Lex | From real estate to coffee connoisseur
By Eleni Meraki
I thought the world needed more honest real estate agents, so that's what I studied at uni. But when it came down to it, I just couldn't picture myself doing that work every day.
Soon after I had quit my studies, I saw an ad online to buy into a coffee chain franchise. That's how I started out in the world of coffee, I never looked back.
5 THINGS ABOUT
WINNER DUTCH BARISTA CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 | NEVER GRADUATED | OWNER COFFEE SPOT | BUILT AN ESPRESSO-BUS & STORE HIMSELF | NO BREAKS ON HIS BIKE
LEAP OF FAITH
I have always loved coffee and working at that coffee chain was a great learning experience. But whilst working there I realised I wanted to start my own thing. So I started educating myself in the world of coffee and management. With my savings and loans from family members I bought an old Citroen HY bus and converted it into the Espressobus, a traveling coffee bar. I quit my job and jumped in headfirst.
I installed the coffee bar and renovated the Citroen bus myself, a labour of love. I applied for permits to sell coffee outside train stations as well as at private events and local festivals.
That year I also worked at a coffee roasting plant part-time. This way the Espressobus became a side project that I was doing for fun. No more money stress and the added bonus was learning a lot about the art of coffee roasting.
Lex on the frustration of building the entire interior of the bus himself.
One day an Espressobus regular asked me if I was interested in setting up a coffee bar in his design store. Jonatan (my business partner) and I jumped at the chance.
HEADFIRST COFFEE ROASTERS
A little over a year later the time was right to open our own shop, Headfirst Coffee Roasters. We have our cafe in the front and we roast coffee beans in the back.
What sets us apart is our dedication to offering the highest possible quality and the best customer service. We put our hearts into this business and I think people appreciate that.
THE TOUGH TIMES
- I work really long days and the last few years I’ve been working 7 days a week. When you are just starting out, having a 'normal' social life is practically impossible. My social life is here, in the store.
- I think about the business all the time, there’s no off switch. And when you do get to take a holiday it’s quite likely you’re going to get sick! Not allowing your body to get sick when you’re working and then spending your vacation in bed.
When I first started the Espressobus and later HeadFirst, money was tight but by overlapping work projects, I have always been able to make a living.
To get the Espressobus up and running I invested a total of €30.000. Savings, and loans from family and the bank. We were actually on the verge of launching a crowdfunding initiative to open HeadFirst when we found a third partner to invest in the company. We are now all stakeholders in the company and divide the profits equally.
5 INSIDER TIPS
Get your finances sorted and a good accountant. Doing this properly from the start will save you a lot of time and money.
Think big, work hard.
Keep your brand personal and don't be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
Write down your ideas. Call it a business plan or whatever you like. But write it down!
If there is someone out there already doing what you want to do; go meet them, chat and get inspired. I got a lot of inspiration from visiting other coffee shops around Europe.
Written by Eleni Meraki
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She lives in Athens and enjoys roaming the world as much as she can. She is a multi-passionate entrepreneur with big dreams and a big mission; to empower you to live a life you truly enjoy living.
Click on the About Eleni tab to read her full story.