ACEL member Irina Javaheri received an ACEL micro-grant to help her attend Coffee Fest last month. She learned all the ins and outs of starting a small business. Check out her story.
Written by Irina Javaheri
My husband and I had the opportunity to attend Coffee Fest in Portland, one of the premiere trade shows in the specialty coffee and tea industry. Coffee Fest offers education, hands-on training, new products, and networking opportunities to industry professionals. As aspiring coffee shop business owners, with backgrounds in unrelated fields and no ‘real world’ coffee experience, attending Coffee Fest gave us a unique opportunity to learn more about the industry and meet great people.
In my workshops, I learned about the basics of starting a coffee business. This included developing an authentic mission statement, picking the right location and negotiating a lease, writing a business plan, estimating costs, developing a menu, designing a space to fit offerings, and hiring best practices. I also learned about common (and costly!) pitfalls and how to avoid them (e.g., not researching building/health codes, or signing a lease before designing a floor plan). I was exposed to the latest beverage products (ever heard of a ‘matchata’?) and brewing methods. I also gained a historical perspective on how coffee drinks have changed over time (think classic Italian espresso beverages), and where they are headed (think ‘third wave’ specialty coffee).
I learned about the importance of social media in engaging customers, creating loyalty, and adding value. My husband, Josh, toured several local roasting facilities and learned about the latest roasting equipment. Both of us took hands-on courses about espresso machine maintenance, pulling espresso, and latte art. Coffee is more complex than we thought. It goes through a long production process from seed to cup and can have about 1,200 different flavors (almost double that of wine!).
Aside from all of this training and education, Josh and I connected with many professionals, including coffee bean importers, roasters, retailers (e.g., coffee/tea wares, brewing products, food and drink items), and owners. Just being in Portland was also a great learning opportunity. The city is a leader in the industry, supporting just over 2,500 coffee businesses alone! In our down time, we visited local coffee shops/roasteries, connected with their owners/baristas, took photos for inspiration, and sampled lots of coffee.
Here in Gainesville, coffee education is hard to come by, barring working in a coffee shop. Those three days at Coffee Fest jumpstarted our knowledge about this dynamic industry and the connections we made will certainly help us moving forward on our coffee journey. Perhaps most importantly, Coffee Fest has helped me feel more confident and passionate about making the leap toward becoming a small coffee business owner.
Interested in applying for a micro-grant? Grants provide ACEL members with up to $200 toward a professional development opportunity. Learn more to get started today!