Coffee, yes. You, maybe. | Inquirer Opinion
YoungBlood

Coffee, yes. You, maybe.

/ 05:04 AM March 17, 2022

I check the time: it’s 12:39 a.m. Since I have resigned from my job a little over a month ago, I have mostly been up late. This was primarily due to working night shifts for almost seven out of nine years in a corporate setting. And this current sleep cycle seems to be a reminder of what I once called my career.

But tonight, it’s different. I chose to stay up late because I had to draw a draft of the handheld menu, which I have always wanted my coffee shop to have. My shop started as a pop-up on weekends and our physical store is about five months old now. This is just one of the many struggles I have as a newbie business owner. A lot of things I must do on my own because the shop just couldn’t afford to pay for them yet.

“Mayaman ka na siguro.” (Maybe you’re rich already.) This remark irks me a little; okay, maybe a lot. It’s so easy for people to assume that since you own or manage a family business, even a small one, money is infinite. What makes it more annoying is the tone people use. I am not sure if they’re being sarcastic or envious or secretly waiting for you to fail. I certainly feel the insincerity. Or maybe I am just misinterpreting this? I hope I am.

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Before a business starts earning, a lot of time, money, and effort would have already been invested to maintain it. According to one of the blogs I read on starting a coffee shop, it takes around two to three years for a small business to be profitable. And with my shop having been recently opened, I am hoping and praying that I do not go out of business before I hit the two- to three-year mark. Right now, it feels as if I am trying to fend for my own family, making sure that I make ends meet. I have that uncomfortable gut feeling every time there is an upcoming bill due, an online order for cash-on-delivery, or when stock needs refilling and I do not have enough free cash yet to make the purchase. And yet I have no choice but to adjust what is little left in my so-called “finances” to come up with the needed amount.

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Connections and networks are also important in building a business. However, like any relationship, one should be careful of who you share your plans and ideas with, and who to trust. Back when the shop was a mere weekend pop-up, I have been eyeing this location in the center of our town. For a small town, it felt like the rental was steep and I needed to have three months’ worth of rent to secure it. My funds were limited so I asked for help from one of my friends who, without hesitation, lent me money on “pay when able” terms with a small interest. Great, right? Not until fast forward to two months after the shop’s opening, my “friend” was already asking for his money back due to some petty reasons. Thankfully, I was able to pool funds to pay him off. Otherwise, I would have been forced to close my shop as I am still trying to pay off the expenses of opening the physical store and running its daily operations.

Nevertheless, it’s not all horror stories and that feeling of being a failure. When I opened my shop, I already had this mindset that whatever happens, at least I tried. I knew that putting up a business is a risk and with what I have already invested, I can always earn the money but never the experience. I also already consider it a win when I get to make and customize my drink to my satisfaction given that I have my own coffee shop.

One of the most common questions I get asked is my age. Upon learning that I am relatively young at 29, there is usually some sort of amazement that at my age, I am running my own business. My crew members are mostly women, with a few from the LGBTQ community. Most of them are working students. It makes me proud and happy supporting women’s empowerment, diversity, and at the same time knowing that I am somehow helping them support their studies or even their families.

Since we’ve opened, we have built relationships and garnered loyalty, even established friendships with our regular customers. Seeing people enjoy our products, receiving comments, suggestions, especially positive feedback, are enough rewards and inspiration to keep the business running. These, and tons of hoping, praying, and hustling on the side.

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Yen Badong, 29, is recently unemployed and a struggling small-business owner. She is trying to beat Young Blood’s age requirement to get her article published.

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