer using services like UpWork.com. I prefer UpWork, compared to other alternatives like Fiverr.com because people seem to be more accountable on UpWork.
Pictures for your Website:
If you are just starting out and don’t have any pictures. Simply go to your local coffee shop or roaster. Order a latte and take pictures of it… drink and repeat!
When you are just starting out, you don’t need lots of pictures for your website, but you do need some.
Chances are that you’re going to be drinking coffee today. Why not visit a coffee shop (or two) and take a couple of pictures. (Take horizontal and vertical pictures!)
Step 5: Your Shopping Cart
When you sell coffee online, you need a way to collect and process orders. If you use services like Shopify or Selz, you will already have a safe and reliable way to collect money via credit cards or using PayPal (or both).
If you have a WordPress website, you can easily use an e-commerce plugin like Woo Commerce to sell and process items. Or you can mix up your arrangement and use a hybrid of options. For example, you can have your own WordPress website and use Selz as a shopping cart.
Selz allows you to embed a small code on your WordPress site so that customers can order directly on your website!
Step 6: Marketing & Promotion and Learning As You Go!
Marketing your online coffee business will be important for your online coffee business. This is especially true as you begin to sell coffee online.
The first step in promoting your website is to make sure that your website is worthy for people to visit. If you already have a website or you are familiar with online marketing, you know that “onsite” and “off-site” SEO is critical.
What is SEO? SEO means Search Engine Optimization. Basically, it is the practice and art of ranking high on Google’s search engine (or any other search engine).
There are millions of websites that talk about coffee. Allowing Google to determine that you have an ecommerce coffee business website, is made possible by making sure your website is optimized for Google’s search spiders.
SEO requires you to have well-written information on your website, such as blog posts, pages, and product pages.
Utilizing social media, with tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, will be important for you to generate brand awareness.
While social media is great. There are plenty of other options for you to do (many of them free) to generate awareness.
An Online Coffee Business in Action
Still not sure you want to sell coffee online? Alright, so I promised you a real-life example of a successful online coffee business.
Well, let me introduce you to Seattle-based BeanBox.com. These folks started with an idea: To sell coffee online and share Seattle’s best roasters with the world.
Simple right? Did they need a coffee roaster? Nope.
They don’t roast their own coffee. They don't serve coffee. They don't make latte art. Instead they leverage their connections with local coffee roasters sell coffee online.
They essentially curate Seattle’s best coffees, order coffee from these roasters, and package them for resale in beautiful and convenient package.
In three years they have had tremendous success and are growing steady every season. Now remember, don’t compare yourself to where they are today. Imagine where these guys were just a few years ago… with just an idea to share Seattle’s coffee. Sure, Seattle has great coffee roasters, but chances are your community does too! Why not share coffee found in your region?
After all, it is possible. And it can be profitable!
Your Next Action Steps: Only You Can Take Action On Starting Your Online Coffee Business
Sell coffee online: What Can You Do TODAY to Build Your Online Coffee Business?
Here are our basic recommendations to get you started with selling coffee online.
- Get Your E-commerce Website through:
- Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
- Visit coffee roasters, cafes, and take pictures!
Do you still have questions about selling your coffee online? Do you need help? Send me an email!
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