central perk coffee shop sign

On a given week, I frequent at least five coffee houses. My record for most visits in one day is four. I use them as “my office.” I can’t sit still for too long and I get bored easily so I hop around from one place to another allowing the current location to pique my short-lived interest and then I move on to the next spot.

Yes, I could visit my office at Temple University (we’re their newest incubator company) but I enjoy the short walks from my new place in Center City and they’re great for meetings. I can also easily indulge in my new-found addiction to chai tea lattes.

One of my best friends recently told me he wants to open his own coffee house and we briefly entertained the idea of getting into the venture together. We talked about the aspects that would make it the “perfect” coffee shop. I can’t help thinking about it now every time I set up “office” and so I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts.

  • I imagine the decor to be in warm tones and possess a homey feel. It would be stylish, keeping with Feng shui practices and local art would be strewn across the room.
  • There would be a fireplace with comfortable leather couches around it for the winter months.
  • A special “Foursquare” mayor seat would reside in a methodical location that even Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory would approve of. It may even be a throne. The mayor would also be able to cut in line during busy periods.
  • It would have at least two private meeting rooms in the back that business people can rent in an hourly basis. They would fit four people and include a whiteboard.
  • The lighting would be adequate. Who goes to a coffee shop for a romantic date? Oh, you do? Go somewhere else!
  • The WIFI would work. And it would be fast. Enough said.
  • There would be power outlets at every other table and they would have more than 2 sockets.
  • The baristas would be friendly and trained to remember the patrons’ names. Preferably half-naked men with six-packs (Did I really just that? Just kidding!).
  • Tip jars would only be allowed if they had a humorous sign.
  • We would not play any house music. I haven’t been to a place that plays anything I’ve liked, it’s usually too loud and everyone listens to their own iPod anyway.
  • The place would be divided into a coworking place/coffee shop. More on that below.
  • The tables would be square. That’s right, circular tables would not be allowed. Or in other words, they must be able to fit a laptop comfortably.
  • The bathrooms would be impeccably clean. I find many places around Philadelphia are coed. There would in fact be separate rooms for men and women. In addition, the women’s bathroom would have a seat that cannot be lifted just in case.
  • I can’t stand it when other patrons talk loudly on their phones (why is it always old people that do this?) so there would be some kind of cell phone policy.
  • The hours would be suitable depending on the location. I don’t understand why certain places close at 8pm in the City. It would stay open until midnight.
  • Bookshelves would line the walls organized in different genres and everyone would be able to swap books.

Oh I haven’t mentioned the coffee yet, have I? Well, see that’s the funny thing. I actually DON’T drink coffee. I know, I know…my family are late bloomers, my Mom starting to drink it in her 40s, my sister when she turned 30. That aside, I would find a way to ensure we had the best around by partnering with or hiring a coffee connoisseur. A few friends have recommended La Colombe coffee. Because I know my chai tea lattes, I would employ the same women who mixes them for the Last Drop at 13th and Pine in Philadelphia (try it, it is absolutely delicious!).

There would also be plenty of coffee alternatives such as Teeccino and protein smoothies. The food would be healthy, tasty, made to order and the portions would be satisfactory but not too big (TWSS). As an aside, one of my pet peeves is the ample portions provided by restaurants. The same with the pastries. The cafe would definitely have some kind of chocolate bar (because coffee & chocolate go well together, not because I’m a fanatic ;-)).

I have a couple of ideas to combat turnover issues. One is to limit internet usage depending on the purchase amount. Another is turn it into a coworking/coffee shop hybrid (If you’re not sure what coworking is, check out this great coworking FAQ page by Indyhall.org, one of the most popular ones in the East Coast). One room would be reserved for frequent patrons who want to pay a monthly fee. The other room would be for “normal” customers.

As far as the name, I’m not sure yet. My pal, JP Toto came up with a few possibilities. As you can see, I was clearly enamored with them.

What would make YOUR ideal coffee shop?

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  • August 25, 2011

i do whatever the little voices in my head tell me to do sticker

Think about your best qualities. Have you noticed they can often be your worst?

I’m extremely competitive, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, neurotically obsessive, a die-hard loyalist, relentlessly persistent, a hard worker, and the list goes on and on.

If you were to ask me which of my worst features would top the list, I would say my own attitude towards myself. Or to be more specific, that little voice in my head that constantly castigating everything I do.

“Why didn’t you do this instead of that?”

“Did you really think that was a good idea?”

And the ever famous, “you should have done better.”

The latter haunts me incessantly. The perfect story that encompasses these sentiments is when my startup, 123LinkIt, won First Place at Temple’s Business Plan Competition last year.

I had entered the Competition three years running, becoming a Finalist two years before but walking away empty-handed.

This time, I knew we were going to be in the Finals. We had submitted the same idea the previous year and we used the notes from the judges to improve our Business Plan. We had also launched and were showing revenue. Yet I still reprimanded myself awaiting the results. I was competing in a tough category against faculty members, graduate students and other alumni. I doubted myself during the process repeatedly asking if I really had what it takes to get to the next level.

When the results came in, I was elated. Instead of congratulating myself, I went into hyper-mode and started a grueling campaign preparing for the Competition. I called in every favor I had with other entrepreneurs, VCs, acquaintances, and friends – everyone I knew and didn’t know to help me with the presentation.

I practiced my pitch so much the night before, I lost my voice the day of the Competition. I spent the morning gargling with salt water in an attempt to regain what would later turn into a soft whisper.

When it was my turn to present, I recall looking at the panel of judges and being terrified at their blank faces. “Can they hear me? Better yet, do they even understand what I’m saying?”

My family and friends patted me on the back afterwards and congratulated me for doing a great job. I smiled weakly and thought back to my Q&A session. “I should have elaborated further on his question. Why didn’t I finish on time? How many points will these mistakes cost me?”

I gripped my sister’s hand tightly and held my breath when they called the announcements.

Honorable mentions – nothing.

2nd Place – nothing.

1st Place – 123LinkIt.com.

Accepting First Place Award

I should have been ecstatic, right? I wasn’t. I forced myself to walk to the podium and accept my award. I waited to see who won the Grand Prize and cursed myself for not being up there.

That morning I remember thinking my sleepless nights were going to be long gone after the day was over, that the stressful days were going to be a thing of the past.

I was wrong. I slept LESS the day of and after the competition then I had preparing for it. “Why did they win over me? What could I have done differently? I should have changed this and said that.” I convinced myself that I had cost the Company $50k (the value difference between the prizes). All I could think of the following week is how First Place wasn’t good enough and what I could have done to win that Grand Prize.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? I’m saddened by my thoughts thinking about it now, more than a year later.

I’ve been doing this since I was little. You could put me next to someone who severely dislikes me and I would have worse things to say about myself. My Father was the badgering type, he wanted us to do better and his way of showcasing that was to criticize us as a means to motivate ourselves.

One of my goals this year is to eliminate this self-deprecating behavior. It’s a challenge because it’s a double-edged sword in that it IS a driving force. However, I want to reprogram myself to have it come from a loving place that’s not stress-induced and doesn’t include back-breaking pressure.

How will I start to accomplish this?

I’ve already begun by being aware of it. I believe a big part of it has to do with how I talk to myself. Now I catch myself when that little voice appears. “You did a great job with this, good work! You can do even better next time by doing this.” I’m also working on accepting compliments. I’ve noticed the two traits are related. The rest? I’m not quite sure yet but I’m in the process of actively figuring it out.