It's June 2021 and the phrase "working from home" has never been more top of mind. Many companies are transforming into fully or at least partially "remote work" structures.
Clearly, the possibility of remote work or working from home is not only possible but in many cases very practical.
Starting a home based business should be no different. The evidence is clear: it's entirely practical and many people have found success doing it.
There's all kinds of options if you're interested in selling coffee from home. You could roast your own coffee (if you haven't already started), you can package and sell someone else's coffee, and you can even sell coffee through drop shipping (transfering coffee orders to another company who will be responsible for all the inventory and fulfillment).
Furthermore, you can sell and promote your coffee online through a number of different channels. You can sell through your own coffee website, sell through Amazon, and promote through all kinds of digital platforms like Facebook or Google Ads etc..
In this article we'll document all the ins and outs of building a home based business selling coffee.
Starting a Coffee Business From Home
Starting a traditional brick and mortar coffee shop can be expensive. In contrast, starting a coffee business from home, with an online store, is much more affordable. You get the benefits of operating within the coffee niche, with fewer barriers to entry.
The costs of paying rent for a brick and mortar location along with (some of) the equipment and staffing costs can largely be avoided.
In fact, even inventory and logistics costs can potentially be avoided if you use a drop shipping model.
Still, there are a number of things you'll need to sell coffee from home:
- The roasted coffee beans, obviously. This can be accomplished with the work and equipment required to source and roast your own coffee beans or potentially work with a partner to sell *their* coffee through a white label agreement and/or dropshipping.
- Coffee packaging and labelling. This can also be outsourced at cost.
- A website with full eCommerce functionality and payment processing.
- Most likely, some form of marketing and promotion.
- Finally, depending on the scope of your business and your location you'll need to investigate legal permits required to sell coffee.
Roast Your Own Coffee or Someone Else's
The big decision you would have to make as a new (online) café owner looking to sell coffee from home is whether or not you will actually roast your own coffee. The implications are obvious.. if you're getting into the coffee roasting business than you're taking on a new craft / expertise while also needing to invest in the equipment to do so.
Roasting your own coffee:
The good news is this can be really rewarding and give you an opportunity to be more directly involved in the development of your product. It also offers to a great deal of agility as far as tweaking your coffee roast to meet consumer demand. Moreover, you might be able to find a coffee "co-roasting" space where you can share and rent coffee roasting equipment to avoid having to make a big investment early on.
White (or Private) Labelling Coffee:
That said, you may also choose to roast someone else's coffee. This would boil down to locating a coffee roaster who is open to a partnership and wholesale agreement with you. Coffee suppliers would roast the coffee at scale, then turn around and sell it you you at wholesale prices while you "white-label" the coffee and sell through to the consumer.
The other option, similar to white-label, is drop shipping. With this model not only would you sell someone else's coffee but you would have the coffee roaster take responsibility for order fulfillment. That means they manage the inventory and shipping, while you manage the sales and payment processing.
Each of these alternatives need to be considered and decided on before you plan exactly how your home based coffee business will work.
Selling With Your Own Coffee Website
Regardless of how you approach the coffee roasting (making your own or outsourcing etc..) you'll need to build and manage a coffee website.
This will involve setting up the following:
- Choosing a hosting provider to actually host the website.
- Choosing how the website will be built. You could, in theory, hire a web developer to build a completely custom coffee website. This could be a costly choice and make the website more difficult to maintain. More likely you would choose to use a website "builder" or Content Management System (CMS) like Shopify or WordPress etc.. Those platforms generally make it simple enough for you to build a website without significant expenses and time investment.
- Determining the design and minimum level of functionatily you need to build the website. Different CMS platforms will have different ways of achieving this (usually through the installation of something called "Themes"). But basically you'll need to think through the look and feel of the website and what purpose it ultimately needs to serve for your business.
Aside from the technical details, when considering the requirements of a website it's critical that you detail the overall strategy and purpose of the website.
How will you build and use the website to target your audience? (or for that matter, who will be your audience?) What design choices, verbiage, and product positioning will align best with your overall coffee business' marketing strategy?
Remember, your goal is not merely to "make coffee" (or source it). Your goal is to *sell* coffee, and your website will be the primary (or only) channel to do that with. This means you also need to considered how you will both target and satisfy your customers.
Speaking of customer satisfaction, an imporant element of selling coffee from home is mapping out how you will manage customer service. It's not enough to have a website where people can buy your coffee. You need to have a plan in place to manage returns, outline a terms of service, and make sure that if people need to reach you with questions or issues they have a method for doing so.
You can offer number of options, from email support all the way to offering a phone number and/or integrated "chat" solution on the website itself.
Selling Coffee on Amazon
Another very important option you should be aware of is selling your coffee on Amazon. Amazon, the most ubiquitous of online retail channels, is absolutely a place where food and coffee can be sold successfully.
It's entirely possible to sell your coffee exclusively through Amazon, although I have to say the few times I've seen that done successfully is where the coffee brand had realy traction "offline" (meaning it was also an in person Café) and the coffee had also been built up over time through grass roots instagram posts that seeded the launch.
More often you'll find it's effective to first establish a website and brand before moving to Amazon. Not only does this help you build a foothold with regular returning customers you can promote the Amazon "launch" to, it also makes it much easier to get approved for listing your coffee on Amazon.
Amazon is powerful as a sales channel, but when it comes to food the regulations can be very strict and hyper specific to your location. For whatever reason, if you're able to demonstrate to Amazon that you already have a well established online coffee business and website it makes getting approval to sell there much easier.
Promoting Your Coffee Business
"If you build it they will come". Well, most of the time that's not true, especially if you're trying to build a coffee brand online.
In building an online business you avoided overhead costs. So did your competion, which means they have a lot of investment left over to build out very strong marketing efforts in order to drive traffic to their websites and make sales.
In addition to having a website, to sell from home you'll need to know where to find your target customers and how to promote your coffee to them. Since you're selling online, chances are you'll look to "find your customers online" as well. This means looking at advertising through Google Ads, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and other digital search or social media channels.
This, in truth, might be where the majority of your expertise and investment will need to go. If you want to sell coffee from home, you'll jump right over the equipment and staffing needs you need for a brick and mortar location and land right into the world of online marketing.
A good website, thought-through customer service processes, and excellent application of social media marketing and other digital marketing tactics will be the game you're mostly playing in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Sell Coffee From Your House?
Yes. Their may be license and food safety considerations etc.. but you can absolutely sell coffee from your house thought a website, Amazon, or other online channels.
How Do You Make Money Selling Coffee?
You make money by ensuring your revenue exceeds your costs, which is what's commonly known as a "profit margin".
Your profit margin will be a function of the revenue from sales of your coffee minus the investment in equipment, staff, and "raw materials" (if you source coffee beans someone else is growing).
If you're selling coffee from home, through online channels primarily, than your prices and sales need to add up to more than the cost of getting/making the roaster coffee beans, storing and shipping them, and whatever budget you put into your advertising.
How Much Can You Make Selling Coffee?
Coffee is in demand and is selling very well online.
A home based coffee business might have less room to grow in terms of storage and operations capacity, but of course in theory you could side-step that by selling another roaster's coffee through private label partnerships.
While they are not a home based business, you could look at Blue Bottle Coffee as an example of a coffee business that yields $700 million dollars in revenue selling online.
Do I Need a License to Sell Coffee?
Generally speaking yes. You can find more details on that by consulting our other blog post.