Coffee Monster: Tasty and Friendly

We talked to the owner of Monster Coffee Ruslan Kolobov about coffee, guests and investments. Ruslan is only 26 years old, yet he has already gone an impressive professional path. He started as a bank employee, then he was a human rights defender. And now he is the owner of a cozy coffee shop.

Ruslan Kolobov

Owner of Monster Coffee

How did you decide to open your own coffee shop?

While studying at the institute I got a job in the Coffeshop Сompany. In two years I learned to work with the equipment and brew coffee. And after graduation I worked as a sales manager in a bank. It was a path full of pain and disappointment. My salary was barely sufficient to afford instant noodles and rent a room.

After 6 months I realized that pushing insurances and constantly leaving unsaid the real prices and conditions is not my cup of tea. I was transferred to the department for complaints. I thought I would help people to solve disputable situations. The reality was that I simply replied with rejection to any letters.

I quitted, as I thought that it's better to be a car washer, than to be a part of such company. There was an upside in all this, though. During my work, I made friends with a human right defender. When he heard about me quitting the job, he called me to work in a consumer rights protection company called "Blok-Post". I was taught the legal niceties, and about a year later I was preparing my own lawsuits and claims to the bank where I used to work. I virtually lived at work: the clients visited me in the afternoon, in the evening I wrote claim documents, and in the morning I submitted executive writs. They even gave me my own office with a sleeper sofa.

At this work I met my future wife Katya. Acquaintances of her acquaintances advised her to go to me when she was attacked by debt collectors. After a while we started dating. We visited some coffee shops together. I thought that coffee is Starbucks or Coffeeshop Company, and other places of sort.

But Katya had a very different idea of coffee. She showed me a place near her house. There were three people working, old coffee machine and a completely cozy atmosphere. Barista smiled not because it's what's written in the instruction, but because he was really glad to see you. The coffee there was completely different, it didn't have an ash taste, like they brew it in large coffee shops. For me, it was a revelation that coffee is not only beans, water and sometimes milk, but it is also craftsmanship, equipment, design and management attitude. So a small coffee shop in a residential area showed me that I've had no idea of coffee at all. We stopped by every morning.

It happened so that "Blok-Post" went out of business. I decided to go to work in a carpenter's shop, for my own pleasure. I had to work far from home, leave early in the morning, without getting a cup of coffee. After half a year of such life, seeing how my salary was delayed for two months, I realized that it was time to change something, and I quitted.

After that, Katya and I went to our favorite coffee shop and... we were disappointed. Twice in a row we were served by a barista who didn't even say "hello" to us, brewed coffee terribly and looked extremely unhappy.

"If you want something done well, do it yourself." I had kind of a plan in my head, assessed risks and decided to try to open my own business. I've set a deadline for myself: if within two months my coffee shop would be of no interest to anybody, I'd close it and find myself some other job.

For many, working in a coffee shop is about giving a cup to the customer and taking his money. But my wife offered to follow the other path. Same path, as out favorite coffee shop used to follow, that is a separate entrance on the ground floor and an area of 10 square meters, to make this place cozy. Search in all the real estate databases did not give results. I decided to travel to the areas of the city where I would like to open a coffee shop. I saw a building on Roshchinskaya street (author's note - we are talking about Yekaterinburg), which had a lot of grocery stores. There was that one entrance that nobody ever used, but at that time I thought, that I probably was late.

I couldn't get that door out of my head, so I came there again in a couple of days. I went to a nearby store, and the saleswoman said that this was their warehouse, but at the moment it was cluttered. The director said at first that they are not interested in coffee, they are good with Nescafé. But the saleswoman stood at my side. A week later, the director called me and offered me a deal. We agreed that we would rent 13 square meters, clean the back room and be quiet. Putting things in order, we made friends with the director, and he approved major renovation.

What was your budget for opening a coffee shop?

I had no money of my own, so I took a loan of 200 thousand rubles in Sberbank. We put on a desk counter, bought a couple of refrigerators at Avito, rented a coffee machine, bought coffee, syrups, milk, buckets, cups and racks. With all the little things it took about 100 thousand. With a terrible interior redecoration, as I think of it now, but people liked it. We were glad to see anyone who came to our coffee shop.

Two months later, I realized that the loan money ran out, but the coffee shop has "started up"!

We had a number of regular customers, and every day I saw someone new. My wife began to bring coziness to the place. This process is endless, it cannot be stopped: at one moment she'll be painting walls, at another - designing a lounge zone.

How does it feel to own a coffee shop? Describe your workday.

I have two types of a workday. First option - I'm the one to work in the coffee shop. In the morning I do everything on the check-list "turn on the light, check the sugar in the client area, check the availability of milk in sufficient quantities", and so on. I know most of the guests personally. I know, who have sent their daughter to kindergarten and now is sitting nervous, and who is glad with new radio that fits their jeep. I am interested in people who come to visit me and drink my coffee, tea or just relax.

The second option - the other employee works with guests. There is an opportunity for me to go to the food base, go to the cupping (professional coffee tasting), deal with the papers, make applications, find new suppliers of sweets. It's a necessary routine.

How's the coffee shop going? How do you promote yourself?

We are doing great! We launched the summer menu, put outdoor sofas, bought a freezer, and two months ago we bought our own coffee machine. Old, but still our own.

We promote ourselves by the word of mouth. We still don't even have an adequate shop sign. A small tripod pillar and a piece of paper on the door – that's all we have now. A couple of months ago, we started a page in Instagram. And a week later we started to think about our own website, but we didn't know too much about web technologies to create it by yourself. So we decided to order a website at Syncweb. They're registered a domain for us, and helped us to choose a hosting plan, then we discussed our website. I thinnk it's very inportant to tell what are you waiting from developers, and what you want to see in the end of developing process. And also it is very convenient when you can get all the services in one place.

How many guests come to you every day?

We have about 25-50 guests a day. The average check is about 150-200 rubles. Coffee has a great margin, but you won't become a multi-millionaire by just owing one coffee shop. The sales are about 120-150 thousand per month. Ten thousand rubles to buy coffee beans, same amount to buy milk, six and a half thousand to pay rent, fifteen thousand goes to pay salary to the barista, and sweets cost somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand. From the remaining amount I pay the loan.

Why do people come to us? The answer is that if you make coffee well, the things will also go well. We give people a good comprehensive product. In our place you can talk, drink delicious coffee, and even take cookies to go.

You can't do something poorly even for one day. If we make 30 bad drinks in one day, the next day we might go out of business, since we have very few new-coming customers, and I don't want to simply work on a flow, like in coffee shops in the malls.

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