November 23, 2015
In this week as we (in the US) focus on what we’re thankful for, it seemed a fitting time to talk about what your business could do for others. I realize that what I’m about to propose won’t work for every business or every business model but I ask that you take a few minutes to think about what sort of impact your small business could have on your greater community.
There is a concept known as Caffe Sospreso that more and more coffee shops are jumping on board with. The idea is actually a century or more old and originated in Italy though John Sweeney from Ireland has been working for years to bring it to other countries. Translated to mean ‘suspended coffee,’ the idea is that if a customer purchases two coffees (or two _______ (fill in the blank)) but only gets one of them. The coffee shop or food vendor keeps track of the extra payment so that if someone comes by who wants but can’t afford the coffee (or fill in the blank), the vendor will give it to them free of charge. This is a small way to make a big difference in your community without having a huge impact on your bottom line because that’s important too. You, as the business owner, are helping to facilitate the kindness of strangers.
Here are some things to think about if you’d like to offer ‘Sospreso’ items:
- This method works best for vendors who have physical locations – either brick and mortar or booth space at seasonal farmers’ markets, etc. Unfortunately this idea doesn’t necessarily translate for online sales (but, it is possible to invite your customers to add an extra $x to their order that will be donated to local food banks or other charities if your shopping cart will allow that).
- Make sure your customers are aware that you’re offering this. It’s important to let them know so that people can ‘contribute’ but also so that those who may be in need know that they can come to your business and won’t be turned away or embarrassed by their needs. You should highlight this with in store/in booth signage, share on your social media pages, and share with local bloggers/news too as applicable.
- Develop a shorthand system by which you can account for how many items have been prepaid for and how many have been taken. This system can cause a bit of flux from bookkeeping standpoint as you may show increased margins one month if you have a number of outstanding paid items that haven’t yet been claimed and decreased margins the next month. So determine how you’re going to keep track of this system and make sure you can read and understand your accounting statements accurately.
Has anyone done this with their business? Either on a full-time basis or around a certain time of year? I’d love to hear how this worked out for you if you did!