Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello there! My name is Demri Robinson and I am the website manager and co-founder for Little Coffee Place. Our website is a hub of coffee market information. Our readers vary from the experienced home barista to the beginners, starting there at home caffeinated journey.
We continue to grow our list of readers providing clear and to the point information. Whether that be through a product review, how-to’s, drink recipes, or personal experiences we have something to share and connect with because the world runs on coffee! Over time our coffee blog has started to make on average $8k to $10k a month. As the number of our monthly viewers continues to increase so does our email list.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before LittleCoffee Place I was in college pursuing a bachelor’s in mathematics. After college, I moved around and landed a job with Tesla in Colorado. Here I learned about work ethic, due diligence, and how to manage heavy stress loads. I went from drinking decaf to espresso shots! And Rodrigo lived in Argentina and was teaching himself how to code and be a web developer.
Switching from a high-pressure work environment to running an online business was relieving yet terrifying. Leaving the security of familiarity took a lot of convincing.
So how the heck did we meet, right? The story of how Rodrigo and I connected is a pretty 21st Century cliche. Simply online via a mutual friend through social media. But who knew that such a common connection would lead to a business venture. Aside from mutual friends, we found that we had a mutual love for Coffee! I mean who doesn’t, right? The concept for Little Coffee Place came from Rodrigo.
Based on our communications back and forth over the web, he asked if I would be interested in starting and running a blog together. Since he is the master coder and website development guru he needed someone to create content. We didn’t know whether or not this would work, but if anything it was somewhere for us to compile all of our coffee experiences into one place. Like a shared coffee journal.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Little Coffee Place started to split between Rodrigo and me. Rodrigo was already a talented self-taught web developer. He used those skills to bring Little Coffee Place to life on the world wide web with WordPress. The cost to start an online business was very low so we could avoid any loans, and paid out of pocket for the domain. Since we were the only ones working on building the blog we did not have to pay anyone, which saved money, but cost us a little extra time.
While he took care of online management and optimizing the website’s performance, I was in charge of content creation and outreach. With the work split between us, now we just needed to start publishing. Originally the posts were about any and everything coffee related that we may have experienced in our personal life. We would compile our information and publish it weekly.
As time passed I learned more about the power of SEO and how it can benefit the blog overall. Equipped with this knowledge I started producing more targeted content and optimizing articles. Using other successful coffee blogs to gather data on what post I should prioritize. It eventually took me no time to understand the user’s intent of searching for a coffee term and it helped me to create content that was relevant to what our readers were looking for.
For example, like many people, the high acidity in coffee bothers my stomach, but the caffeine really helped, So in turn I wrote about my experience trying to find a coffee with low acidity. Then we supplied all the relevant information by researching the top posts and compiling all we could find into a post that would satisfy anyone wanting to learn more about it. It became one of our most successful articles after optimization.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching an online business was easier than I thought. Or at least easier than opening a traditional brick and mortar location. Instead of renting a space for a coffee shop, we purchased the domain from Bluehost and used WordPress to build the site. Thanks to the low overhead cost we were able to pay for everything out of our own pocket. Using personal accounts and credit cards to take care of the early setup, we eventually had to open a business account as we saw the options to monetize the traffic.
Once the site was set up with a good foundation of SEO we started publishing articles at least 3 times a week. Starting in May 2015 we didn’t see traffic until the next year in May 2016. From then on we saw almost exponential growth in 2017. Articles with high volume keywords such as Coffee Makers With Grinders began to bring in a lot of visitors. Over the next few years, our blog has reached a steady flow of traffic with 80,000 monthly viewers. We have recently added an email newsletter to continue to build a stronger community of home baristas and promote coffee knowledge.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since the launch, we have worked to attract and retain customers through a series of experimentation and updates. By researching coffee-related keywords, we developed a content list relevant to our readers. Understanding the traffic and keywords in the coffee industry was the start of writing posts. After publishing a post and giving time for Google to rank the article, it was time to optimize the posts that were doing better comparatively. Seeing an increase in traffic to specific posts and plugging internal links really helped boost views sitewide.
Gaining some traction we started reaching out for backlinks to help boost Domain Rating and spread to a wider audience. To engage with our audience we started an email marketing campaign. Initially, engagement was through the blog post comments, but to cut hours of work we made a funnel to reach out to all of our subscribers and this would prove to be more manageable.
We are promoting email subscriptions by having the option to sign up throughout the website. When readers sign up we update them with the latest publications and any promotions that are being offered at the time.
We started to develop a list of affiliates that would offer special deals to our readers. These affiliates have been great for exposure.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today the business is doing well. We are profitable considering the low operating cost and increasing traffic. Currently, we have a team of 4 consisting of a writer, web developer, site manager, and social media manager. We’re posting weekly instead of daily. Focusing more on outreach and networking to build a business. Social media mainly consists of Pinterest. Once we hit certain profit goals we will invest in online advertisement.
Start today what you wish you would have started yesterday.
Most of our income comes from Amazon affiliation, followed by other coffee affiliates, and Mediavine advertisements. In the future, there is certainly room for improvement. While we are profitable we have the ability to do better. These days more time is spent doing outreach to expand the blog. We still want to increase email subscriptions and increase coffee product reviews by working closely with manufacturers and affiliates.
Also reaching out to other businesses for guest posts in the hope of cross-pollinating audiences.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Through starting this business I have learned a lot. I first started as a writer for content creation, but that has since evolved into a better understanding of SEO, exposure, and experience with varying kinds of tools and platforms. There were definitely some mistakes made that became lessons learned.
Many of these mistakes simply came from a lack of experience and institutional knowledge. An example of this was from publishing our earlier articles and linking to external sources: understanding and applying some of the finer details such as no follow and do follow and how it impacts SEO.
Developing a better understanding of how to read and present data was a skill that grew as we started monetizing the site and started setting goals to continue growing the site.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
In our daily operations, we use AHREFs to check traffic and keyword, and page performance. This is where we compiled all the data for the keywords to target based on the already successful coffee blogs.
ConvertKit is used to manage our email marketing. It has made it easy to keep up with and engage our growing audience. The Hemingway app has been an awesome tool when writing articles. It checks not only grammar but reading level difficulty of sentences and advises on edits.
The website was started on WordPress and continues to run on the platform. Trello has been an important piece of keeping organized. This organization led to accountability as the team grew. Webmail is the email service we use for all business emails.
Google Analytics helps us monitor the website and set goals to improve business.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
During this process, I have learned a lot and found many influences. The isolation of working online can be a downer at times, so it was always nice to find positive blog posts out there.
Switching from a high-pressure work environment to running an online business was relieving yet terrifying. Leaving the security of familiarity took a lot of convincing, but Rodrigo eventually got through to me.
Seeing other coffee blogs' success also motivated us, such as CoffeeInMyVeins. We simply figured if they could do it, so could we. There are plenty of people that love coffee. That’s a big enough audience for all of us!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
To my fellow entrepreneurs, my advice would be it is alright to not have any concrete gameplan to start. Just take the idea and build it from there. Technology is advancing at a blistering rate. With that being said there's always another tool to help you get to the next step as you walk the entrepreneurial path.
Start today what you wish you would have started yesterday. It is a time to take a chance for yourself, but of course, be calculated. Even when you do you may find yourself with a low budget and unable to afford help in certain roles. Take the time to learn what you need from that rolls whether it be videography or coding and do it yourself. Save the money and add on to your skillset.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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