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Coffee is one of the most profitable products in the world, at least in terms of the number of people who actually make a living from it in some capacity of other. It’s the second most traded commodity on the world market — oil is first — and is on target to become the second most consumed hot beverage in the world, thanks to the growing market for coffee in China.
With coffee consumption growing year upon year, the coffee business obviously has plenty of room for new participants. You don’t have to sink tens of thousands of dollars into opening a franchise coffee shop to make your living in a coffee business, though. Here are 5 coffee businesses you can start on a shoestring.
Jump on one of the latest party trends — home coffee cupping parties. The startup investment is relatively low. You’ll need a decent coffee maker, a supply of high-quality coffees and a set of coffee cups, along with incidentals and consumables like coffee rating sheets and pencils. This coffee business is really a very specialized catering business, so you’ll need to follow any licensing and health rules required of catering businesses in your county or city. It would work as a stand-alone business or as a sideline for a micro roaster. In fact, if you partnered with a local micro roaster, you could even work out a commission deal for selling coffee and referring customers.
If you’ve got a flair for the artistic or a sharp wit, you might do well selling t-shirts and mugs with coffee-related sayings. It’s another coffee business startup you can set up for zero cost to you, but expect to put in a lot of work to get your stuff noticed and sold. Print-to-order sites like CafePress and Zazzle allow you to set up a storefront to sell your own designs printed on items that they supply. You pay nothing up front unless you choose one of their premium store sites. You simply create your designs using the templates they supply, choose the items you want them printed on and set up your coffee niche site on their website. The key factors in your success for this coffee business are the quality of your design and the strength of your marketing efforts.
The fastest growing segment of the coffee business is in microroasting — roasting premium coffees in small batches. If you’re a hobby roaster with a good nose and good business sense, you can build a small coffee business around roasting and marketing artisan roasted coffees. To really make a go of an artisan roasting business, you’d need to invest significantly more than $1,000, but you can get a start on it for less. Your major investments will be a decent roaster — your air popper won’t cut it if you’re selling quality coffee — and proper packaging. You can attempt to sell your micro roasted coffee online, or work through a local bodega or coffee shop.
Nearly every school system has an adult or evening education division that’s always looking for new and interesting courses to offer. If you’re confident in your knowledge about coffee and comfortable teaching people about it, you can make a comfortable second income in a coffee business that educates others. Most classes meet once a week, so if your knowledge is broad enough you could easily teach two or more classes per semester. Be creative and consider the fun things that people in your area would enjoy learning — principles of roasting coffee, home coffee roasting methods, a weekly coffee cupping class, a class on identifying coffee varieties, even a class on cooking with coffee and pairing coffee with your meals. Your startup costs will include any equipment you need to teach the class, but most school departments allow you to charge a materials or supplies fee for any equipment or supplies that your students will use.
The most successful businesses grow from their owners’ passions. If you’re passionate about coffee, take that passion to the next level, get creative and start a coffee business of your own.