Speciality Coffee Shop – Branding

Option 2
Option 2
Option 1
Option 1

This is probably the most important entry in our little shop opening diary. I don’t care what anyone tells you, branding is essential. It can make or break a business. As an author, the one lesson I had to learn was this: if books are judged by their covers, then your cover needs to be striking.

But what is in a name or a logo? It is not a complicated question. However, the simpler the answer to that question, the lesser the impact of the name or logo. Over the years I have noticed the effort companies put into branding, especially with regards to a unique and memorable logo design. They pay a small fortune and have a team of experts chiselling away at a granite block until, at last, the company emblem appears.

name-origin-explanation-amazonAmazon, for instance, put some thought into their design. Their approach has always been to offer on-line shoppers everything from A to Z. Hence the arrow below the word Amazon to connect the two letters. Few notice that the arrow also represents a smile, providing a promise of happiness.

With a coffee shop you might think it is difficult to be unique, but give it time. Like baby names, the right name and design will come to you, no matter how challenged your creativity might be. I know there is not much scope with coffee. You are bound to come up with an image of a cup, the aroma hovering over a freshly brewed drink, or a bunch of beans beautifully displayed on a background. And that is fine! Don’t panic. Instead try to find a unique name.

Here is what we did. We scoured through all manner of coffee material, from websites, to speciality magazines, to books. I was thinking about the different types of coffee, how we use the ground beans in our garden, how the planting and harvesting takes place. Every new coffee-related word I saw was going to be the new name for our business. And it is during all this research that it came to me.

One fateful day, when I found myself a bit more philosophical than most mornings, I fully comprehended how much coffee and tea plays a part of our daily lives. I mean, we really enjoy coffee and tea. We are born, we live and we move on. And coffee and tea is there from beginning to end.

I began searching through ancient Turkish texts, Greek philosophy and old versions of a Spanish Bible, and then I found our baby’s name. Our shop was to be named: Polvo.

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Final logo design

In Spanish the word means dust or earth. It was an added bonus that the term café en polvo means filter or instant coffee. Coffee in dust form. And it was sheer coincidence that our unique cookie with every cup is called polvorones, a traditional Mexican wedding cookie, referred to as dust cakes. This suited our South American theme. We decided that the registered name of our company should be Life.Coffee.Polvo. To us it symbolized the three stages of life. From dust we come, in dust we live, and to dust we shall return. Very quickly, our little coffee shop became so much more than just another shop. It had a life of its own.

The final touches were done to the design and before long our business had a face. Next came the shop-fitting, furniture, the cups and things, and the numbers part of the business. More on that in the next instalments. Feel free to track our progress here: @PolvoCoffee

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Speciality Coffee Shop – Coffee

Brazil-coffee-APreviously I explained how important the choice of coffee should be when opening a speciality coffee shop. From the beginning we wanted only South and Central American coffee beans. This is harder than it seems. Most roasters have become accustomed to either doing a single origin coffee or blending across the continents. Single origin usually comes from one farm or from one country. However, most blends today include a percentage of African or Asian beans to control the variance in a profile. It rounds off the overall taste in a number of ways.

Being difficult, I insisted on blends of at least three to four South or Central American countries, with a smooth, full-bodied taste. As mentioned in the Research entry, we sampled until coffee surged through our veins.

Knowing how to prepare coffee is non-negotiable. Not only does it assist in the initial outlay of your shop, but it will raise some interesting questions. Any businessman planning to open a coffee shop, MUST know how to make a decent coffee. If you do not understand how to operate an espresso machine, then how would you execute training, maintenance or improvements within your business.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to man the machine and to play casual the whole day. But how will you manage a barista when the barista has to train you? You need to be able to spot wastage and create a solution to curb it. More importantly, you are selling coffee. You must be able to see when something is wrong with the end product or when it has been prepared incorrectly. Please don’t skip the training. Invest in yourself.

We consulted Kelvin, the master barista from Caloroso, to give us an introduction to the art of coffee-making. He has a passion for the industry and is always keen to share his experience with fellow coffee folk.

Kelvin from Caloroso and Shaun from Famous Brands testing shots for consistency.
Kelvin from Caloroso and Shaun from Famous Brands testing shots for consistency.

Let me use an example to explain why you should know the basics. As a writer I frequent coffee shops. One of my preferred drinking spots serve a mean flat white. I will never forget the day I ordered my regular and received a very unpleasant experience instead. When I asked why the coffee was so bad compared to other days, I was told the barista was off sick and the owner was making the coffee. Case in point. Understand the machine.

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@SCASA_Coffee

Then there is a last point to consider under this entry of opening your own shop. Align yourself with industry experts. Become a member of a coffee organization or institution that would best compliment your approach. For us it was the Speciality Coffee Association of South Africa (SCASA). There are a number of organizations across the world, so do a bit of homework. You will find yourself immediately exposed to a team of experts who wants to assist you for the sake of coffee. At this stage of the game you need all the experience you can get your hands on.

Next entry will look a bit more at the branding of your business. Feel free to follow on twitter @PolvoCoffee

Speciality Coffee Shop – Research

Ever wondered what goes into setting up a small coffee shop? Or what type of research has to be done before the big day?

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It just so happens we are in the process of opening a speciality coffee bar in Knysna. Because I value service and appreciate good coffee, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. But that was not enough. I wanted to take it to the next level. Often I have been disappointed by the lack of creativity from South African coffee shops. So, I will be trying my best to set the bar very high and to do something South Africa has never seen before. Are you ready? Here goes nothing!

For fun and games, and for the curious entrepreneur, I decided to document the progress and to share the adventure with everyone. Over the next couple of weeks I will post regular updates. Feel free to join in, to share your thoughts and input on our social media platforms. On twitter you can interact with @PolvoCoffee and on Facebook there is a page for Polvo.

Okay, so where do I find myself at the moment? Before you even start thinking about setting up shop, there is something that must be done. This is a golden rule: research, research, and more research. Before even registering the company, I have done loads of research. I wrote an article about coffee shops for The Coffee Mag, and from there I never really stopped researching the coffee trade. At times it went into the early morning hours, much to the annoyance of my wife.

Research done, I began planning the shell of the business, the legalities. Not unlike giving birth to an idea, the business needed a birth certificate, an Identification document, and a name. I acquired the necessary documents from our accountants and prepared everything. While my fancy pondered the abundance of coffee-sounding names and the play of words only a crime writer could enjoy, I began focusing on the other important part: the coffee.

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This is a daunting exercise! If you are planning to open a coffee shop, then be unique. With all the competition in the Garden Route, we had to plan something so unique that when the customer tastes our coffee, they would remember who we were and where they bought it. A return customer is usually a loyal customer, and loyal customers are bread and butter. Here my wife and I set out on a coffee- and tea-sampling mission, meeting with coffee roasters and tea merchants until we had an idea what we were looking for. Here I often hit the Net looking for info. Yes, that qualifies as research as well.

IMG-20140524-00297 Where to open? The key rule to opening an eatery has always been location, location, location. But how important is that when you are planning a speciality destination coffee bar? It is still pretty important, but in essence it is far less vital than people make it out to be. We looked at the town through new eyes. Over a couple of weeks we examined traffic, type of client, weather, public transport, and we analysed all this information. It became clear that our target customer cancelled out a number of promising venues. So, I went back to town and took more notes, scouting for the prime location. I did warn you that research is important.

Then the theme of our coffee bar, became a focus topic. What would make us different to other coffee shops? How would we perfect the coffee experience? And how would we be able to squeeze all of that into a small manageable shop in Knysna? More research!

Now we have prepared the paperwork, a name was on the verge of being formed, some great coffees have been sampled, some great venues have opened up and an idea of a theme has appealed to us both. Our baby was taking shape.

Next entry I will elaborate a bit more on the above points and some new ones, like shop fitting, logo design, marketing, cutlery and more.