I am a student at the School of Entrepreneurship at Uppsala University. The class got an assignment to form teams of three and sell coffee during the week. So I teamed up with two other students and started to come up with ideas to do this at once.
The most obvious in all of this was to choose the customer segment. Which people drink the most coffee, are most furious about high prizing and are easily talked into spending money several times a day? Yes. Students. Where do most students pass at the same times every day on their way to class? Outside the main entrance to the large campus of Ångströmlaboratoriet. Thus, it was rather easy to choose this location for our business. To compete with the cafe inside, selling coffee for 17 SEK, we decided to charge 7 SEK for a cup. Enough to make some money but low enough to give students an easy decision of where to buy their coffee. And of course, most coffee is drunk during the morning, so that is when we will sell.
There were more problems than expected at first. Is it legal to just start selling coffee anywhere? No, you need permission. So I contacted Akademiska Hus, which are the property owners and managers. The answer I got was “Talk to the university”. So I called the commissariat at the university and they told me they can not permit me to do business on the grounds since they do not have that power over the property owners and directed me back to Akademiska Hus. After one more conversation with the person in charge of these questions at Akademiska Hus, I was told to send him more details and he would contact some colleagues to see if we could get permission then get back to me. Which he did and indeed we got permission to sell coffee on the university ground. The terms were to not be in the way of daily traffic and not be inside the building, which would cause too much competition with the established café.
More problems arose as we talked in the group. How do we store the coffee without it getting cold? Can we borrow containers from somewhere? How do we serve it? Can we get free coffee or where do you get the cheapest coffee? How can we get away with as low costs as possible?
One member of the team tried to get a hold of coffee, cups, and a large thermos from a student nation. He could get everything for free except for the coffee. He then made a trip to the nearest grocery store to buy coffee, filters, and milk for around 200 SEK. The rest of what we needed (table, thermos, coffee brewers and cups) we borrowed from student nation.
To set the mood we thought of bringing a portable speaker and play some nice empowering morning music to lure the customers. It is not clear if this made a significant difference but at least it was pleasant for us standing there.
Our business idea seemed to be somewhat good. Between 8.00 and 12.45 on a Thursday we managed to sell more than 100 cups of coffee, resulting in a profit of around 700 SEK.
Since I personally never done something like this before, I learned a lot. I had no idea there needed to be so much planning just to sell some coffee, which I think gives a good feeling of the fact that there is a lot of work behind every good innovation, project, and company ever created. I also learned the importance of marketing. When one person in the group stood a few meters away from the table asking “Would you like to buy some coffee?” the sales went up compared to when we just stood there waiting for people to come to us. There were more lessons learned, small but important. However, I would like to summarize this project with one word,