by Benjamin Sobieck
Six months after I gave up drinking coffee,
I started a business selling coffee online.
You’re not the only one surprised.
At the beginning of 2018, when most people make resolutions for the coming year, I gave up drinking caffeine. This had nothing to do with wanting to give it up. It was a convenience thing. The coffee shelf lay bare, and it would be several days until a proper grocery run could be had given a crammed schedule.
I gave it up. One day turned to two, and that turned to three and four and more. I felt fine. Better than fine. Great. I even found myself writing articles on how giving up coffee benefitted my writing (the short version: greater focus, more energy, better quality sleep, longer lasting bouts of creativity).
Given I now sell coffee aimed at the writing crowd, a certain word might come to your mind.
Oh, I think not.
Perhaps I got ahead of myself with that article, because something else put a stop to the caffeine-free experiment: the birth of my daughter. Not drinking coffee was not an option.
Children Leave No Space for the Undisciplined Writer
Now, I don’t believe for a second that having children is detrimental to writing, or somehow disqualifies you from being a “real” writer devoted to the craft. Were it not for the arrival of my son, I never would’ve written When the Black-Eyed Children Knock, a hit on Wattpad that opened a lot of doors.
Children leave no space for the undisciplined writer. I’ve only been more productive because of that requirement, not less.
What I came to realize is giving up caffeine didn’t yield all those benefits mentioned earlier. Not drinking coffee around the clock did. Again, discipline.
There are times for coffee, and there are times for herbal tea. My crutch—pounding coffee—gave out.
That eventually led me to start drinking coffee again. Then an idea hit me, hard.
How Writers Can Apply Their Entrepreneurial Talents to Any Business
As I’ve written about before here at Writing and Wellness, writers are inherently entrepreneurs. It feels weird to do this, but here’s a quote from me, as quoted in WW’s round up of inspirational writing quotes:
“Think beyond books. Think bigger. Because when I did, I found out that the mechanics behind publishing a book are almost identical to bringing any other product to market.”
For me, that means the hustle to put out something like The Writer’s Glove®, covered in this WW article here, is the same sort of hustle that produces The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad, released this year from Writer’s Digest Books. It’s all in the same bucket as any of my fiction, too.
What you’re doing is creating something that didn’t exist before. Something from nothing.
To get from a vacuum to something you can hold in your hand, certain rules apply. You’ll need an idea (an outline or synopsis), and then you’ll need to refine that idea (writing and editing). You’ll need someone to make the idea for you (a publisher) or you’ll need to make it yourself (self-publishing). Finally, you’ll need a way to get the idea to market (bookstores, online book retailers).
Different faces, same hats.
Once you’re comfortable working inside that flow, you can follow your creative instincts wherever they happen to lead you.
This time, between writing projects and a full-time job in publishing, I hit on coffee. An idea festered in my mind just like any other story spark. Shouldn’t there be a coffee for writer’s block? Why not?
How a Writer Started a Coffee Business
- Super premium quality, at least in the top 5% of coffee beans
- Unusually, surprisingly smooth
- Must be “polite” and not “interrupt” the drinker/writer with an aggressive flavor profile
- Must taste great hot or cold (or lukewarm or reheated in the microwave, for the writers with kids), and play nice with every brewing method
- Light or medium roast, or somewhere between (because it’s easy to hide junk beans in dark roasts), and single origin
- Roasted to order
- Natural process (a type of coffee production that uses less water, for the sake of environmental conservation)
All of these characteristics support the act of writing, because time for creativity often flows like water into sand. Early mornings. Late nights. French presses. Drip makers. Filtered through a sock. Reheated in a microwave.
Even under ideal conditions, writers can find themselves “in the zone,” and they need their coffee to keep them there.
Voila! We knew on the first sip when we’d found the right one.
From there, it was a matter of formalizing some things with a roaster and building a website. I filed for a trademark with the USPTO, too. Writer’s Block Coffee will soon become Writer’s Block Coffee®.
Should You Start Selling Products Other Than Books?
Be honest with yourself about that discipline. Businesses can be fun ways to make money and discover new sides of life, and they can also be depressing money pits. Saying “no” at the beginning can save you a lot of trouble.
If it’s a “yes,” however, you’ll need to balance out that discipline. Overthinking is a form of paralysis, and it’s one of the best ways to kill a business. Go with your gut on strategy, with your head on tactics and with your heart on everything else.
Should you find yourself stuck, remember: there’s nothing a good cup of coffee can’t (usually) fix.
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Benjamin Sobieck is a Wattpad Star and Watty Award winner, with more than 1.5 million reads on his fiction on Wattpad. His Writer’s Digest books are The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad and The Writer’s Guide to Weapons. Adventure Publications will publish his wilderness survival book in April 2019.