Alexandr Tribush is the owner of a chain of coffee shops in Minsk, Belarus called Everyday Coffee. Two of them belong to his network, one operates in the region under a franchise, and one more is in the process of opening. Alexandr has gone through a difficult path of developing his business and now wants to help other entrepreneurs. He developed an online consultation and training program for the operation of coffee shops. In his interview with Loyverse, Alexander shares his business experience.
Why and how did you start your business?
- I quit my job in 2015 which was opposed by everyone, my relatives, and employers. However, I was determined to start my own business. Everyone tried to dissuade me: relatives, employer. But I was determined to go into my own business. At first, I opened a catering bar that sold oxygen cocktails at schools and kindergartens. We also built pyramids from glasses of champagne at special events. Despite doing this for a year, there hasn’t been much success.
In 2015, the coffee culture began to develop in Minsk and many new establishments opened serving great coffee. It was a time when there was a significant rise in the popularity of small coffeeshops that serve coffee to go. There was a boom in small coffee shops with coffee to go. I was enticed by the aromatic scent of coffee and the pleasurable atmosphere each time I visited one of those coffee shops.
This experience let me open my own coffee shop hoping other people would appreciate the experience as much as I did. In the beginning, I had no understanding of the know-how of running a coffee shop and so I encountered quite a number of challenges. Since we didn’t have enough initial funds, we opened our first coffee shop with an old refrigerator we bought three days before the opening. We wrapped it in film imitating wood to make it look somehow presentable. Two weeks later, we earned some money and replaced the old fridge with a new one. The sales counter was also assembled with my friend by hand at night in the shopping center. This is how we opened our first coffee shop.
What makes your business different from similar companies in your area?
- I thought about how we will differ from our competitors a lot while preparing for the opening. First, I analyzed competitors. Disregarding the fact that we have a pretty small coffee shop in a place with so many big, fancy ones, I decided to look at our advantage. The strategic location of our coffeeshop has a fair advantage over our competitors due to the traffic of visitors heading to the nearby shopping center. While having this point in mind, I decided to focus on providing the best service to customers. I put together a guideline for the baristas to follow to observe the standard and quality of our services.
Even though our coffee shop is small, we offer our guests the opportunity to charge their phones through accessible sockets and power banks. We also serve them water for free. Our rules are: “We will exceed your expectations, or we will refund your money.” We are so confident in ourselves, in our product, in our service that if something happens, we will refund your money without any problems. Thankfully, there was never a situation where we returned the money because our guests are always happy.
Has the pandemic affected your business, and how did you overcome the challenges you faced?
- The pandemic has affected our business. One of our coffeeshops is located in a business center. It was the most profitable in terms of turnover. But when a pandemic happened, its revenue dropped by 70% because many office employees started to work remotely. Even up to this day, they have not fully returned to going to their offices. . What did we do in this situation? We optimized our costs. We immediately agreed with the landlord about a 30% rental discount. We also negotiated with suppliers about discounts. Also, we got rid of low-margin products. We tried to make sure that there was no loss of goods and remain the best-selling items on our menu. We also monitored our service standards and kept them under control.
Pandemic has made many businesses switch to the online sales format. Do you have a website? Are you attracting visitors through online channels?
- We do not have an online store or website, and we focus on offline sales due to the significant traffic of visitors we are still receiving daily. Of course, our clients can easily find us on Google maps and social media. We sell coffee by weight through Instagram, but ready-made drinks are offline.
What future do you see for your business?
- Of course, I plan to develop a chain of coffee shops in Minsk and other cities. I would like to sell a franchise of my chain of coffee shops. My main goal at the moment is the development of online education, “How to Open a Coffeeshop?.” I put a lot of emphasis on this education service since I believe that my knowledge of starting and running a coffee shop is a valuable asset for young aspiring entrepreneurs. By teaching others, I also challenge myself and get new ideas for development.
You are using Loyverse POS for managing your sales. How did you hear about this program?
- When I opened a coffee shop, I realized that I needed a system for my sales and inventory registrations. I attended various courses, read business literature by myself, and understood the importance of analytics and tracking sales data. I found Loyverse POS through a search in the Android play market. Of course, there were many other programs, and I had tried several of them. It’s important for the system to be understandable enough for configuration and operation and has an active work of technical support. Loyverse POS met my needs to the fullest. Their technical support answered me within a couple of minutes. They helped me figure out how to set up stock and deduction of ingredients. It was cool. During the four years of my work with Loyverse POS, the speed and quality of the technical support have never let me down.
What are the benefits of using the program for you?
- We started using the program almost from the opening of our coffee shop. I understood that it is impossible to conduct business without tracking sales. We have at least 20 positions in our coffee shop. Each of the items includes several ingredients with their own cost and selling price. Hundreds of checks a day, thousands in a month. It is unrealistic to have a full grasp of your profit without a POS. Also, the employee time tracking feature of the POS is vital as it helps me monitor our baristas.
What advice would you give for aspiring entrepreneurs?
- It is essential to set goals, make efforts and keep doing without stopping. You can come to a result, to a destination, only if you make any efforts to achieve them. If you do nothing, then your stand still. Therefore, the main thing is to act and not stop. When it does not work out, and the desire to do something disappears. And this often happens when you face difficulties. It is essential to go beyond your comfort zone to achieve your goal. When it's difficult for you and you don't want to, this is a sign that you need to work even harder and challenge yourself.
Thank you very much for this interview. It was fascinating to learn about the past, present, and future of your business. We are glad that our Loyverse POS program is a part of this story.