How to Start and Grow a Christian Coffee Shop

by | Marketing

There’s nothing like the “sweet-smelling savor” of a Christian coffee shop.

(Leviticus 2:12…Christian humor…Okay, maybe not.)

Fact is: if you’re reading this post, you probably LOVE God and coffee. Which means you’re okay in my book. 😉

If you feel inspired to start and grow a Christian coffee shop, you’re in the right place. We’re going to unpack WHY you might want to do such a thing and WHAT to do to get started.

Let’s dive in.

Why Start a Christian Coffee Shop?

I think Christian business owners will change the world.

The world is changing!

So, how do we grow with it and point others to Christ in our current cultural context?

According to the founders of Coffee 4 Missions, one great means of accomplishing this is with a Christian coffee shop:

Think of the coffee you provide as a suitable simile to the Gospel to both non-believers and believers when they enter your doors. Standing or sitting people will gather where there is coffee. There is a common bond of communion among coffee drinkers. And lets face it, coffee is the most consumed beverage on the planet next to water. In its own way it’s kind of omnipresent ? It is also the most universally accepted beverage worldwide. It crosses cultural and ethnic barriers. I would even go so far as to say it crosses language barriers often.

I have noticed something similar in my web design business. I have spent a lot of time in “official” ministry work, but it’s amazing how much an impact I can have through my business endeavors!

With that in mind, here are a few good reasons to think about starting a Christian coffee shop:

  1. We now live in what some are calling a “post-COVID” world. The pandemic of 2020 affected many people, and to some extent, even affected the gathering rights of the Church. Now may be an incredible time to start a Christian coffee shop because people are so motivated to create that personal connection.
  2. Coffee is a good business. One firm estimated the global coffee and tea industry will reach $191.1 billion in 2023.
  3. Christians gather around food and drink. This one is probably obvious, but the reality is you cannot read through Scripture without the idea that “the table” is important. There is tremendous opportunity here.
  4. It doesn’t have to be a “Christian” coffee shop! It could simply be an inviting place that creates a “different” atmosphere than other coffee shops. It should be marked by excellence as well as incredible customer service. Look—everyone knows Chick-Fil-A is God’s chicken, but I promise plenty of unbelievers darken their doors. Why? The experience is phenomenal.
  5. We need more “normal” Christian entrepreneurs. Sadly, there is a misconception that the only people doing good work for the Lord are in full-time ministry. This has led to discouragement and an improper view of work, according to the Bible. Worse, it’s led to compartmentalizing. You don’t have to own a “Christian” coffee shop, but you could be an unashamed Christian who owns a coffee shop and operates with a high standard of excellence. It makes a difference!

For all these reasons and more, there is tremendous opportunity here.

So let’s say you are READY to go. You have a dream to get this going. Let’s talk a bit about some decisions to make and things to think about.

Researching Local Business Opportunities for Your Christian Coffee Shop

When you are setting out to begin a new business of any type, the first step is truly to do market research. (Unless you have a Godaddy account, in which case it is to go buy every conceivable domain name before someone else gets it. Kidding…kind of.)

Now, you could go for something other than the traditional coffee shop model.

For example, you could produce your own brand of coffee and sell it online, or you could even start a coffee subscription box service.

Solid Ground Coffee

Solid Ground Coffee

But since this post is more about beginning a local coffee shop, we’ll focus on getting started with that.

Step 1. Check your locality’s business requirements.

Since I don’t live where you do, I won’t be much help here.

Suffice it to say, every place is different, and your city/town may not require the same things as another.

At a minimum, you need to check and see whether a business license is required. You will absolutely need a business bank account, so many times whatever the requirements are to open that will be sufficient.

Step 2. Count the cost.

In Luke 14:28 Jesus asked, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”

Business ownership—especially when a physical location is involved—is something to be carefully considered.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Do I have the capital to make this a worthy investment?
  2. Will I need to raise funds to make this happen?
  3. Who will operate the coffee shop daily?
  4. Do I really have the time to make this commitment right now?
  5. Have I prayed about this and received counsel from spiritual authorities and business leaders in my sphere of influence?
  6. Is there a great location available right now, with plenty of foot traffic?
  7. Will I start a website for the coffee shop?
  8. How will I get the word out and regularly bring in new and returning patrons?

Step 3. If moving forward, create a business bank account and a financial plan.

This is, of course, an extension of the first two steps.

You must keep ALL business finances separate from personal finances, and you need to have a plan for how you are going to invest your time, money, and other resources wisely.

Step 4. Take action!

I’m not a coffee shop owner myself, so I’m sure at this point there are plenty of little boxes to check off.

Here’s the point: If you KNOW you want to do this, DO IT!

So many people dream, but the only ones who get stuff done DO.

A quick story:

When I started my web design business in 2015, it wasn’t even a web design business! I started a small IT company focusing on Apple products.

It was crazy. We didn’t know if it would work. Turns out, it didn’t! We pivoted the company to web design. Five years later, here I am supporting my family with that business.

It won’t be perfect. You won’t have all the answers right away.

But with the Lord’s help, your immediate family’s support, and a STRONG commitment to the mission, it is absolutely possible.

Christian Coffee Shop Names

I have written three books so far. In all cases, I created the first draft of the book artwork first.

Why did I do that?

So I could “see” what I was working toward!

Part of making the dream a reality is having a concrete vision. When you give something a name, you identify it. It becomes one step closer to reality.

So that is why, before doing much else at all, I would recommend that you give your coffee shop a name.

There is some super cool “play on words” type of names to experiment with here. Some cool ones I’ve seen are:

Of course, the name does not have to be overtly biblical if you don’t want it to be! Perhaps it’s just a family name or yours, something related to the local area, or just something else that sounds cool.

Don’t overthink this; as I said, though, is it an important part of the vision!

You could use a business name generator as well.

Here’s the link to a Google search for Christian business name generators.

Coffee Shop Evangelism

So you know why you should consider starting a Christian coffee shop, and you know what to do to get started.

But there’s more. Once this thing is up and running, I think it would be awesome to consider ways to make your coffee shop a place for evangelism.

Now—what I am not talking about is standing at the door with religious paraphernalia. I can almost promise, no one will be coming back.

What I am talking about are programs and activities that encourage community-building, as well as some tactical things you can do to make people feel welcome and create opportunities for the gospel.

Community Events

You could consider sponsoring and/or hosting community events.

The best marketing is simply visibility and attention. If you are where the eyes are, then the eyes are on you!

Also, there are strategic advantages to “hosting the party.” I know this is not a popularity contest, but getting new business is much easier if everyone knows your name!

Consider having special days to recognize certain members of the community, or making a party space available that can accommodate large groups.

If there are community events already happening, go ahead and invest in a sponsorship opportunity. For the first few months, you could include variations of the word “new” in your marketing to let people know there is a new local experience to try out.

Christian Background Music

I know this one seems kind of obvious, but you should have encouraging Christian background music playing!

The ambiance is one of the primary reasons folks choose a coffee shop anyway! You can take advantage of this by making sure music with the right message is playing in your Christian coffee shop.

A caveat, though: Don’t have the music loud and overbearing, unless you are hosting a concert. Craft a pleasant experience for people.

Host Concerts

I used to play music a lot, and one of my favorite things to do was play in coffee shops.

Again, the atmosphere is the perfect place. And guess what? The coffee shops that had things happen, had customers! Always!

Hear me: One of the BEST ways to ensure your coffee shop has customers is to host the party, whatever form it takes.

Concerts are a great way to this, and local Christian bands are always looking for new gigs.

Obsess Over Hospitality

Okay, Chick-Fil-A one more time. Seriously, who gets mad that they say, “My Pleasure” after you thank them?

At first blush, this may seem a mere formality that loses content and meaning because it is so repetitive. However, that’s not the vibe I get at all.

When I hear that, I am instantly reminded that they obsess over hospitality.

They don’t care about anything as much as they do making sure my experience is fantastic, from the speed of the drive-through to the cordially of the employees.

I cannot think of a single better marketing tactic (and a way to be a good Christian entrepreneur) than to obsess over hospitality toward your patrons.

Speaking of marketing…

Marketing a Christian Based Coffee Shop

If you follow the above steps, you will go a LONG way towards marketing to folks in your local area.

However, there are many advantages to having a sound digital marketing strategy as well. Full disclosure, if you’re at the point in your business where you need online marketing help, feel free to reach out.

Here are some simple things you will need to think about in addition to the items mentioned above:

  1. A website. In 2021, if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. People who are wanting to learn more about you and the vision of the coffee shop will want to see a website where they can learn more. In the future, perhaps you create a brew of your own, and could even use the website to sell that.
  2. Social media profiles. I’ll admit that social media is not my favorite. However, when it comes to “hosting the party” digitally, you can’t deny the importance and effectiveness of social media. If social’s not your thing, find and hire a teenager. They will be MORE than happy to assist, and will probably do a better job than you would. 🙂
  3. An SEO strategy. If you didn’t know, SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” This is the act of making your website easily found by people who are searching for businesses like yours.
  4. A content marketing strategy. If you’re reading this post, you are reading a piece of content marketing. Content marketing can be infused with social media and SEO, to create a comprehensive marketing strategy for your brand new Christian coffee shop. Start a blog covering local news, a fun video series introducing people to the employees at your new shop, or an audio podcast talking about the pleasures of coffee.

Conclusion

I hope you are beginning to see that this is doable for you, even if it only seems like a dream right now.

Starting a Christian coffee shop is entirely possible, and stands to be a great business for 2021 and beyond from a cultural, practical, and even financial perspective.

If you want to take the plunge but have questions about how to make it successful, just book a discovery call with me here and we can talk through how to make this thing grow.

Question: Are you thinking about getting started with this? What hesitations do you have? Let’s have a conversation in the comments below!

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