My dream to open a coffee shop began while visiting a coffee farm in Southern Uganda. In September 2010, my newly wedded husband and I stumbled upon a coffee farm while visiting Sipi Falls for his birthday. We had moved to Gulu for the year to work with a nonprofit that some friends of ours started and we had no idea that our weekend trip down south would have such a huge impact on our future. Walking around the farm opened my eyes to the coffee process. We got to roast our own beans that night and drink them the next morning out of a french press and I could not get over how magical that experience was for me. I had studied Cultural Anthropology in school with an emphasis in Community Development and wanted to combine my love of people with my newly found love for coffee. Believing that coffee is the best vehicle for community, I decided I would one day open a coffee shop.
Fast forward to us returning to California in 2011, I worked in three coffee shops over the next four years to learn the tricks of the trade before attempting to open my very own. I became confident on the ins and outs of a good coffee program but the business aspect was still terrifying. I had zero schooling in that area and had only picked up the basics from rad managers and owners who gave me tips along the way. I was just naive enough to believe I could do it and just brave enough to take the risk. My husband gently pushed me to quit my job and assured me that we would figure it out as we went.
In October 2015, I opened Neat Coffee in the lobby of a co-working space in our home of Costa Mesa, California. With the little money from our savings account and a loan from my generous aunt and uncle, we started with a very lean budget, forcing us to make smart decisions from the get go. All of our equipment was lease to own and we didn’t spend a single cent on the buildout. But it didn’t seem to matter. Although it wasn’t much to look at and our unmarked location in the corner of a business park could not have felt more random, Neat thrived.
Our friends were quick to support and the community followed shortly after. I was turning a profit by the end of the first month and within 5 months had built up a regular customer base of business people, college students, local moms and coffee fanatics. I was running high on the adrenaline of watching my dream actually come to life and having a blast creating a space (all 200 sq ft of it) for people to connect. I had only planned on being there a few months but as we grew I was able to make tiny improvements to the space, hire baristas and create something I was truly proud of and I was in no hurry to leave a good thing. Months flew by and turned into 3 years!
One of my favorite parts about running the shop during that time was buying products and ingredients from local vendors that I had met at farmers markets or through friends of friends. Our menu was simple but I was constantly experimenting with seasonal syrups and new drinks that kept regulars coming back. On Saturdays, we would take over the empty parking lot with lawn games and benches and pop up shops run by friends of mine or people I met who sold flowers, plants, ice cream, pies, ceramics and more.
I learned a lot about business, about my customers needs and wants, and what I so genuinely enjoyed about creating a space for people to connect in. But the dream was always to open in a residential area, to become a neighborhood fixture, to pour back into the community and to be a space of conversation and inspiration. That dream was too big for the lobby inside of a business park.
THE DREAM LOCATION
Neat Coffee 2.0 will be located in a neighborhood on Pomona Ave just off of West 19th Street in a 1200 sq ft. stand alone building with its own parking lot (yay!). Our indoor/outdoor space will feel minimal and clean like the original shop, just with more room, fun pops of color, and design elements like terra cotta and tile.
Our coffee menu will remain simple with few specialties and seasonal offerings. We will continue carrying coffee from Arcade Roasters and pastries from Rye Goods with a slightly bigger food menu. Our environment and seating will be community oriented with tables that can be pushed together, bike racks, beautiful outdoor space and even a kids area.
Along with Neat merchandise, we will have a small retail section of art supplies like notebooks and pens curated by my husband, David. The supplies will be displayed on shelves in the offset room that offers more communal seating.
We will be open 7 days a week from 7am-4pm with the idea of eventually extending our hours to 7pm.
We will be hiring a rad staff and with the training and help from our current employees, will foster a fun and inclusive work environment. We will continue providing a living wage, distributing tips evenly and supporting our team as best as we can.
But to make this dream location come to life, we need your help. This time around we are doing a full build out and hiring more employees which means it will cost us a whole lot more to get started than it did for our first location. We have paid for initial fees using funds made from the profits of our previous shop, a small business loan and we have also brought on investors (whom we love!) to help cover a big chunk of the construction and equipment costs. But because our current building was never intended to hold a coffee shop, (i.e. less than adequate electrical and plumbing, no ADA provisions etc.) we need more money than expected for the build out of the new space.
We have seen this community come together to further projects that they believe in and how cool would it be if this new location in Westside Costa Mesa was built by the same community that will also enjoy it!
This is where Kickstarter comes in. We need as much support as we can possibly get and every backer will get us that much closer to opening our doors.
I plan on making Neat Coffee a staple of Westside Costa Mesa by creating a safe, nurturing and welcoming space that allows for the already existing community to flourish. It won’t be just another trendy coffee shop that people come to take pictures of and leave, but rather it will be a space where connections are made and relationships are deepened. Where inspiration happens and ordinary days are enjoyed.
We will happily make coffee for our neighbors, welcome back our amazing regulars from the Baker Street location and introduce the magic of this neighborhood to guests and people traveling through. We will make people feel seen and heard and give back to our local neighborhoods even more than they put in. We hope to be here for years to come and we are so honored that you would consider helping us get started.
You won't find any tote bags or t-shirts here (don't worry, you can get your hands on Neat merchandise as soon as our shop is open), we are offering memberships instead - buy your coffee now, enjoy your coffee all year!
Because we still have a lot more funding to go, we are asking for higher buy ins - but don't let those prices scare you. We are inviting you to pre-pay for your coffee and at the same time, help fund the build out of a local shop. Although we are stoked for the future visitors and the one time guests we will serve, we know that sustainability is a much better model and we plan on our steady base of recurring customers to keep us afloat.
Each membership comes with a member card that will be scanned at each transaction, a custom enamel pin, and the member's name included on our "community wall" at the new location. Read through each membership description to find the perfect fit for you!
Construction has begun and although things look like they are happening quickly, we're also running into a lot of hangups along the way. There are many more costs that we've stumbled across because of the fact that this building is old and was never intended for food & beverage use. There are many requirements from the Health Department and the city that we are addressing as well as minor surprises like realizing we need to put insulation in all of the walls and ceiling and also completely repave the asphalt parking lot. As long as we can keep moving at a good pace and inspections go well, we will likely be able to open before March. But for the sake of the timing on the rewards, I am using March 1st as our opening date. The memberships will begin on our grand opening date and run for the following 364 days.
THANK YOU! BECAUSE OF YOU, WE ARE ALMOST COMPLETELY FUNDED! HERE ARE SOME STRETCH GOALS! LET'S KEEP THIS ROLLING...
Stretch Goal #1:
If we hit $30,000: We will throw a party in honor of you all in appreciation for making this happen! We will open our doors one weekend morning prior to the grand opening and invite every single person who pledged money to come party and see the space early! We'll treat you to coffee and pancakes and kombucha (and this time we won't run out of anything) and spoil the heck out of you.
Risks and challenges
CONSTRUCTION / APPROVALS
Our biggest challenge in getting open will be dealing with more surprises that this building will no doubt throw at us. We are basically having to gut the entire insides but we're sticking by the idea that if we do it right the first time, we'll only do it once and it will save us money and time in the future.
We are also somewhat at the mercy of the city and Health Department inspectors when it comes to opening on time. We will be working very hard to make sure that we are complying with all of our requirements but when it comes down to it, we will have to wait to open our doors until we are fully approved.
If we get 100% funded, we will be able to carry on with our projected plans and if we pass our goal of 20,000, we'll get to make the space even better! However, if we don't meet our goal, we will have to get more loans. Together, we can make this space beautiful!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)