A 1,748 Day Coffee Entrepreneur Flashback.
It was time to lock those heavy glass doors. Paul, Louis and I stood on a well worn red paper entryway exhausted. My oldest daughter, who had turned five just 17 days prior to the Grand Opening Party, had scribbled a marvelous array of swirls and blessings in black Sharpie markers.
Tonight was truly grand! The guests were kind and waited a long time to drink ultra-light roasted coffees late in the evening. Thats what friends do after-all. The French pastries disappeared real quick. Chocolate tarts, Macaroons, Puffy-French-Things, Eclairs, Handmade Pretzels (I convinced the baker against his will to make me the german Bretzel).
It was mostly Americans, Koreans and Chinese who filled the too-warm 25 square meter room where a PPT (PowerPoint) introduction was provided. From Day 1, I held the microphone as Paul preferred to speak when called upon and Louis preferred to hide a safe distance behind Paul. We were a great team standing on that red-papered entry.
The center lock was mostly ornamental. A visual deterrent for petty thieves who might somehow find a market for stolen coffee beans and simple coffee brewing devices. In hindsight watching how a thief off-loaded an armful of our coffee may have helped enlighten our marketing strategies. For good or ill, the "xiaotou" thieves never realized how useless the $3 stainless steel lock was.
When we really locked up, we'd break out the large red plastic covered U-bolt lock and secure the door handles shut. In order to get past this bad boy, I imagine a Chinese "da'ge" bro would need as much brains as he had brawn. Either way, I tried to convince myself that I and Paul were the only two people in a city of 12 million who knew that the secret to breaking into our shop was to go at it Bruce Li style and just "la" pull the door handles off and then "tui" push your way in.
Tonight we were too excited to worry about all the bad stuff that might befall our newly minted business. We'd been going full speed for 100 days non-stop. We didn't imagine how or where we would find customers to buy all of our amazing "xinxian" fresh "hongbei" roasted coffee. There were so many other problems that we had overcome!
- Writing a business plan and convincing ourselves for 6 months that roasting Specialty Coffees in Central China was a great idea.
- Raising capital, forming and American LLC and a investing into a Chinese Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise.
- Finding a shop to rent and a contractor to renovate it and passing police and fire department inspections and interrogations!
** Important note to foreigners doing business in China, this is the part where you run to get noodles or turn on your "ting bu dong" I-don't-understand face and keep clear of any landlord or badge bearing uniform.
- We shipped a half ton Diedrich IR-12 coffee roaster (purchased 2nd hand off Craigslist sight-unseen) halfway around the world.
- Then, we couldn't find green coffee to roast and when we finally did (paying an arm and a leg for it) we couldn't get the roaster to fire.
- We even made and fastened our own 8x2 meter signboard 12 feet off the ground to steel, marble and concrete with a bunch of hand tools for 1,000 "yuan" bucks because the contractor quoted us 20,000 yuan!
But it all worked out.
The ROCC Coffee Roastery was open for business.