How to launch an online coffee business
Whether it’s your full time job, a side hustle or just a hobby, roasting coffee can be an exciting and rewarding process. Despite the challenges faced by the hospitality industry over the last two years, there has been a consistently high demand for coffee – and an increase in the number of roasters selling coffee online.
“We’ve seen plenty of exciting new businesses establishing themselves in the last twelve months,” says Christian Bianco at The Coffee Commune.
“We’ve helped launch dozens of coffee brands, including our youngest entrepreneurs ARC Reserve. Think of The Coffee Commune like a one-stop shop for launching your coffee business – the Commune team can guide you through the process from inception to launch, and even help with ongoing logistics, growth and success.”
If you have a passion for coffee and a willingness to learn as you go, here’s how you can create your own coffee products and start selling them online.
1. Develop a business plan
For any business to get off the ground, Christian says the first step is to start with a clear plan.
“Outline everything from your goals and strategy to your brand’s tone of voice,” he says. “If you’re not sure, do your research and talk to others in the industry and learn from them.”
A simple business plan should cover what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who your ideal customer is, as well as outlining things like your budget and costs. Of course, plans can always change and adapt along the way, so just think of it like a structure to help you get started.
When starting any business, it’s important to get the right legal advice from the get-go to make sure any potential risks are mitigated. One of the benefits of becoming a member of The Coffee Commune is having access to an entire network of professionals, such as Ben Ryan from Hillhouse Legal Partners, who loves helping businesses get off the ground.
“We can help you make sure you are setting up the business properly, and protecting your website, brand, supply chain and so on,” says Ben.
The Coffee Commune actively encourages networking with coffee professionals who are in the industry, which will go a long way towards ensuring your business plan is on the right track.
2. Create your branding
Your branding is something that’s unique to you, so think about a catchy name for your coffee roasting business that is short, sweet and easy to remember. One of the first things you should do is register your website domain name as soon as you can (you can do this through sites like GoDaddy).
Then, work on a logo that captures the look and feel of what you’re doing. If you need help with a logo, there are graphic designers within The Coffee Commune’s network that can assist with this.
Christian says it helps to have a good design sense when starting your own business, but it’s not essential if you know the right people.
Coffee Commune member Joel Farrell from Coffee Bags Direct says putting your story on the packaging is something that consumers really resonate with.
“A lot of people come to me and say, ‘I just need a bag for these beans’, or ‘I just want to get my beans on the shelf and sell them’,” Joel said. “They’ve got all these grand ideas for scaling up their product – they want to get into supermarkets, they want to go out to cafés and have 100 accounts – but they have zero excitement about the packaging. But half the time, that packaging is what we go for on the shelf.
“It’s not just, ‘This is a Colombian coffee bean’. It should be something like, ‘This is a Colombian coffee bean, and we sponsor the farm, or we give back directly to the farm, and we know we’re helping to advance the farm’s utilities and the workers are being well paid’. If there’s an ethical side to the coffee, the Australian consumer likes to know that.”
3. Sort out your supply chain
The next step is to figure out what type of coffee you want to sell. There are so many variations available, from organic brews and single-origins to creating your own custom blend.
The Coffee Commune is supported by Coffee Alliance, a roasting business that has helped many brands and cafe owners create their own blend.
Once you have a vision and an understanding of where you want to take your coffee, sample and taste a variety of blends to better understand different origins and determine how you want your coffee to taste.
But you don’t even need to invent a custom blend from scratch. If you don’t have the time or money to sample, roast, package and label coffee yourself, another option is to put your brand name on already-roasted coffee. This is a business model called white labelling.
White Labelling (also known as Private Labelling)
White labelling is a common business practice of reselling products that are manufactured by someone else – this way, you can leave all the roasting to the professionals.
For new coffee brands, Coffee Commune founder Phillip Di Bella says the best part of this approach is that it means no start-up costs.
“We’ve helped people build a coffee business from scratch who are now making great money in a short period of time,” he says. “Without the overheads, they’ve saved on warehousing, inventory, staff, machinery, utilities – and are now profitable because they didn’t have any start-up costs. Plus, they get all the support, education and help that they need.”
Case Study: After being introduced to Phillip Di Bella and The Coffee Commune, Anton Cavalli turned to coffee to earn a living and support his family. Phillip suggested that Anton look into ecommerce and white labelling, and shortly afterward Anton started his coffee business, Cosa Nostra Coffee.
“I was supported and empowered all the way. I worked hard and fast, piecing my new coffee business and brand together,” says Anton. Read his story.
4. Get ready for launch
Once you have decided on your coffee products the next step is to build and launch your website – after all, it’s the backbone for selling online!
Thankfully, creating a website from scratch is fairly straightforward these days with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Woocommerce or BigCommerce providing built-in templates to get you started.
Alternatively, you can start selling your coffee on online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or even Facebook Marketplace.
No online store is complete without images, so get your catalogue sorted with high quality product images and descriptions of the coffee blends you have chosen. These are essential components of selling online, so take the time to get this right.
Lastly, don’t forget to test that everything works – the buttons are clickable and take you to the right places, the check-out process is smooth and the shipping confirmation emails are correct.
5. Grow your business
Once everything is set up, your focus can turn to growing your business and attracting new customers to your online store.
Social media will play a huge role in driving traffic to your online store, so make sure you set up accounts and put the time and effort into posting regular content. If you have the budget, the quickest way to drive traffic and brand awareness is through paid ads.
While many people may have a lot of ideas about starting a business, the best thing you can do is not just sit around and dream about it, but actually get started. The Coffee Commune is a resource that can help you do this.
Case Study: Over the holidays, 12-year old school friends Arlee, Rocco and Cristiano came to The Coffee Commune for lunch – and left with a desire to start their own business. Now these boys have created and launched their first coffee blend, A.R.C. Reserve – and set out to prove age is no barrier in the world of business! Read their story.
“Part of what we’re doing at The Coffee Commune is bringing the community together to collaborate and helping people accelerate their potential,” says Phillip Di Bella.
“What motivates me is seeing others succeed. Whether that’s working for somebody or owning their own business, seeing people grow their mindset, their capability, their passion. I really get a buzz out of seeing people meet their potential.
“Anyone who wants to own their own brand of coffee, whether it’s for their own cafe, for home, or to build a full-scale ecommerce business, can do it all at the Commune without the start-up costs.”
Of course, the best way to learn is to surround yourself with experts and ask them questions. Become a member of The Coffee Commune and come along to regular events so you can meet and mingle with other coffee professionals.
Ready to get started? Contact [email protected] to start the conversation and provide us an insight into your vision. We’ll then obtain quotes and costings for you to help you accelerate your potential and start your online coffee business.