Now that enough research has been done it is time to get this blog series back on track. We looked at the research, the coffee and the branding. You are legal to trade and you probably have some trial business cards or pamphlets tucked away somewhere. You have a brand approach in mind, but you have no stock and your budget is already giving you sleepless nights. There is no way around the fact that you will need things to sell. The worst customer experience is walking into a shop and looking at an empty shelf or hearing you have sold out. There is a way to make this count in your favour.

The early days are perfect to gauge your customer. Open your shop with some variance (not too much variance) so that you are able to see what sells and what is in high demand. If you are going to be a speciality coffee shop, then coffee should account for most of your stock on hand, but do not neglect to offer something else for your customers.

Choosing the right tea is not easy. Sample as many as possible.

Choosing the right tea is not easy. Sample as many as possible.

I tried to have an even 50/50 approach. Half of the stock on hand would cater for the coffee drinker and half would cater for everyone else. I met with suppliers, found a juice and water supplier who spoke my language and we did business. So there is my water and my juices sorted out. And me being a perfectionist, I went for a water that is unique and not too abundant. Even our teas were sourced from Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, unique blends especially made for Polvo.
And while you are gathering stock keep in mind the following: to avoid delays, complete account documentation at the soonest possible moment. This takes a lot of time to set up. Besides, most suppliers do approvals for 30-day accounts, which might benefit your business as it gives you time to sell what you had bought before payment is due. For a start-up this could either help you find your feet or cut your throat. Do cash as far as possible. Don’t spread your debt amongst suppliers. Suppliers work on this rule: once bitten, twice shy. So play nice.

Your interaction with suppliers is what guarantees your stock. And remember that during every communication! Don’t screw a supplier over and don’t send out negative energy. Treat them as you want to be treated and they will go the extra mile for you. You are after all their customer. I do not say you should tolerate sub-standard service, but plan your responses well when business suffers as a consequence.

And don’t think your milk, desserts (if prepared off-site), take-away cups, sugar packets, serviettes, cleaning materials, toiletries, filters, and pens do not form part of your stock. These items might all have to be sourced from different suppliers, so set up the supply chain. This also helps with the next, very important section, which is budgeting and cost-cutting. The budgeting part is always tricky, because you never know what is waiting around the corner. More on that in the next entry.

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