How To Open a Coffee Shop With No Experience

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If you want to start a coffee shop but are concerned because you have no experience, you should know that you are in “the majority” and not exception.

The fact is that many successful coffee shop business owners today, started out with little experience in the retail coffee world. Nobody is born with the experience of starting or opening a café or coffee business. Even Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz, didn’t start off knowing everything about running a coffee shop. You have to learn it from somewhere. You have to get the experience from someplace.

But where and how do you get the experience to start your coffee business?

Well, let’s first begin with saying experience matters. Experience can help businesses avoid disasters, costly blunders, and total meltdowns. But how do you set out to open your coffee shop without any experience? 

While there is no right way to reach your optimal experience or knowledge level, there are some empowering steps that you can take to improve your chances of starting your coffee business successfully. We'll discuss these to open a coffee shop, how start a coffee business


 If you have no experience, we believe in doing three things:

  • Embark on a deliberate pursuit of practical knowledge.
  • Fine-tune your relevant learning to fit the subject matter.
  • Bring in people or team members that can strengthen your goals.

Fortunately, with the subject of retail coffee business, we don’t have to “invent the wheel.” There are other successful coffee business entrepreneurs who have the ability to show us how they did it and how we can use their experience and insight to getting your coffee business off the ground (We provide this opportunity to hear directly from individual coffee business owners in their own voice in our Coffee Startup Kit). The list above is pretty straight forward, but it still doesn’t offer the “how” we first asked.

So, let’s this by getting more specific: what kind of experience do you need to start a retail coffee business?

Here are some of the areas of expertise you will need to be familiar with:

  • Accounting
  • HR Management
  • Inventory Management
  • Organizational Management
  • Marketing
  • Vendor Relations
  • Customer Service
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Making Coffee
  • Cooking/Baking Experience (if needed)

If we look at the list, we see that for us to be effective at running our own business, we will need to have familiarity and even some working knowledge of each of these areas. Sure there may be other areas of knowledge you may need, but you can probably fit them in one of categories.  Now, if you have run your own business before this list is not surprising. Many of the categories can overlap and often do. For example, skills in accounting may help you with inventory management.

And yet there is one skill that is probably more important to have above all of these: the ability to stay organized.

Each of the above fields require you to be organized to run a successful coffee business. In fact, if you spend any time at your indie coffee shop, you will be able to tell that the coffee shop is either organized or not. A lack of organization can cripple your success outlook even if you have all of the relevant experience mentioned above.

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The Good News is You Can Learn These Skills

While there may be an anticipated “learning curve” in all of these areas, we have found that a coffee business owner with little or no experience can master these areas by incorporating our three recommendations we’ve listed above.

To quickly state them again:

  • Deliberately pursue each skill.
  • Adapting your existing knowledge to address your current needs.
  • Utilize the skills (and expertise) of others



 Before Beginning Your Coffee Business: Knowing What You Don’t Know

how to open an online coffee shopThe difficulty that many new and aspiring business owners have is not knowing which questions to ask experts or those knowledgeable in their fields.  After all, how do you know what to ask them? Our coffee shop startup kit provides you with an excellent starting point to increase your knowledge base with retail coffee – and starting a business in general.

By taking the time to listen to hours of interviews with coffee business experts and coffee shop owners, you will then begin to ask your secondary questions that will come naturally. Each person and each café will have their own unique attributes and circumstances – and with that uniqueness, will come the specific questions that you need answers to.  From not knowing anything – to being well-versed and with specific questions in hand, you will be able to utilize the help you do get from either consultants, advisors, investors, or employees.

Remove Yourself From the Shadows of “No Experience”

Everyone needs to start somewhere. We recommend shoring up your strengths and learning those things that you need to know. Consider taking a refresher course in business accounting at your local community college if you have the time. Taking a course, while you are saving money, exploring the other ways to start your coffee business may be a long-term appropriate use of your time and money. If you haven’t worked at a café – consider working part-time as a barista in a local café.

Many current owners have actually started out as a barista or in customer service. By gaining the experience you need with important “hands on’ training – you will be able to determine for yourself what works and what doesn’t.  This is where the “deliberate pursuit practical knowledge” we have mentioned earlier comes into play.

How To Start a Coffee Shop With No Experience

Step 1: Assess The Experience You Do Have

Step 2: Invest In Increasing Your Knowledge Base

Step 3: Get the Experience You Need Without Breaking the Bank

Step 4: Remain & Expand Your Passion About Starting Your Dream


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coffee shop employeesTaking a hard look at the experience (and knowledge) you do have – and being very honest with yourself about where you stand is among the first steps you must take before embarking on your coffee business. Take a look at the list I have written above. Among the items mentioned, what experience do you have? Consider your current profession. What are you doing know in any of the above areas of expertise? While you should be honest with your shortcomings, you also do not want to cut yourself short either.

Once you take the opportunity to do this, you will next be able to quickly understand where you should be investing your energy on (acquiring the knowledge and expertise) to start and open your own coffee business. This can be from taking a course, attending seminars, reading books, and utilizing resources to help you broaden your knowledge base.  This may include also getting and listening to our exclusive audio interviews found in our coffee shop startup business kit.

Getting the knowledge you need for your coffee business is important. But it is also requires that you get real-world experience. If you live in an urban setting, you may have more opportunities to get the real-world experience you need. You can work at a café or restaurant. You can visit with coffee roasters, attend coffee seminars, workshops, etc. If you live in a more secluded place with not a lot of options, you will need to take a drive or fly into get the necessary exposure and experience you need.

If you decide to take an accounting course, it may be difficult to maintain your passion. But if you do, the results will be worth it. Getting the experience you need is vital. It separates the dreamers from the doers, it provides you the foundation to succeed (though it wont guarantee success – as nothing will).

By assessing where you stand and working hard to fill the gaps you have, while maintaining the passion to start your coffee shop, you will be in a much better place to start, open, and launch your business. Stay passionate! Fall in love, again and again, with coffee!


start a coffee shop, how to start a coffee shop businessSo if you are exploring how to open your coffee shop without experience or very little experience let’s explore this in greater detail:

Step 1: Assess The Experience You Do Have

If you’ve spent time in different fields that may seem so far removed from operating a coffee shop, you might be questioning your level of confidence to open your own coffee business. Our recommendation is that you shouldn’t sell yourself short.

The truth is that a variety of jobs have transferable skills and traits. While we’ve already mentioned a few above, we’ll mention them here. If you have accounting or inventory experience, you’ll be well versed in something that you will need to do daily, weekly, and annually. If you’ve worked in marketing or sales, your skills in communication, branding, and pricing strategies will also come in handy.


Step 2: Invest In Increasing Your Knowledge Base

While you might be well-versed in business, accounting, or serving coffee, the truth is that as a small business owner you will be needed to be proficient at many different things. And the reality is that you will have to learn them all to some extent. For example, let’s say you are an excellent barista – but know nothing about accounting or financial documents.

While you can hire a book keeper and have someone help you with your taxes, you will need to know “something” about accounting. If you don’t learn and expand your knowledge base you will ultimately put your entire business at risk. So, start early – learn everything you can about starting a coffee business. Learn from other coffee shop owners. (By the way, we believe that our coffee shop business guide offers aspiring coffee shop owners a way of discovering topics they didn’t know about. After all, it is hard to succeed in an area that you don’t know about, right?

Step 3: Get the Knowledge & Experience You Need Without Breaking the Bank

Getting experience in a variety of business areas (and coffee service) is essential, but how? How do you get all the experience you need within several months or a half-a-year, while you are planning and opening your coffee business? Well, you have to start with what you know and assessing where you are at within each area: accounting, inventory management, marketing, coffee service, organizational management (which includes human resource management issues like hiring and firing.)

We encourage you to do whatever it takes to give yourself the knowledge and experience. If you haven’t before, consider working at a coffee shop, coffee stand, or restaurant – get direct experience with working with customers. Take a workshop in accounting or bookkeeping (which are often offered at your local community college or chamber of commerce. Additionally, interview coffee shop owners and veterans of the retail coffee business. The reality is coffee shop owners can shed more light on what you can expect when you start a coffee shop.

Step 4: Expand & Remain Passionate about Starting Your Dream Business

When you decide to “take the plunge” and make the decision to start your coffee business, you will be inundated by a variety of decisions and courses of action. It might be easy to get distracted from your initial passion: serve great coffee. By having a detailed business plan – and subsequent course of action taken – you will be able to stay focused on what needs to get done, while not losing your passion to start your business.

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Start a coffee business: Photo credit: Tumblr Black Oak Coffee

Getting a broad base of knowledge and then developing your expertise is critical; You  have to know that big picture; You have to be willing to look what others have done in the past. Knowing what has worked and knowing what has failed is vital to your business success.

From Novice To Expert in 20 Hours! What we believe other consultants don’t do: Provide you a way to gain your confidence, learn from other professionals directly, and provide you with case studies so that you can go from knowing “absolutely nothing” to be well-versed in what it takes to start your coffee business.

Do you remember the three points we started this article with?

  • Embark on a deliberate pursuit of practical knowledge.
  • Fine-tune your relevant learning to fit the subject matter.
  • Bring in people or team members that can strengthen your goals.

You can do those three with our Coffee Shop Startup Guide

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