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10 Ways How to Start a Coffee Shop With No Money (2024)

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Starting a coffee shop business is a dream for many aspiring coffee shop owners, but the daunting prospect of securing substantial capital often holds aspiring entrepreneurs back. 

Are you wondering how to open a coffee shop with no money? In this article, we’ll explore creative strategies and practical tips for starting a coffee shop with no money or a significantly limited budget. So, if you’re eager to sip success in coffee entrepreneurship, let’s dive in!

What is a coffee shop?

A coffee shop is a casual establishment where customers can purchase and enjoy a variety of coffee-based beverages, along with other snacks, pastries, and sometimes light meals.

Coffee shops frequently offer a warm and welcoming ambiance where customers can enjoy their coffee while socializing, working, or unwinding. 

Coffee shops come in various sizes, from cozy independent cafes to larger chain outlets, and they usually feature a menu with a variety of coffee choices, such as espresso, cappuccinos, lattes, brewed coffee, and a selection of teas and other beverages.

Coffee shop types

Below are a few coffee shops examples catering to diverse tastes and preferences.

  • Café: A traditional coffee shop offering a variety of coffee beverages, pastries, and light snacks.
  • Espresso Bar: Specializes in espresso-based drinks, often focusing on quality espresso shots.
  • Bakery-Café: Combines a coffee shop with a bakery, offering a wide range of baked goods and coffee.
  • Drive-Thru Coffee Stand: A coffee shop designed for customers on the go, with a drive-thru window for quick service.
  • Coffee Kiosk: A small, standalone coffee shop often located in malls, train stations, or busy urban areas.
  • Artisan Coffee Shop: Emphasizes artisanal coffee beans and brewing methods, often focusing on single-origin coffee.
  • Coffee Roastery: Primarily focused on roasting coffee beans and selling freshly roasted beans to customers.
  • Coffeehouse Chain: Large chains like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts offering a wide range of coffee and food options.
  • Specialty Coffee Shop: Focuses on unique and specialty coffee offerings, often with a strong emphasis on coffee education.
  • Organic or Fair Trade Coffee Shop: Specializes in organic or ethically sourced coffee.
  • Coffee Cart or Mobile Coffee Shop: A compact coffee shop on wheels, often found at events, markets, or street corners.
  • Coffee Lab: A place where coffee enthusiasts experiment with various brewing methods and techniques.
  • Coffee Truck: A mobile coffee shop on a truck, catering to events or various locations.
  • Coffee and Dessert Shop: Combines coffee with desserts like cakes, cookies, and ice cream.
  • Ethnic or Cultural Coffee Shop: Offers coffee and treats from specific regions or cultures, celebrating their unique flavors and traditions.

According to Statista, the coffee market in the United States is the world’s largest, surpassing 81 billion U.S. dollars in revenue. Brazil comes in a distant second, with Japan and Canada following behind. 

Regarding coffee imports, Colombia and Brazil are the top two exporters to the United States, each sending over one billion dollars worth of coffee in the latest year.

According to Research and Markets, the worldwide coffee shop market, estimated at US$165.7 billion in 2022, is anticipated to expand to a projected size of US$229.9 billion by 2030. This growth reflects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2% during the analytical period from 2022 to 2030.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop

As you can see, the statistics show that the coffee shop market continues to grow. Now let’s move to one of the most important aspects of starting a coffee shop business. 

How much money do you need to open a coffee shop?

While the average startup costs for a coffee shop typically range from $50,000 to $300,000, these numbers can vary significantly depending on your specific circumstances. 

For example, the cost of your chosen location is a significant factor affecting opening a new coffee shop. Prime locations in bustling city centers or high-traffic areas generally demand higher rents or property purchase prices than less central areas. 

Another example concerns coffee-making equipment. The quality and brand of equipment can significantly impact costs.

To learn more about the costs of starting your own coffee shop, check out our article How Much Does it Cost to Open a Coffee Shop in 2024? 

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee

How to start a coffee shop with no money?

We already know the answer to the question, “How much money do you need to open a coffee shop?” The other question is “How to open a café with a low budget?” How to start a coffee business with no money?

Below we described 10 ways to join the coffee industry and become a coffee shop owner.

1. Apply for a loan

You might want to explore the possibility of securing coffee shop financing through a bank loan or an SBA loan. Collaborating with SBA-approved business plan writers can significantly streamline the process of securing financing, ensuring your business plan meets the high standards required by financial institutions and optimizes your chance for approval.

Banks typically offer a one-time injection of funds, while SBA loans cater to small businesses with attractive terms and competitive interest rates.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides specialized loan programs designed to help entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. These loans help with crucial startup expenses, such as real estate, permits, and initial operational costs.

Taking into account exactly how much money you need to open a coffee shop, consider the following options: 

  • 7(a) Loans: SBA’s 7(a) loans are like flexible tools in the toolbox for small businesses. Whether you need money for day-to-day expenses, new equipment, or growing your business, these loans can help. You can borrow up to $5 million, making them suitable for various business needs.
  • 504 Loans: Think of SBA 504 loans as your partner in building your business. They are designed to help you buy important things like property or equipment. It’s like getting a hand from experts to create a solid foundation for your business.
  • Microloans: SBA Microloans can rescue your business just starting or need a small boost. They offer smaller amounts, from a few thousand dollars to $50,000, perfect for small businesses. Use them for everyday expenses, getting new equipment, or stocking inventory. They’re like a little helping hand to get your business going.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - business loan

2. Consider a home equity line of credit 

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a financial tool that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity they’ve built in their homes. It functions as a revolving credit line, similar to a credit card, where borrowers can access funds up to a predetermined credit limit as needed.

However, remember that your home’s value backs HELOCs, so if you can’t repay, it could lead to the risk of losing your property.

Another option is a business line of credit. According to Bankrate, a business line of credit operates like a business credit card, offering business financing flexibility. 

Approved borrowers are given access to a predefined credit limit and can use the credit as required, paying interest solely on the amount currently utilized. These funds are typically accessible through a business checking account or a mobile app, providing convenience and adaptability for managing financial needs.

Here you can compare some of the top small business lines of credit

how to start a coffee shop with no money - home equity line of credit

3. Join a restaurant incubator program 

A restaurant incubator is a specialized institution or facility that assists individuals aspiring to become restaurateurs or culinary entrepreneurs in developing and launching their restaurant concepts. 

These initiatives typically offer access to shared commercial kitchens, mentorship, business training, potential funding opportunities, and, at times, a platform to test their restaurant ideas with the public. The primary goal of restaurant incubators is to foster culinary talent, encourage innovation, and provide valuable support for emerging food businesses striving to thrive in the competitive restaurant industry.

Where can I find restaurant incubators?
  • Bulk purchasing: Buy in bulk to benefit from discounts and reduce per-unit costs.
  • Invest in quality: Choose durable supplies to reduce the frequency of replacements.
  • Manage inventory efficiently: Regularly track and adjust inventory to prevent overstocking and wastage.
  • Negotiate with suppliers: Work on getting better deals or discounts from your suppliers.
  • Reuse and recycle: Where possible, opt for reusable items to cut down on recurring purchases.
  • Monitor usage: Keep a close eye on the usage of supplies to identify areas for cost savings.

Search for local restaurant incubators in your vicinity, and keep in mind that certain well-established restaurants may offer their own incubator programs.

Below you can check the examples of restaurant incubators

4. Establish a cooperative for a coffee shop

If you think of starting a cafe with no money, the other financing solution is establishing a cooperative. 

A cooperative, often called a co-op, is an organization or business structure owned and operated by its members, typically individuals or other businesses with shared goals or interests. In a cooperative, members pool their resources, whether capital, labor, or both, to achieve common objectives, such as economic or social benefits.

What are the benefits of establishing a cooperative?

A cooperative can be a beneficial option for the following reasons:

  • Resource pooling: Cooperatives allow members to combine their resources, including finances and skills.
  • Shared financial burden: Members collectively fund the coffee shop, reducing individual financial pressure.
  • Diverse expertise: Cooperative members bring various skills, covering different aspects of coffee shop operations.
  • Risk mitigation: Financial risks are shared among members, making it less daunting for those with limited funds.
  • Democratic decision-making: Cooperative models ensure that decisions are made collectively, taking everyone’s input into account.
  • Community support: Cooperative-owned coffee shops often enjoy strong community backing, attracting loyal customers.
  • Access to resources: Some cooperatives have access to grants or loans that can aid in funding.
  • Shared responsibilities: Members share the workload, reducing the need for extensive paid staff.

5. Benefit from established businesses

Another way to own a cafe is to benefit from nearby established businesses. How does it work? You look for an existing business and create a symbiotic relationship, for example, you can share the location that leads to lowering your rental costs. 

Below you can check the examples of partnering or leveraging existing businesses or trends to launch your coffee venture:

  • Coffee in co-working spaces: Collaborate with co-working spaces to provide coffee services, catering to remote workers and entrepreneurs.
  • Coffee and bookstore combo: Partner with a bookstore to create a cozy coffee shop within the bookstore, offering a reading-friendly atmosphere.
  • Coffee in fitness centers: Place a coffee kiosk near gyms, targeting health-conscious customers who enjoy post-workout coffee.
  • Coffee at farmers’ markets: Set up a coffee stand at local farmers’ markets, providing fresh brews to shoppers.
  • Coffee in boutiques: Collaborate with boutique shops to offer coffee to their customers, enhancing the shopping experience.
  • Coffee in office buildings: Rent space or partner with office building management to run a coffee shop in business complexes.
  • Coffee on college campuses: Partner with universities to provide coffee services within or near campuses.
  • Coffee at art galleries: Collaborate with art galleries to create a café where patrons can enjoy coffee while appreciating art.
  • Coffee in hair salons: Offer coffee services within hair salons, allowing customers to enjoy a beverage during their appointments.
  • Coffee at local parks: Provide coffee services at parks, especially in scenic or recreational areas.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop and bookstore

6. Start small

Coffee stands and kiosks are widespread across the United States. It is a good option to start small, for example, in a coffee kiosk or food truck, to test the coffee shop concept and simultaneously do market research before opening a coffee shop. 

Below you can check the pros and cons of starting small. 

Pros of starting a small coffee shop
Cons of starting a small coffee shop

Lower initial investment

Limited financial resources

Personalized customer experience

Limited brand recognition

Easier to manage

Limited marketing budget

Nimble and adaptable

Limited menu and equipment options

Closer customer relationships

Limited seating space

Ability to quickly adapt to new trends

Slower growth potential

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee kiosk

7. Look for private investors 

If you aspire to start your own coffee shop with little or no money and don’t want to focus on traditional business loans, seeking private investors can be a strategic move. 

To secure potential restaurant investors for your coffee shop venture, it’s essential to tap into your network within the restaurant and coffee industries. Additionally, consider participating in local and national networking events and harnessing the power of social media to connect with potential private investors. Building these connections can significantly enhance your chances of finding the right financial support for your business.

8. Consider crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another way of securing financing for a coffee shop. Through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, a business owner can introduce their coffee shop concept to a wide online audience and invite financial contributions from interested backers.

To raise money for your dream coffee shop, it’s essential to create a compelling campaign that showcases your coffee shop’s distinctive qualities and offers appealing rewards or incentives to attract potential backers.

Examples of successful crowdfunding coffee shop projects
  • The Coffee Shop is a crowdfunding project that succeeded thanks to money raised on Kickstarter. A group of 43 supporters contributed $15,477 to make this project a reality; the goal was $15,000.
  • Earlybird is a local coffee shop opened to invest in the owners’ community. A group of 229 supporters on Kickstarter contributed $30,512 to make this project a reality; the goal was $25,000.
  • Build Coffee was opened within Chicago’s Experimental Station, a non-profit center with a farmers market, a bike shop, and 3 dynamic journalism projects. A group of 236 supporters on Kickstarter contributed $16,763 to make this project a reality; the goal was $12,000.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - crowd funding

9. Contact your local restaurant association 

While your local restaurant association may not provide investment or lending services, it serves as a valuable resource for obtaining information and accessing useful resources.

Where can I find restaurant associations?
  • The National Restaurant Association is a primary source of information and guidance for aspiring restaurant owners, providing valuable insights on industry best practices, regulations, and emerging trends in the restaurant business.
  • State Restaurant Associations provide customized resources and assistance designed for the local food service sector, offering valuable information and networking possibilities for individuals interested in launching a food truck business within specific regions.

10. Borrow money from friends or family

Borrowing money from your friends or family is an option with both advantages and potential challenges. 

On the positive side, friends and family may be more willing to lend money without stringent requirements or high interest rates. It may also turn out that investing in a coffee shop is an interesting business opportunity for them. 

On the other hand, misunderstandings about finances can strain relationships, so open communication and trust are key when considering borrowing from friends or family for your coffee shop venture.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - borrowing money from friends

Remember that to open a successful coffee business, you don’t need to use one method for securing funds. Instead, you can think of making use of a variety of methods that will make your coffee shop dream come true. 

For example, you could explore crowdfunding campaigns, seek out local investors, and collaborate with coffee equipment suppliers for favorable terms. 

By diversifying your funding sources, you increase your chances of achieving your goal and opening that coffee shop you’ve always envisioned.

What is required to start a coffee shop?

Is it hard to start a coffee shop? As you can see, many ways of raising money can enable you to open your coffee shop. 

While it may seem challenging, it is indeed possible to open a coffee shop with little to no initial capital. However, it requires creativity, passion, a well-defined coffee shop concept, meticulous planning, and unwavering discipline. What else is required to start a coffee shop business? 

Below are the steps to open a coffee shop with no money.

Step 1. Make a research

Start with market research on the interest in your coffee shop idea.

Dive into the coffee shop industry, thoroughly research your target audience, and pinpoint unique trends within your niche to distinguish your coffee shop. Explore budget-friendly approaches, creative concepts, and potential investors to establish a strong and successful foundation for your coffee shop startup.

Here you can check 25 Unique Coffee Shop Ideas, Themes & Concepts

how to start a coffee shop with no money - market research

Step 2. Write a coffee shop business plan

As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, develop a solid business plan defining your coffee shop concept and business model, identifying your target market, and presenting financial forecasts. 

This meticulously crafted plan is crucial in attracting potential investors or obtaining a business loan to back your coffee shop endeavor.

Check out our guide on Coffee Shop Business Plan (How to Write & Template).

how to start a coffee shop with no money - writing a business plan

Step 3. Secure funding

Finding capital is a pivotal milestone in successfully launching your coffee shop business. To accomplish this, you must explore diverse funding options customized to the specific requirements of your coffee shop venture. 

Above, we described 10 how to start a cafe business with no money. 

You can also check out our article on 18 Ways How to Open a Restaurant With No Money

Step 4. Choose your coffee shop location 

The next step to start selling coffee in your cafe is choosing the right location for your business. Factors to consider include the location’s visibility, ease of access, rental expenses, and more.

Check our article on How to Start a Coffee Shop (17 Steps & Checklist) to check the list of all factors worth consideration.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop

Step 5. Obtain licenses and permits

Like launching a restaurant, obtaining licenses and permits is essential when starting a coffee shop. Requirements may vary from state to state, so it’s crucial to consult with your local authorities to ensure you secure all the required permits. 

Remember that the application process can be time-consuming, so applying well in advance is wise.

Step 6. Create your menu

Creating a coffee shop menu is important to running a successful business. 

Experiment with different coffee flavors, types of beans, and machine settings. Get creative when designing your menu. 

Think about what could be your competitive advantage. Maybe it will be an offer with drinks you can’t get anywhere nearby? Check what the competition offers and work on a menu that will make you stand out.

We created a menu engineering guide where you can read about how to make a restaurant menu

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop menu

Step 7. Hire employees

Opening your own cafe is not as demanding in terms of hiring staff as in the case of a fine dining restaurant. This does not change the fact that you will need baristas, managers, and staff to prepare food if you want to include it in your offer. 

If fresh baked goods are on the menu, you must employ at least one person to bake cakes or croissants. Remember that finding and training staff takes time, so don’t take it to the last minute.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop employees

Step 8. Use restaurant technology

Coffee shop owners should use restaurant technology solutions to streamline operations and facilitate business growth.

Buy contactless payment terminals to allow customers to pay with their cards. 

Build a website with information about your coffee shop menu, location, and opening hours. If you need inspiration, check these 20+ Best Cafe & Coffee Shop Websites Designs.

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Consider enabling online ordering from your website. For that purpose, you can implement an online ordering system allowing customers to place orders online from your coffee shop. Here you can check how to set up an online ordering system.
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Implement a QR code menu that lets customers browse your menu, place orders, and pay from their smartphones.

Utilize a QR code menu generator to create QR codes, then position them on the tables within your coffee shop.

Table Ordering
QR Code Ordering & Payments
Allow customers to order and pay directly from their table to enhance customer service and boost the average order value

Step 9. Create a marketing plan

A restaurant marketing plan before opening your coffee shop is important because it helps you stay focused on your goals, manage your budget, and save money on marketing that doesn’t work.

Once your marketing strategy is in place, you can begin promoting your coffee shop. 

Use restaurant marketing tools to create discounts and promotions. Consider creating a loyalty program, for example, for each order, a customer gets a stamp. When they gather 5 stamps, they are rewarded with a free coffee, 

You can also organize contests for engaged Facebook and Instagram followers.

Step 10. Prepare a launch plan

Last, develop a launch plan to ensure a successful start for your coffee shop. 

Consider providing opening-day discounts to convert new customers into loyal patrons. Additionally, offering gift cards is another strategy to boost future sales at your coffee shop.

Check out our article on 14 Best Restaurant Grand Opening Ideas.

how to start a coffee shop with no money - coffee shop promotions

Key Takeaways

  • Investigate coffee shop loans to secure initial funding and make your coffee shop dreams a reality.
  • Consider using a home equity line of credit (HELOC) as an unconventional but valuable source of investment for your coffee shop.
  • Join a restaurant incubator and engage with local restaurant associations
  • Think about forming a cooperative or using crowdfunding platforms to showcase your coffee shop concept and attract backers who can provide vital coffee shop investment.
  • Seek out private investors and consider partnering with already established businesses, such as co-working spaces or boutiques, to tap into existing foot traffic and create synergies supporting your coffee shop’s growth. 
  • Start small and gradually expand as you attract customers, allowing your coffee shop to thrive and flourish over time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The money you need to open a small coffee shop can vary widely depending on location, size, concept, and your specific business plan. 

However, as a general guideline, you can expect to invest anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 or more to open a small coffee shop. 

Opening a cafe with no money can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Start small and focus on essential elements. You can begin with a minimal menu, simple decor, and a smaller space to keep initial costs low.
  • Look for investors who believe in your cafe concept. Consider pitching your idea to friends and family.
  • Utilize crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds for your cafe.
  • Explore local or national grant programs that support small businesses, including cafes. 
  • Consider forming a cooperative.
  • Negotiate favorable lease terms with landlords, such as deferred rent payments or a percentage-based rent model tied to your cafe’s revenue.
  • Purchase used equipment and furniture to save on initial costs.
  • Use free or low-cost marketing methods like social media and word-of-mouth to build awareness and attract customers.
  • Collaborate with local businesses or organizations for mutually beneficial partnerships to help you with resources, customers, or promotional support.
According to Chron, while cafes can achieve gross margins as high as 85 percent, small coffee shops typically see average operating income at around 2.5 percent of their gross sales. 

On the other hand, Epos Now mentions that items with low-profit margins in coffee shops may yield as little as 5%, whereas high-profit margin items can reach 70% or even higher. 

Coffee shops often aim to attain a profit margin falling within the range of 15% to 25% of their total sales, which is widely accepted as a common benchmark.

Check out this article to learn more about How Much do Coffee Shops Make? (Coffee Shop Profit Margin).
Picture of Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Digital content creator, passionate about helping restaurants to start selling online.

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