Entrepreneur Tips from Texas Coffee School Founder, Tom Vincent
In a recent blog post, we interviewed Texas Coffee School founder Tom Vincent. More than 11 years into his own journey as an entrepreneur, he’s helped hundreds and hundreds of coffee shop owners launch their own businesses. We wanted to learn more about his best advice and entrepreneur tips for aspiring coffee shop owners.
In this post, we share more of Tom’s wisdom, advice, and insight for aspiring Coffeepreneurs®.
What is a common mistake you see aspiring coffee shop owners make?
The most common mistake I see is that they choose a location before they’ve established a thoughtful, viable coffee shop concept. That’s putting the cart before the horse. A location might be in a high traffic area, but that traffic is irrelevant if the people that comprise the traffic don’t care about what you are offering. Who is your specific customer (beyond coffee drinkers)? How will you uniquely appeal to them? What will set you apart today and keep you relevant 3 years from now when new competitors arrive?
What I tell students is to first understand what you want out of this business fulfillment-wise (beyond money) so you can plant your flag in the ground and say
“This is who we are, this is what we are about as a company, this is what we stand for, and this is what makes us unique, different, and special.” These are your company Core Values.
From there, you can say “Who will identify with my company core values?” Meaning, who are YOUR people (aka your target audience). Then you can say “Where is there a large population of MY people?” Meaning, where is the most fertile soil you can plant your business in so it can grow quickly and produce profit? This is the best location possible. This way you not only have the highest chances for reaching profitability fast, but you also get fulfillment out of serving people who are into what you are as a company.
If those are the mistakes that get in the way, what entrepreneur tips help ensure success?
For established coffee shops, people keep coming back because of authenticity. The coffee shop owner has created an experience arounds something they’re really passionate about. And they’ve identified a community of people who they want to share it with. To be authentic you have to be innovative. Anyone can regurgitate a coffee shop aesthetic. Same drinks, ordered the same way, same furniture, different logo on the door. It’s a snooze fest. Bring inspiration from outside the industry. Be disruptive! It’s the coffee shops doing something different that are more likely to find long term success.
For aspiring coffee shop owners, the folks who leave class and do the best are the go-getters. They just do it. They don’t sit around waiting for validation. I’ve never met anyone who became truly successful who just casually dipped their toe into entrepreneurship. You’ve go to commit and stay focused on your goal.
I also tell them it’s going to be harder for you than it was for me. I lost my job and had to get scrappy to survive. You are actively choosing to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. If you want to make it easier on yourself, go get fired. (Joking, but kind of not really.) That could give you the push you need to get started. Now you don’t have a choice, you need to survive, and you will always be more creative and willing to work harder when you are hungry and desperate!
Lastly, get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable for at least two years of your life. Take it one step at a time. Those that are willing to be uncomfortable for two years will never be uncomfortable again. They will learn what they are actually capable of in tough times, and then of course the financial aspect when the business really hits its stride.
What do you hope every coffee shop owner is able to leave your class with?
“I can do this.” That’s why we exist. We don’t want to just give them some technical info, pat them on the back and say have a great life; we want to give them the entire mindset. I don’t see myself as someone who teaches people how to open coffee shop businesses. Instead, I teach people how to find fulfillment and to do something meaningful and purposeful with their lives. And, they just happen to open coffee shops.
Why do you think Texas Coffee School is different from other coffee training programs?
I don’t see how it’s possible for anyone to care more about giving their students a better experience. I don’t think anyone else out there is putting in the level of work it takes to constantly ensure their students receive unexpected levels of value and return on investment. When people come through our door, they are literally hoping that this class is a chance for a better and more fulfilling life as a Coffeepreneur®. I take that as a huge responsibility to make sure we are providing them the absolute best possible information and experience in a presentation that is easy to grasp and turn to action.
I’ll end with this story. Early in my career, I was fired because I was too passionate. I always wanted to do the best work possible with the highest level of integrity. No deadline or number was enough for me to compromise doing the best work I possibly could. Now, that corporate “flaw” is literally what sets Texas Coffee School apart. I took something that once got me fired and made a living out of it. I made it a strength instead of a weakness.
Become a Coffeepreneur® with Texas Coffee School
Learn coffee, entrepreneur tips, business, and and more in our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class. If you’re ready to join the hundreds and hundreds of Coffeepreneurs® who have launched coffee shops around the world, register here.