David and Meno Fernandez are two brothers starting out on the brick and mortar journey with a specialty coffee and tea shop in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
The store is named for their signature drink, Teaffee – a heady blend of tea and coffee, which as kooky as it sounds, is actually delicious.
We spoke with the brothers about their first few months and what advice they would give anyone starting out.
1. Budget Conservatively
Money just disappears when you’re getting started. Everything is more expensive than you think. There is no bigger issue for a new business than cash-flow. You have to make rent, pay the bills, pay staff no matter what. If the customers don’t come straight away you’ve still go to have enough funds put aside or the whole train just stops.
As a good rule of thumb, whatever you thought you were going to spend in the first three months, add on another 50% and that’s what you’ll need. Then add another 25% as a contingency fund, which you’ll probably use too.2. Get Training
2. Get Training
This was something we actually really prioritized from the start and it really helped. We attended industry conventions like CoffeeFest in NYC. We went to ‘barista school’ where we learned how to make a killer cappuccino as well as the basics of running a cafe. We also tried to speak a lot with experienced coffee shop owners to find out best practices and that sort of thing. In the end though, the only person who really spoke with us was another retailer who had already closed up his coffee shop. Concerns about competition seem to make other retailers reluctant to talk. The advice we did get was really valuable though, so definitely make sure to ask around for experienced advice.
3. Stay Focused
Don’t overcomplicate your business by diversifying too early. We have tried as much as possible to keep our product offering really focused on the tea and coffee. We brought in baked goods because there was a clear demand and we are considering bringing in a cold drinks fridge because, again, we’ve had a lot of people asking for this stuff. As a rule though we are trying to get really good at our core business, both in terms of the product quality but also optimizing the operational side of things, like staffing and ordering inventory.
4. Happy Customers
There is absolutely nothing more important to us than making our customers happy. We want to make sure that every person who comes in is blown away by the quality and range of tea and coffees. We know we’ll grow through word of mouth.