Entrepreneurs Guide to Coffee Shops
Posted by Pierre de la Fortune on July 29, 2015 @ 12:01 a.m.
Written by DC Founders
But if you don’t find a good spot, you can waste over 5 hours of your day and $300-$1000/month (I measured) in shuttling between coffeeshops, ordering food, and fighting wi-fi troubles. Plus you get kicked out because you’re there for so long.
This pain seriously adds up. So here is my “lessons learned” guide to choosing the right spot:
It’s never Free
The cost of working out of a coffeeshop is far from zero. For any of you that are interested, to work an 8hour day from a coffeeshop, you are expected/required to spend between $10-$30. And it’s usually on the high end of this range. If you don’t go home for lunch or bring your own food (hehe) – you are going to be closer to $50/day. This ends up around $250-$1000/month (accounting for about 20 days a month).
These are real costs, not to be discounted when you do your financial planning, and if you are running a lean startup, you’d better make sure you understand this.
Wifi and Power
The biggest issues, bar-none, are wifi connections and plugs. This is the bane of everyone’s existence and the one definitive issue to choosing where to work.
The most consistent wi-fi is at national chains like Starbucks, with Carribou close behind. Speeds are usually limited, so you’ll never really fly, but you’ll usually have enough to work. Local coffeeshops and restaurants have great bandwidth if there are few people around (and not too many leeches from the neighborhood), and terrible connectivity.
Meaning if a small coffeeshop has a packed house and you’re not facebooking or emailing, go elsewhere.
Plugs are another issue that makes a big difference if your laptop doesn’t do 5hrs+ on a charge this becomes critical. Places vary. Carribou powers everything. starbucks is hit or miss. Most others vary, and you’d better be fast on the draw if you’re going to get that seat with power.
Awesome Tip: Here is a tip that will save you thousands of dollars, hundreds of man-hours, and improve your productivity 2X or more (not exaggeration) – buy a 4G Wireless Card and a Macbook Air with 10hrs+ of battery life.
Keep an eye on your burn-rate, but if you can afford it, you will not be sorry.
Another tip: carry a mini powerstrip in your bag, you’ll always get in even if plugs are taken, and you can make friends when others ask to use it.
Tipping is tricky, because you don’t want the relationship to be financial (you need to save those dollars). Of course it’s a great thing, so always do it if you can. But if you’re on a serious budget, here’s the way it goes:
Big chains – tips are communal, and not neccessarily noticed, so tip if you know them and they see it.
Mid-size chains – Often/Always if table service – they don’t know you very well, and you’re kind of annoying – if you want to be welcome you’d better tip well on that coffee you’ve been sipping on for 3 hours – 30-150% when your order is $2-$5. Don’t forget, you’re not tipping for the service, you’re tipping so they leave you alone.
Mom and pop – Depends – it’s tricky – If they have table service, then a definite yes (see mid-size). If not, it depends. If you come in often and you tip every time, your coffee costs double. Occasional can work, but usually once you start, you are always expected to, and if you stop after starting, you become persona-non-grata, that’s all bad. Your best bet is to use your charm as tip (To-do: get some charm). That way the relationship is not financial. But break that rule if you can, tipping is a good thing.
If you don’t want noise, stay home (or go to a public library – a highly underused resource). I thrive in ambient sound, especially when I am grooving to music in my earphones. But of course there are limits. Places really differ, but here are a few general tips:
Hipster hotspots are hit or miss
Some are great, some are fun, and you usually have some good conversations (especially with that cute girl/guy across the table), but if they are popular, there are some downsides: every other night is indie-band night, a torn couch is not as good as a table, internet may not be that great, and it’s hard to work when you’re hitting-on/getting-hit-on anyone within 10ft (:-D) – that’s annoying.
Busy pass-through coffee spots are a last resort If there is a lot of nine-to-fiver rush (e.g. downtown) and the place is small, you’ll be bothered more than you like, if you can’t hide in a corner don’t bother.
Avoid kids and college student hangouts (unless is a study hangout) They hang out in coffee shops without much agenda, tend to be loud, and make you wish you were at a kegger instead of squashing code-bugs.
Attitude of owners
Let’s face it, startups and startup founders generally suck as revenue generators. They stay for many *many* hours, drink only coffee, take the best spots in the house, and come back over and over.
This is not the financial windfall most establishments dream of. (On the upside they do get the mystique of being associated with the hotbed of activity comprised of “that one dude wearing giant earphones in the corner”. So it’s really a toss up).Here is how to work the system:
Big chains like Starbucks, Seattle Coffee (also Starbucks), and Carribou
Big chains don’t kick you out – homeless people sleep there, so they allow semi-homeless entrepreneurs to type there. If you want to be frugal, you can even bring a lunch from home, this saves hundreds a week and will prevent you from having “just one cookie” to get that sugar high when you’re already vibrating from the caffeine.
Often these guys can be cool, but don’t wear their patience – they probably haven’t been sued for “discrimination” yet so they can kick out people that don’t buy drinks or bring their own lunch – judge for yourself, but best to be a bit more discreet.
Mom and Pop shops
It’s like this – you either need to buy continuously (every 2hrs thereabouts) or you need to make friends with the owners/managers. The best is to do both.
Make sure you’re on a first name basis. Tell them about your startup, what you are doing when you’re there, how you are going to change the world. They will usually get on board, make you their little poster boy, and will loosen up on the buying cycle and may even slip you some coffee-freebies. They may even promote you to their other customers. But don’t bring a lunch, that’s offensive to an owner.
Hope this was helpful to you and evidently the procrastinator in me is satisfied – so I will now go back to real work while sipping my esspresso for the next four hours at a local coffeeshop where I fix their wifi and they don’t bother me.
Hang in there kids!
For more info please visit: http://dcfounders.com/entrepreneurs-guide-to-coffee-shops/
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