How To Start an Online Coffee Business
If you’ve been thinking starting a coffee business, but aren’t sure if you are ready for a full-fledged coffee shop, you do have other options, including starting an online coffee business.
By getting started with an online coffee business, you can develop your coffee business brand, develop your expertise in coffee and related coffee equipment, and “test the waters” of becoming a coffee business owner.
The benefit of starting an online coffee shop or web-based coffee store is that you can start with relatively little money. Additionally, you can minimize excessive risks. Another benefit is that you can pay as you go for the needed investment such as a website, promotion channels, and products (inventory) that you intend to sell to your customers. In other words, an online coffee business can grow as you grow!
So, the following is a brief introduction to what you will need to get started with your online coffee business.
What You’ll Need To Start Your Online Coffee Business:
- Your Product(s) (Coffee Beans, Coffee Brewing or Roasting Supplies, etc.)
- Your Target Market
- Your Domain & Website
- Your Shopping Cart
- Your Creativity
- Take Some Action Today!
Quick Note: A list of resources can be found at the end of this article.
Step 1: Choose Your Product or Line of Products to Sell Online
To start an online coffee business, you will need a product to sell. Let us assume that you will have a variety of products that you would like to sell online – these may include green coffee beans, freshly roasted beans, espresso machines, coffee grinders, or anything in between.
However, at this point, if you haven’t decided on which products you want to sell online, that’s okay! Just continue reading along as you will want to know the actual process to move forward with your online coffee business before you jump into anything.
Deciding on your product is important because it impacts who your audience or your intended market is (or will be). Additionally, you may need to work out a way to get a hold of this inventory ahead of time. This means finding your product source.
You can do this through wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, or you can make your own products. Additionally, you may be able to develop a drop shipping relationship with manufacturers. Whichever route you decide, you will need a product that sells and resonates with your market!
Not sure what to sell with your online coffee shop? Here are a few ideas:
- Why not sell your own coffee roast from a single origin coffee bean? Order your green coffee beans from websites like Sweet Maria’s, roast them, package them, and sell them.
- Offer gift baskets of small batch, locally roasted coffee by your region’s best coffee roasters. You can approach small roasting companies in your area and see if they would sell to you. Of course, you might consider having your website up first.
- Sell new and refurbished coffee equipment or things like rare coffee brewing devices.
- Sell coffee art, coffee signs, coffee pour-over holders, etc.
Know Your Target Market
Who are you going to sell to? While many people may be interested in buying coffee, coffee supplies, or other items you intend to sell, the best thing to do is really be specific with who your target market is. Determine who your customer is. This will help you create your website content in a manner that is better received by those you seek to sell to. So, go and discover your target market, they are waiting for you!
What’s Your Competition Doing?
Knowing who your competition is important. Not because you want to “snoop” around and gawk at what they are doing, but because you want to know your market. You want to understand who you competition is because you want to understand the market place in general. You want to know what products are already being offered and what products are missing.
Keep in mind, that having others “doing the same thing” is actually not a bad thing. It means that there is a market for your products. Healthy competition means that there is a pool of willing consumers who want to buy. Offering something different and developing your own competitive advantage within a healthy market place will be important to understand before you decide on: 1) What product(s) to offer 2) How to market to your target audience.
Step 2: Buy Your Domain Name
Your “Domain Name” is your website address or URL. For example, the domain name of this website is CoffeeShopStartUps.com.
If you already have a domain name, you are ahead of the game here, but if you don’t yet have one, you will need to buy one through a “Domain Registrar” such as BlueHost.com. (Get your FREE domain name with Blue Host by Clicking Here)
A quick note about domain names: Domain names with (dot)coms at the end are getting harder and harder to find, so get your domain name as fast as you can, even if you want to hold off on starting your actual business for a few months.
Domain names are one way to affirm your brand or future branding efforts, so try to get something as close to your company’s name as possible. Of course, you can use any of the available domain endings. Just be sure to continuously remind your customers.
Step 3: Hosting Your Website and a Shopping Cart
There are two directions you can go for getting your website online and store up and running:
The first option is to host your own website (through a service like Blue Host) and then link a third-party shopping cart or use a free WordPress shopping cart plugin. Either way, this is easier than it sounds! That is exactly what we do here at CoffeeShopStartups.com.
You can simply buy a website together with a shopping cart through a full-hosted service like Shopify.
I have tried both ways and I must say that they both have their pluses (+) and negatives (-). The website you are visiting now (CoffeeShopStartups.com) is self-hosted through a hosting company. However, your website can be fully hosted though websites like Shopify.
From a convenience factor, it is certainly easier to get your shopping cart, your website, and your hosting service all wrapped up in one monthly package and payment with website hosting services such as Shopify.
This is especially true if you are not sure if your online coffee business will be viable in the long run and you don’t want to mess with learning about the “back end administration” and HTML code of your website. In other words, if you just want to sell or even test your products, you might just want to go with Shopify.
Yet, there is nothing wrong with learning how to do-it-yourself! Consider this very website, CoffeeShopStartUps.com. As you can see, we own this domain and it is being hosted by a hosting company. But for our customers to make purchases we have decided to go with a third-party digital product e-commerce platform, Selz.com.
So, if you wanted to purchase our Coffee Business Plan Guide, you will be redirected from our website to their secured e-commerce website – and you will make the purchase from their website. Once the transaction is made, they pay us. We never deal with credit card information. In our opinion, it is one of the best ways to sell online.
Using WordPress. WordPress is an open source content management system that is getting better and easier to use all the time. It is continually being updated by an army of dedicated volunteers. Nearly 1 out of every 5 websites online today is ran through WordPress.org.
You got the skills: I always say that if you are able to open an email account through GMAIL and you know how to use Microsoft Word, you can learn how to use WordPress.org to create your own website.
Consider what you will need to start a website (approximate costs):
Self Hosted Website Through Blue Host & WordPress.org
- Your Domain Name ($22-$24 per year with privacy add-on) FREE with BlueHost!
- Your Website Hosting Service (Approximately $80 per year)
- Your Website Theme (Costs from Free to $60)
- Your Affiliation with a E-commerce Platform (Small % of each sale)
Total approximate annual first year cost = $175
(Plus e-commerce fees)
Using Shopify‘s All-in-One Package
- Shopify costs = $29.00 a month (and up depending on the plan)
- Website Theme (From $0 to $150)
- Various Plugins (Costs also depends on the plugins you may need or want)
Total annual first year cost = $348
In my opinion, choosing Shopify is very good way to go and may be the most hassle-free route to get your online coffee business running. However, the nominal price you do pay may be worth it, as you don’t have to spend hours and hours learning computer code.
Let me explain: One of the biggest drawbacks of doing-it-yourself, is that it may take a long time to learn how to fluently put all these pieces together. Such pieces include your themes, your shopping cart, your plugins, and your HTML code.
If you choose to go with WordPress.org, you will have to learn some HTML code at some point, or hire a web developer to help you iron out a few bugs with your website etc. (Again, it’s not necessary to hire someone, but you will be spending many, many nights trying to figure out the slight complexities to making your website and store the way you want it.)
Learning the “back end” of your website will take time, skill, and will sap your energy from your real business objectives, which is selling coffee related items! However, if you have the time, the passion, and the curiosity, then you will be able to save a lot of money down the road.
A second possible drawback is that unless you get a premium plugin (like WooCommerce – which can cost you an additional $69-$129), your customers to be taken offline to a third party platform to make their purchase. We skip the plugin altogether, however, and use Selz.com.
Consider this: Whichever route you choose, your shopping cart should be able to securely process PayPal and credit cards, if you want to sell physical products.
Quick Tangent: What Is a “Website theme”?
Answer: A Theme is the code package that provides a specific “look and feel” of your website. A baking website will perhaps have a different theme than a corporate-based website. A website theme comes bundled in a package of code, which the platform reads – and which is displayed to you and viewers of your website.
The Easier Alternative: Use Shopify or Something Similar
If you decide to move forward from an e-commerce plan or platform like Shopify, you can simply purchase a basic monthly plan – and everything will be hosted for you. In addition, you will be able to easily develop your website, configure your shopping cart, and start selling right away.
The positives is that you will be able get this done all pretty quickly. Shopify allows you to buy and upload a theme (or style of your website) and additional applications pretty easily.
I’ve broken it down here:
Option #1 (Recommended): To quickly and efficiently open up your online coffee business, pick a website and shopping cart plan on Shopify.
You will be able to choose your own template (some are free and others cost about $100 to $150).
The free theme that comes with your Shopify plan also works great too! The great thing about going this route, aside from being able to start selling right away, is that you don’t have to know any computer language or fiddle with much of the <computer code> that many people have to do when they launch a self-hosted plan.
Receive your Free Trial With Shopify
Option #2 (Also Recommended): Use your own domain name and shared hosting service (like Blue Host) with a website theme that supports a shopping cart (Selz.com) that you can use with PayPal.
The reason we recommend with reservations because while it will save you money, it requires you to set it up. But don’t worry, it’s not so hard. Check out the video we created to help you set up your WordPress Website with Blue Host Here.
Step 4: Online Marketing and Getting the Word Out
Once you’ve got your store up and running. Now it’s time to promote your store. Websites, books, and other online resources can go into much more detail than I can here, but it is important for me to mention this here. Your marketing campaign can begin at any time, even long before you spend your first dime.
Consider the following ways to promote your online coffee store:
- Engage in Social Media
- Develop Your Email List
- Meet new people in person
- Create Business Cards
- Paid Internet Ads Via Facebook
Step 5: Happy Selling!
Sometimes you just gotta do it! Keep in mind that you will be tweaking and adjusting as you go. Don’t let being “perfect” stop you. Generate value for your customer wherever you can. Use your coffee expertise along the way to generate value for your customers.
Additionally, keep in mind that at first, you should consider having minimal inventory. It doesn’t make sense to buy a boat load of coffee to just sit there while you figure out your new online business. Remember, there will be a learning curve but if you move forward in a steady fashion, you’ll be in a better position to make a profit.
How To Start an Online Coffee Business Resources:
Get Your Website Domain Name: Blue Host (Free Domain with your Hosting Plan)
Website & Shopping Cart (All in One): Shopify (Recommended)
Shared-Hosting Service: Blue Host (Recommended)
Starting any business online can be both profitable and necessary depending on which part of the coffee business you are coming from. This article will discuss some ways in which you can start your own online coffee business successfully. Full disclosure, some of the links may be affiliate links that cost you nothing – but support this website through a small commission.