Building My Business Case Study

Building My Business: Business Banking Account

I reviewed and compared a number of online banking options. I wanted cheapest option (aka no monthly maintenance fees) but options to upgrade if needed. The best option I found was US Bank. I was hoping that I could just apply and enroll online but evidentially you need to talk to a representative. That sucks, but I filled out the contact me form. I’ll probably get a call from them tomorrow, and for months to come.

But I want a business bank account in place so I look legit when I have to start paying for stuff from my future supplier.

Building My Business: Hiccups

The original private label roaster is now to busy to take on this new project until at least fall. As such, I’ve started emailing more roasters for more immediate options. They responded but they focus only on arabica beans and don’t want to play in robusta.

I’ve looked into roasters myself but they’re either tiny or way to expensive ($3000+) — with a wedding and a honeymoon coming up I can’t dump that much cash at one time. Also, in Ohio this type of commercial operation would require a commercial kitchen…don’t want to pay for that either. Need to find someone else to roast.

Meanwhile I’m trying to research caffeine more. Gives me a bullshit impression I’m doing something productive when in reality it’s just stalling.

Building My Business: Meeting a Possible Supplier

This Tuesday I met with a possible supplier/private label roaster. I found his company online, and sent an email to see what services he offered. I asked if he offered/was interested in private label roasting for me. He surprised me, first by even returning my email, and then by graciously inviting me too his shop. He mentioned he had done private label roasting before and could be interested in doing it again. 

The conversation went exceptionally well! The guy was interesting and obviously extremely passionate about coffee. He explained his background, as did I, and we quickly began talking about my plan to focus on high caffeine content coffee offerings. He was extremely knowledgeable and interested in my idea (albeit with a fair bit of skepticism. .. he clearly viewed coffee as a delicious drink to be cherished and enjoyed, not as simply a vehicle of caffeine as I do.)

He let on that he’d be willing to order a trial volume (150 lb bag) with which he would test roast to see what works for me. Then he described packaging and labeling options. He offered the whole array of services I would need. I didn’t inquire into fulfillment services and don’t plan to until/if sales volumes get sizable.

So now it seems the ball is back in my court. Since I don’t want to have a giant inventory of perishable coffee before I have the abilty to sell it, I need to work on a few things before I commit to the trial run. My plan before ordering the coffee is:

1.) Create minimum viable operational website for sales
2.) Get EIN number
3.) Set up Google ads
4.) Get business bank account
5.) Create label art

So now I’m off to bed excited about the progress that I, the procrastinator, have made. I’m also happy with the clear plan/steps I have been able to set up as next steps towards actual sales

Building My Business: Finding a Private Label Roaster

One thing I know for certain is that I don’t want to set up a roasting operation for the coffee I sell – at least right away. First, it would be far too expensive and risky to sink that type of money into getting a roaster and a facility to house it. I don’t have that type of money to begin with, and it would suck if no one bought the coffee and I got stuck with a giant ass roaster. Secondly, I don’t know/nor do I want to know what regulations come with processing a food/beverage product. I’d rather not deal with this headache unless I’m selling sizable and regular volumes. For that reason I am looking for a private label roaster — aka someone who will roast and package the beans under my brand and direction.

I began my search online, and found far more private label roasters than I expected. (Could be a good thing could be a bad thing, don’t know yet) Luckily, during my search, I found a roaster here in central ohio and the owner has offered to meet and let me see is his operation. We are planning to meet in a week.

This was not the first roaster I reached out to. I emailed at least 3-4 roasters and this was the first one to return my email. I’m excited that I’m making this progress, but I also want to make sure I’m prepared for this meeting. I want to know as much as I can about the roaster’s company (it’s also a full on coffee shop) as well as myself appropriately. What I’m thinking so far is.

1.) I want to be completely honest with him that this will be a learning experience for me and I’d likely not be able to provide large or consistent orders up front.

2.) I want to have a more realistic looking template created to show my vision.

3.) Make sure he can source robusta beans (highest caffeine content), and they know how to roast to maximize caffeine content.

4.) I want a logo ready and crafted so I can discuss labeling options.

5.) Determine where I want my margins to be so that I can propose desired pricing given my forecasted retail price.
6.) Ask what packaging options are available and the shelf life (and/or ability to roast to order)

7.) Determine shipping or fulfillment options. Not that it would be a big deal since we’re in the same city, but if I never have to handle the coffee that would be ideal. I want this to be as passive as I can possibly make it.

8.) Explore caffeine testing devices to see if I can substantiate high caffeine claims.

Wish me luck.

Building My Business: Creating an LLC

Sorry folks, it’s been quite awhile since my last update on starting my business. My regular full-time job has been very busy, and as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m naturally a bit of a procrastinator (a trait that I very much need to work on…later.) I’ve thought about the concept a lot, but I haven’t actually committed to moving forward. I’ve been piddling around thinking about what business idea to use in my case study, and I’ve been second guessing myself every time I think I have something nailed down. I knew I had to do something to jump start my progress. That’s when I began researching the process of setting up an LLC.

I knew needed an LLC, and I knew that I wanted to call my company Cube Lion — but I didn’t know what the process entailed. I was worried it was going to cost a lot, or that I would have to commit to a business idea in the form I filled out. This worry alone, embarrassingly enough, delayed my research a few days — I didn’t want to get bad news this early on in the process.

What I found surprised me…in a good way. (note: what I’m about to explain is for Ohio-only, because that’s what state I filed in, but I’m assuming your state would be fairly similar.)

  1. It wasn’t expensive at all…it was $125 to fill out and submit the form
  2. It wasn’t restrictive on business idea at all. The form literally made this portion optional. All I basically had to do was say the name of the company I wanted to start, and mark if it was for profit or not for profit!
  3. Even though I filled in the form and submitted online, I learned the place to turn it in was on the bottom floor of the building I work in…it was a bit of an omen that I needed to get off of my ass and turn it in.

So after filling in the form, I expected to wait a couple of weeks to hear back (because that’s what the form said, and it gave options to pay up to $100-$400 dollars to have it expedited). DON’T PAY TO EXPEDITE. I heard back within a couple of days at the most. They were very quick, and said “I was approved to conduct business in the state of Ohio.” Just reading that gave me a little jolt of electricity. I know now the next steps are to file for an EIN number, and open a business bank account. Both things I will need to do more research on, but I believe should be fairly easy given the info I have now.

If you also live in the state of Ohio you can fill out the online LLC forms here. The site looks a bit janky, but it definitely works and is fairly straight forward. The site also provides a little checklist/how to set up an LLC .pdf .

I’ve made a bit more progress on the business idea before and after the LLC setup (but the LLC was the major hurdle…the smaller steps/thoughts I’ve had are listed below.

  1. I’ve decided to move forward with the coffee concept. I want to focus on high caffeine beans and roasts. My idea is to focus on a niche that views coffee as a tool and not a beverage (just like I do.) I honestly can’t really tell the difference between a “good” cup of coffee or “bad” cup of coffee, I just love the jolt it gives me and the productivity it allows me to achieve at work. I drink coffee to wake me up and fuel me through my day. I don’t drink it because it tastes good.
  2. I want to use the fairly arbitrary “brand” Cube Lion to see if I have the marketing and brand chops to make this work. I’ve recently interviewed for a marketing role, and was turned down. Out of personal pride, and a bit of spite, I want to prove that they made a bad decision (they said I didn’t communicate my ability to transfer my current skillset to a more consumer facing role.)
  3. I’ve taken my CubeLion domain that I already owned for a year or so, and put installed Prestashop on it. I chose Prestashop after a few hours of research. My decision ultimately came down to the fact that I’ve already worked in setting up a Prestashop site about a year or two ago (when I tried to sell pull up attachments…I bailed on the plan because I was still in grad school, and figured I should have a boatload of insurance on a product like that given injury risk.) To get a feel for what the heck pull up attachments are, I’ve included a video below of my concept.

Building My Business: Starting Ideation

Okay so I got a couple of ideas rolling around. I don’t want to burn a lot of days/weeks on this consideration phase (I have a history of over thinking things), but I also don’t want to start directionless or on weak footing.

  1. A fitness product – I already have a website that gets decent traffic with absolutely no paid advertising (500-600 visitors a month). I enjoy strength training and it’s a necessity with my hobby Brazilian jiu jitsu – so keeping up with content/Seo building should be fairly painless. I’ve also already built a prototype for a pull up attachment that had some naturally occurring traffic when I put it on my site. The problem with this idea is that it will probably cost a lot to have it manufactured and to build up inventory. For reference my site:
  2. Info product – I use excel almost my entire workday and think I’m extremely good at it. I know a lot of next level tips and tricks that would be very helpful and valuable to those that are of moderate skill level. I also know it would be something that I would only need to produce once and it could be sold multiple times. Distribution would be cheap and easy, but the creation of a professional looking product would likely be expensive. I also know the offerings in this space are numerous (aka hard to stand out).
  3. Highly caffeinated coffee – I love coffee, or more specifically I love caffeine. I also have a domain that I really like called I wanted to use this to create a 3D printing forum but never got around to it. Cube Lion Coffee seems like a pretty decent name and I already have a logo designed. I also like that there are a crap ton of private label coffee roasters out there that look pretty legit. Depending on the services they offer I could probably keep setup costs reasonably low and Inventories low to non-existent. On the other hand, I’m a bit worried that there are so many private label roasters. Is this market saturated? It does look like there is only one high caffeine coffee competitor (at least only one that has any SEO sense). And another bonus, if this idea doesn’t work out and I have to buy my own inventory, I can just get blasted on caffeine and start back on one of the other ideas.