205-223-4415 shawn@shawnwright.net

Many years ago I was visiting New Orleans when I happened upon the Kaldi Coffee House just off Decatur Street and the French Market. As I stood in the doorway I had an epiphany. I wanted to own a coffee house.

Kaldi had everything. It was located in a corner building with high ceilings and a somewhat rickety mezzanine. The coffee counter was setup more like a bar than a lunch counter and was located in the middle of the room. My favorite part was the coffee roaster in one corner surrounded by bags of green coffee beans waiting their turn to be roasted.

Yes, I had to have a coffee house to call my own.

The Plan

Once I made it back to Birmingham I started to write my business plan. Things looked good, the only real competition was a Barnie’s at Brookwood Village. Starbucks had yet to move into the area.

I researched equipment and I studied roasting techniques and coffee beans. I had picked out a storefront in downtown Homewood that looked to be the perfect location and the price was right.

Once I got everything together I took a long hard look at the numbers and decided that there was no way I was going to make this work. Loans on restaurant equipment are very short and the mortgage was long. That roaster I had picked out was going to cost me $17,000, the espresso machine $8,000. I couldn’t see how I was going to make any money selling coffee at a $1.50 a cup. I also had experience working in food service and I knew the hours and dedication it would take.

Imagine my surprise when in 1993 O’Henry’s Coffee opened up in the exact storefront that I had picked out less than 2 years earlier.

Homewood Today

Move forward 20 years and Homewood supports Starbucks, Octane, Hart & Soul, Seeds and Red Mountain Expresso. O’Henrys is still in that storefront along with a second location outside of Brookwood Mall. Weld wrote a story about it just recently.

Had I opened that coffee house I would have been at the forefront of the coffee movement in Homewood and Birmingham. I could just as easily have been the first casualty.

I don’t regret not opening that coffee house at all. I did the research. I put the time into learning about the business. I analyzed the risk and knew I didn’t want that risk. I walked away and I have never regretted it.

The takeaway

If I hadn’t done the work and made the plan I might be sitting hear moaning about missed opportunities. Instead I stayed in marketing and have a wealth of excellent coffee shops within minutes of my home.

Over the years I continued to do research and look at other opportunities within marketing. I have stayed ahead of trends and recognized how traditional advertising is changing. That has helped put me in a position to help other businesses as they make the change in the way they market. This is where I belong, I am doing what I enjoy and I’m good at it.

It may take you awhile to find the right business for you, it doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you might see another opportunity only to realize later that it wasn’t the right one. Do your research and take the risks you are comfortable with. As Kenny Rogers said, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”