On a lot of the online forums dedicated to the coffee business, you see tons of first time posts of people asking, "How long does it take to open a shop?". The answer is usually a frustrating (and accurate), "Depends". (The same goes for, "How much does it cost?"). Everyone's story is different. Here's ours:
Once upon a time/September 2005: A particularly unhappy commuting experience leads to a long conversation about how we really want to live, now and in the future. We become more serious about starting the new business, finally realizing that it doesn't have to be all or nothing... Miguel will continue the design business and provide current income; I will spearhead the new coffee business. Can we really make enough to live? We think we can.
I start the serious research. I'd already recently gone (for kicks?) to a panel discussion on starting a restaurant at the WBDC. I start going into the loop (Chicago's "downtown") to a weekly series of SCORE workshops on starting a business and spend the afternoons looking stuff up at the coolio looking library. I also buy some sweet books on restaurant and bar interior design at the Prairie Avenue Bookshop. We get excited and talk a lot about all our ideas all the time.
We buy an espresso machine, return it, and end up spending (what at the time seems like) a lot of money on a "better" one. We try to find a good inexpensive burr grinder... the grinder exchanging will go on for months. The "pro-sumer" (yuppie) espresso machine will last for three.
Next month, we become professionals...