How To Get A Handle On Your Side…

How To Get A Handle On Your Side…

The holidays are just around the corner and you know the demands for your attention will be increasing…

You’re heading into Q4 and there is this growing anxiety settling in to the core of your usual calm, cool and collected demeanor. The holidays are just around the corner and you know the demands for your attention will increase. Of course, there are the usual familial obligations plus Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus, office parties, gift exchanges, get-together’s of all types and the looming pressure will reach a feverish pitch within weeks! You must plan your schedule very carefully. The heat is turning up! How are you going to manage your fundamental demands and handle the expectations and the anticipated pressures of your side piece, your side hustle? You know, your

Side Cafe!

Hahahahaha! Well clutch my pearls! I know what some of you were thinking.  But that is subject matter reserved for an entirely different blog.

But since you are here, I’ll share with you practical advice for improving the services you offer and increasing your profits. This 3 part series will be rich with tips you can tweak to increase the profit margins of your own enterprise. Today, the focus will be on understanding and implementing the basics into your side business that may be just emerging, or perhaps losing money or barely covering it’s costs and transforming it into one that is profitable and enjoyable to operate.

Over the last several years, have you noticed more and more non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) e.g. churches, local sports teams, schools, etc. setting up small side café’s, coffee shops or bistro’s to reduce their taxes and generate additional income for their organization, along side their core business? It makes sense as coffee has a high profit margin and it’s depended upon by millions. Coffee sales may not be your primary service but it can be a brand builder or breaker. It can also be a financial drain on the organization if not handled with intention and careful planning. When profitable, your side business, in this case coffee and tasty morsels, can easily cover some of the expenses of your core business, especially since the vast majority are staffed with volunteers. On the positive side, it can be a great opportunity for relationship building, driving both customer engagement and loyalty to your organization beyond your primary service or product. It can become the place where customers are looking forward to congregating versus it simply being an afterthought where people make purchases because they feel sorry for you or they are doing their good deed for the day.

Just imagine, if a church held a monthly fundraiser fellowship, which included a dinner plate, dessert and beverage, staffed by volunteers and the gross profit was $200 each month, that would generate an extra $2400 per year. What could you purchase with that extra income? Provide camp scholarships? Help a member with car repairs? Help someone pay for their medication or a homeless person with a few nights in a motel? Maybe even sponsor the jerseys of your local baseball team. The possibilities are endless!

Bienvenue à La Maison du Café

Which is just French for “Welcome to the House of Coffee.” But it just sounds sooooo much better en français, oui, mon amor?

For the purpose of this series, “La Maison du Cafe” is our fictitious side chick. Oops! I mean side hustle. Wait! I mean side business. And business is exactly what I mean. If you want this endeavor to be profitable, you must treat it like a business. It is a micro-business within your primary business. You must treat it with intention. If you don’t, why would you expect any of your potential customers to be intentional about making a purchase? If you just throw it together, it’s obvious. Treat your micro-business with respect. Implement a budget, operations and marketing strategy and a mini-plan for how you will actually execute your services. If you treat it like an afterthought, so will your prospects. What you put into it, you will get out of it.

Depending on the scale of your micro-biz, you generally won’t need to conduct a feasibility study or involve the health department. But even if its in the corner of your fellowship hall, coffee day at the Senior Center or a card table on your local soccer field, it will take some planning, definition of purpose, goal setting and marketing.

Fun Fact:

In a past career I was a caterer and special event planner, both of which I still like to provide services for on occasion. Additionally, for three years, I managed and underwrote a cafe for a non-profit with monthly fund-raisers, staffed with volunteers. Although labor intensive, it was also rewarding as we averaged an 80 – 90% participation rate for each fundraiser. The revenue supported the organization and created a great atmosphere for relationship development. It was also a compassionate channel to extend branded benevolence to those who were unable to pay for a meal but could still be respected and engage in the vision of the non-profit.

Let’s Get Started:

Understand the three main things you are actually selling: “Product, Journey and Experience.” These points are through lines for any business and can be modified for whatever type of commerce in which you engage. Throughout this series, I’ll take you through this multi-level process one by one.

Name your micro-biz. La Maison du Cafe is nice but it needs a tagline to describe the services offered. So, this is how I would enhance it. La Maison du Cafe: Lounge, Laughter and Eatery. This tagline quickly advises that its a place to chill, socialize with friends and find good food to buy and consume.

  • Let’s think about this more practically. If you’re serving food and bevs, you probably don’t want to name it “The Itchy Wart”, right? Words create images, images that will be associated with your product! I’ll bet you developed an image as soon you read “The Itchy Wart”, maybe even mentally recoiled at the thought of ingesting a meal from a place called “The Flabby Abby” or “Jim’s Prickly Heat“! Word association is important so choose your name wisely.
  • You can start small! Just find a space to designate after your service or event that’s dedicated to this mission: food, friendliness and drink. You don’t have to have special, expensive chairs and branded cups and plates and all matching tables. However, try to color coordinate your dishes, tablecloths and napkins into a related theme so your presentation doesn’t look like a circus. It’s mentally disruptive.

Add a splash of creativity to your presentation. For example, hang some Edison lights or mini tea lights across your dining area. For some reason, lights attract people like moths to a flame so take advantage of this rather predictable yet delightful human behavioral pattern. Let’s be honest. Would Las Vegas be half as interesting without the visual buffet of lights and architecture?

If you can’t hang any lights, here’s a really nifty and thrifty decorative option. Place battery operated lights in glass jars. It’s visually interesting and attracts attention.

Have some music playing softly in the background to enhance the atmosphere. However, keep the volume low enough so patrons don’t have to shout over it to enjoy a conversation or read their book. Consider this, the music isn’t the star. Your guests are.

Primary Product: If your primary product is coffee, buy a high quality brand of coffee. Do not skimp on this with a common, basic, warehouse brand. Anyone who drinks coffee will know you are really pinching pennies and will only tolerate it, once. Maybe twice. Buying a quality bean will more than pay for itself through repeat business. Remember, the goal is to make your side business become important to your consumer. They have hundreds of choices. Make your coffee so memorable and delicious that you create a demand for it and they look forward to your next event. Your side business can actually start as an afterthought and transform into a patron’s necessity.

Exceed expectations! Don’t just settle for copying what everyone else is doing. In addition to half & half, offer a non-dairy creamer, or how about French Vanilla, Irish Creme or Hazelnut creamer as a thoughtful benefit? Provide the dry spice/flavor shakers as well. Also, don’t forget the stevia and agave sweeteners in addition to the other packets.

Secondary Product: Side dishes, pastries, donuts, popcorn, snacks etc. This is simple. Make sure they are fresh, visually appealing and served on a clean platter with clean utensils!

Oh! There is nothing worse than sinking your teeth into a stale, dried up, crusty, disintegrating pastry indented with fingerprints or pre-smashed. Am I right? This is so disappointing! Remember, you only have one time to make a first impression. Make it a good one.

  • If you have the equipment, offer to heat the pastry.
    • Provide butter and jams for the muffins.
    • Consider offering a good quality orange juice to the menu as a beverage alternative.
  • Additionally, I cannot emphasize the importance of knowing how to handle food safely! Don’t wing it. Taking “just a quick taste” of Gramma’s Famous Chicken Soup with the stir spoon and then popping that same spoon back in the pot creates a huge risk for contamination. I’m sure you mean well and sincerely believe that you don’t house any germs on your pretty little tongue incubator but, really friends, no one want’s to share your DNA.
  • Become knowledgeable so you don’t accidentally make any one ill. Have you ever had food poisoning? It was preventable. If the food handler had implemented these simple safe food handling techniques, you probably wouldn’t have contended in that all night boxing match with your gut.

Tertiary Product: Unbeknownst to your patron, you are also selling them an experience, so make a great first impression! How are you going to compel them to come and purchase your product? I’ll go into a step-by-step process in this series, so stay tuned. However, here are a few tips you can implement immediately:

  • Good manners still matter. Say “please” and “thank you.” People like to feel special and appreciated.
  • Smile. It makes people feel good! If you tend to have an RBF, try to work on that. I confess. I have one – albeit unintentionally – because I am almost always thinking ahead and people frequently ask me “What’s wrong” when I’m actually cool. But my face hasn’t conveyed that message. So, we can work on that together. Say “Cheese!”
  • Offer to take their plate or any of their discards. Be helpful and service oriented.
  • Introduce yourself and ask them their name in return. Make pleasant but brief small talk with a comfortable level of eye contact.
  • Show them some unexpected kindness. If you have leftovers at the end of the event, offer to give them away for free or in appreciation for supporting the business. Remember, you want to create goodwill leading to a relationship with your patrons so they will return and make repeat purchases from your micro-business. And, who knows? You just might make a friend in the process! It’s not just fund raising. It’s FRIEND raising.

Click here for Part 2 of this series and receive more free tips on marketing and promoting your side business! Do you have any subjects you’d like covered?

Have you come across any businesses that have made you put them on your “Do Not Go There” list? If so, what happened? How would you have made the experience better?

Share your story in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!


I couldn’t possibly let this series exist without offering you something special to take you to the next level so I have Two Tasty Treats for You! Hurry! They go stale on 9/30/19!

  1. Take advantage of our $99 special! Save over $200 on a short, eye-catching video intro promoting your business. All of us at Melanie Grace Global Marketing are committed to helping your business succeed – no matter what size. Use promo code IM_IN when you contact us at 888.303.0338 ext. 232 or contact us here to let us know what you’d like to accomplish and we’ll respond promptly with full details. Take a quick look at an upgraded, recent client delivery that can also capture attention.
  2. Be sure to take advantage our our free, no strings attached business growth session. Call 888.303.0338, ext 232 or contact us.  We’re  here to help you succeed and make your purpose, products and passions, profitable!

See you at the top!

♛ Melanie Grace

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9 thoughts on “How To Get A Handle On Your Side…

  1. Excellent article. Though you had me at Festivus. We do indeed need to aproach any venture with purpose in order for it to succeed.

    1. Thank you! A little bit of humor makes our purposeful journeys, more pleasant. Hope to see you at Festivus! LOL Warm regards!

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