The Ultimate Guide
How To Start an Online Coffee Business
If you’ve been thinking starting a coffee business, but aren’t sure if you are ready to open a full-fledged coffee shop, you actually do have other options to enter the retail coffee industry, including starting an online coffee business.
By getting started with an online coffee business, you can develop your coffee business brand (which is important starting out). You can also develop your expertise in coffee and related coffee equipment. These are important avenues to “test the waters” of becoming an actual coffee shop or coffee stand owner.
The primary benefit of starting an online coffee shop or web-based coffee store is that you can start with relatively little money. In fact, you can start an online store with as little as $200. Of course, larger stores with significant inventories can cost thousands. The point here is that you can get started with modest savings while minimizing excessive financial risks.
Another benefit of starting an online coffee business is that you can “pay as you go” for the needed investment such as your website and hosting, promotional efforts, and buying your inventory. In other words, an online coffee business can grow as you grow!
Would you like to learn more about starting an online coffee business?
The following article below is a brief introduction of everything you need to get started with your online coffee business. We'll cover the steps and tools to start your online coffee business so that you can launch and succeed in your own online coffee business.
Keep Reading Below…
What You'll Need To Start Your Online Coffee Business:
- Your Product (Such as coffee beans, teas, coffee brewing supplies, etc.)
- Know Your Target Market
- Get Your Domain & Website
- Select Your Shopping Cart
- Be Creative!
- Take Action!
Quick Note: An additional list of important 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 or brewing machines, coffee grinders, or anything in between.
However, at this point, if you haven’t decided on which coffee products you want to sell online, that’s okay!
We will describe the actual process to move forward with your online coffee business before you jump into anything.
Deciding on your product to sell 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 or at a wholesale rate. This means finding your product source.
You can do this through wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, or you can make your own products, such as roasted coffee. Additionally, you may be able to develop a drop shipping relationship with manufacturers (This is where you get the customer to order from you and then the manufacturer ships the product directly to the customer).
Whichever e-commerce route you decide, you will need a product that sells and resonates with your particular market. Therefore identifying who your market is will be essential.
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Not sure what to sell with your online coffee store?
Here are a few ideas:
- Roasted Beans – 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! For larger orders, you should look for a green coffee broker or importer.
- Curated Coffee Beans – 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.
- Coffee Equipment – Sell new and refurbished coffee equipment or things like rare coffee brewing devices.
- Artsy stuff – Sell coffee art, coffee signs, mugs, cups, holders, Thermos containers, 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 very, very, very specific with who your target market is. Then, cater your entire online enterprise towards them.
You have to determine who your customer is or will be. This will help you create your website content that better appeals to your market base.
So, go and discover your target market, they are waiting for you!
What's Your Competition Doing?
Who is already doing what you're wishing to do? How are they doing it?
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. What products are selling well? Which products will you add to your inventory to appeal to your market base?
Additionally, you want to figure out who they believe their target market is. Will your target market be the same? Will a segment of their target market overlap with yours?
Keep in mind, that having others “doing the same thing” is actually not a bad thing. It just means that there is a “market” for your products. Healthy competition means that there is a pool of willing consumers who want to buy what you are selling.
Reflect on what they are doing. How can you position yourself differently? 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 and; 2) How to market to your target audience. In other words, first, decide on your product, determine who your customer will be. Then determine how you will position yourself to those customers.
Often times this comes to delivering better information, customer service, memorable branding, and authenticity.
Step #2: Buy Your Domain Name
Buy your domain name and get a website. Your “Domain Name” is your website address (Also know as your “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 Blue Host. Domain names are leased every year for about $15-$25 dollars. You can get your free domain name with any Blue Host hosting package. Visit Blue Host here.
A note about domain names:
Domain names with the (dot)”com” at the end of an web address are getting harder and harder to find, so consider getting your domain name as quickly as you can, even if you want to hold off on starting your actual website for a few months. Get the name first!
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, but “.com” is certainly the most popular.
Step #3: Hosting Your Website and Shopping Cart
There are two general ways you can launch your online coffee store:
The first option is to build and host your own WordPress website (through a service like Blue Host). Then link a third-party shopping cart or use a free WordPress shopping cart plugin.
Many website WordPress themes provide an easy way to customize your own website for about $50.
Creating your own website might sound overwhelming but this is a lot easier than it sounds! This is exactly what we do here with our website at CoffeeShopStartups.com. (If you want more information on setting up your own WordPress website check out our YouTube tutorial or just send me an email.)
Why should you create your own website? First, it's a lot cheaper than other month-to-month options. All you need is a domain name, web hosting, and a website theme. Once you buy the website theme, it's yours forever.
OR YOU CAN CHOOSE…
Shopify and Selz basically allows you to build your own website on their web servers. This means you never have to worry about web hosting. They also have ready-to-go shopping carts with shipping rules that you can alter. They process transactions for you and then turn around and pay you. They notify you when you get a sale so you can ship out your coffee.
I have tried both options 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. The products are sold through a separate e-commerce platform, Selz. So essentially, we have a hybrid of Option 1 or and Option 2.
While this is common, it's can be a lot easier to simply go with Option 2.
Shopify Is Very Convenient
From a convenience factor, it is certainly easier to have everything put together for you in one website theme, hosting service, and secure shopping cart, all accessible under one dashboard. They also provide you analytics of your sales and earnings and they both offer a bunch of neat add-ons and plugins that make your life a lot easier.
This “convenience factor” 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 hassle with learning about the “back end administration” and HTML code of your website, which is often necessary.
In other words, if you just want to sell (or even test your products), you just might want to go with a company like Shopify – though it may cost a little more upfront.
What's also great about using Shopify or Selz is that you never have to hassle with customer's credit card or debit card information. They take care of securing payment transactions. Of course, they charge a fee per purchase, but this is totally worth the pain of dealing with securing customer payment information.
Here are Coffee Shop Startups, we never deal with credit card information. Zero. Nada. In our opinion, it is one of the best ways to sell online. It's one of the great reasons why we like using Selz.com for selling online. Shopify does the same thing.
Are there any drawbacks to Shopify? Not really. You do have to pay every month for the convenience. But there are no annual contracts. You simply pay month-to-month. Potentially, another draw back is that once you opt-out of Shopify, you lose all your content (unless you copy and paste) it.
Shopify offers pure convenience and hassle-free website development, hosting, and transactions.
Let's assume that you are in the process of sourcing your coffee to sell and you know who your general target market is.
Now, let us take a moment to consider your website and the cost associated with the various options you have in front of you.
Remember, there is no “right way” but, like anything else, there are trade-offs for deciding which direction to go in.
For example, you might have slightly more costs but less headaches and a simpler way to sell your products with Shopify. However, having a WordPress site will be much cheaper in the long run, but you will have to learn a little more on the front end.
So, Let's Dive Deeper
Let's consider the approximate costs to start your online coffee business and website:
Using A Self Hosted Website Through Blue Host & WordPress.org
Here's what you're going to need:
- Your Domain Name ($22-$24 per year with privacy add-on) FREE with BlueHost!
- Your Website Hosting Service (Approximately $70-80 per year)
- Your Website Theme (Costs range from Free to $60)
- Your Affiliation with a E-commerce Platform (A monthly charge or a % of each sale)
Total approximate first year cost = $175
Using A Shopify‘s All-in-One Package
Here's what you're going to need:
- Shopify = $29.00 a month (and more depending on the plan you choose)
- A Website Theme (From $0 to $150)
- Various Plugins (The cost depends on the plugins you may need or want)
Total approximate first year costs = $348
Additionally, 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 so that it looks professional enough to appeal to your customers. 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 may sap your energy from your real business objectives, which is selling coffee related items! However, if you have the time, if you have the interest, and the curiosity, then you will be able to save a lot of money down the road using WordPress.
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. Though we use a WordPress site here, we entirely skip the plugin altogether, and use Selz.com.
Consider this: Whichever route you choose, your shopping cart needs to be able to securely process PayPal and credit cards, if you want to sell physical products.
By The Way… What Is a “Website theme”?
Answer: A website theme acts like the “skin” of your website. Technically, a theme is the a small package of computer code that tells browsers how to display your website. It provides a specific “look and feel” to your website. Why do we use different themes?
Imagine a world where each website looked the same! Boring! Themes display your unique taste and character. 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. Some website themes are free but don't have a lot of customizing options. Others website themes you need to pay for.
To explore WordPress Themes, we recommend this site: ThemeForest.
The Recommended Alternative: Use Shopify or Selz
If you decide to move forward from an e-commerce plan or platform like Shopify or Selz, you can simply purchase a basic monthly plan – and everything will be hosted for you. You don't have to worry about website hosting or creating your own shopping cart.
Within minutes, 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. The trade off is that is a little more expensive compared to monthly costs of hosting your own site.
But it's not that expensive! Is saving $15 per month better than spending hours and hours per month figuring out your website?
Additionally, if you are still not satisfied with these two options to start your online business, consider the third option, Weebly. Weebly also takes care of your e-commerce website, web hosting, and shopping cart all in one place. Like Shopify or Selz, you can control your entire business in one dashboard. Check out Weebly and see if it works for you.
Let's break it down further:
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 website theme or 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.
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 (like Selz) 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 all up yourself. 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 that your online marketing will be important. Your marketing campaign can begin at any time, even long before you spend your first dime on your website.
The important thing to remember is that your online store will take time to build traction. Anticipate that you will launch your store and it might take awhile for you to get traffic. If you anticipate this well enough, you can start to develop your promotional efforts long before your open for business. Branding will play an important role in developing your online business.
Develop your website logo and utilize your website's blog to entice readers. If you don't know where to begin to look for a logo, consider using 99Designs. Your logo will be essential for your website, your business cards, and your packaging.
Consider the following ways to promote your online coffee store:
- Engage in Social Media
- Develop Your Email List
- Meet new people in person and promote face-to-face (yes, this still works!)
- Create Business Cards
- Paid Internet Ads Via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
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 and work on something everyday, you'll be in a better position your online coffee store to make a profit. As an online business owner, your work really never stops.
You have to continuously be vigilant about your customer service, your online reputation, your marketing, your inventory. But it can be a very profitable venture if you plan it right.
Summing Things Up
How To Start an Online Coffee Business “Resources”:
- Domain & Shared Web Hosting: Blue Host (Free Domain with a Hosting Plan)
- Website & Shopping Cart (Option #1): Shopify
- Website & Shopping Cart (Option #2): Selz
- Website & Shopping Cart (Option #3): Weebly
You're not alone! Do you still have questions about starting an online coffee business? Send me an email (Yes, I'm a real person!), I will try to answer any specific questions and detail further why I recommend these options for your online coffee business.
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.
30 Great Tips to Start Your Coffee Shop!
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