A few days ago, my friend and I came up with an idea: A late-night coffee delivery service.
Insomnia Cookie, but for coffee.
It was midnight at the factory and we were out of coffee. There was a machine that made a small shot of awful instant coffee for $.50, and a lot of people were willing to buy at least six of those every night. For whatever reason, no one who works on the floor came up with the idea to pitch in for a coffee maker. And, while there was a coffee maker in the office, we were out of grounds.
No coffee (or shitty coffee) and we wanted coffee.
That got us thinking: Who else wants late-night coffee? Corporate fat-cats who are still going at it long after their secretaries leave. Programmers working on tech start-ups. And college students who put off writing their papers until the last minute. Or groups of college students who put off preparing their presentations.
Conveniently, it’s Finals Week, which gives us the perfect time to try it out. I went home and made some fliers using Canva (see the picture). Obviously there’s contact info at the bottom, which I cropped out.
Then I went to Walmart to get the supplies.
- Folger’s Classic Roast coffee (makes 380 6oz cups, or 142 16oz cups): $12.87
- 40 16oz Coffee Cups: $7.94
- 20 16oz Foam Cups (in case we run out): $0.98
- 24 donuts: $5.96
- 250 Coffee Stirrers: $1.88
- French Vanilla Creamer: $1.88
- TOTAL: $30.59
If we sell all 142 cups at $3 apiece, we make at least $426 on a $12.87 investment, a return of about 3300% (assuming no one tips us at all; and, yes, I know we’ll need more cups if we sell that much — assuming no repeat customers).
If we sell all 24 donuts at $2 apiece, we make $48 on a $5.96 investment, a return of about 800% (again, assuming no tips).
Luckily this puts us a little bit under the $600 cut-off for paying sales tax in Ohio. I already have a vendor’s license and an LLC from my other small business, Quick Cup LLC.
This business is, of course, only viable if you have a way to get to and from the campus very quickly. I live in an apartment building that’s closer to the library than a lot of dorms. We’re going to load up a thermos full of coffee, a lunchbag full of donuts and creamer, and bike back and forth between my apartment and the library. That *might* take six minutes.
It’s also only viable if you’re athletic and don’t mind the exercise.
I’m going to try it out tonight and get back to this post tomorrow.
Day 2: 5/8/2017
My friend and I realized that we needed to pick up some more stuff. We grabbed a couple thermoses and some thumb tacks so we could hang the flyers up. We also printed smaller, palm-sized flyers that we plan to place on desks.
Once we got done with that, though, it was already 11PM (we’re night owls, and he had to work and study before we met up). The library is open 24/7, but we ran into our first complication: my friend doesn’t have a Flashcard, which is what Kent State uses to verify that you’re a student before you enter the library. You need one to get in at night.
I told him that’s arguably more important than anything we could buy, but it doesn’t really matter. He’ll pick one up soon or he won’t be able to deliver at night.
I’m quitting my day job today (completely unrelated to this side-hustle that hasn’t even started yet — don’t worry), so I’ll definitely have time in the next week to see if anyone will buy late-night coffee and donuts.
I can’t find the receipt, but the thermoses were around $30 altogether.
That puts the whole start-up cost at $60.59.
Day 3: 5/9/2017
I spent most of the night at the library until ~3AM. I wasn’t selling: I came to the library to get some reading and writing done, but I ended up running into a friend from high school.
I pitched the idea to her and she told me that there’s free coffee behind the front desk on the first floor of the library.
Lesson: Always check with your target audience to see if your product is in demand. Especially before buying anything.
Luckily, since this was a small side-hustle with a borderline infinitesimal start-up cost on items that we’d have probably bought anyway, there’s arguably no loss at all. It’s also still a viable side-hustle for any time that isn’t Finals Week. I don’t think that the library always gives away free coffee.
I talked to my boss at Overcoming Odds about the idea, and he told me that he and a friend started something similar. They would sneak into the dorms at Kent and slide flyers under the door advertising a late-night delivery service.
He said it got to the point where there was too much demand.
If I wouldn’t have pitched this idea to him, that never would have come up. Now, I have two side-hustles that I can easily act on next year, as opposed to nothing.