The Coffeeshop Business Model (v1)

I love coffeeshops. Some of you probably know this about me, and some of you may even have read my blog post about my love for coffeeshops.

I (like many people) have a dream of running my own coffeeshop one day, establishing a community outpost that brightens the day for the weary, and offers a welcoming environment for every type of person imaginable.

So I did as any aspiring coffeeshop empresario with an investment banking background would do on a Friday night… I built a model!

Here it is (I recommend you actually open it in Google Sheets using the link, but you can also interact with it embedded here):

I’ll dig into some analysis/key takeaways over the weekend and next week, but there are  some important caveats:

  • I built this model on a Friday evening after 2 beers – it is far from perfect. I plan on building this out further, but if you have suggestions in the meantime, they are always welcome.
  • This model assumes that you have the full cash balance to start this today (i.e. no debt), and doesn’t take into account any ancillary/legal fees. Taking out a loan would affect the returns materially (planning to build into the model later).

Question for you:

Can I ask you to give me feedback on the assumptions I’ve made? If anyone has actual experience working in a coffeeshop that would be amazing, but even if you haven’t, do you think it’s reasonable that the average beverage check is $4? Does it make sense that less than 1 in every 4 orders involve food? What other line items am I missing?

TGIF!

Rambler-in-Chief

 

On the importance of escaping the NYC bubble

NYC is a magical place, and Williamsburg is the best home I could possibly ask for at this early stage in my career – a cosy apartment with 4 friends, a backyard for throwing BBQs, an easy commute to work, and all the bars & restaurants a 24 year old could desire.

But Logan Square in Chicago offers a comparable environment at a fraction of the price, as I discovered this past weekend. A long weekend getaway for KC’s birthday provided me with my first trip to the Windy City and a healthy reflection on what life outside the Big Apple looks like.

And just look at the pictures from the Airbnb we stayed in for $75/night:

Check out Maja’s place on Airbnb Read More

From across the pond… my view on “Brexit” as an Englishman in NYC

 This post was originally posted on Medium. View it here.

Cliché “Brexit” photo courtesy of Marketwatch

As you may imagine, coverage of the “Brexit” debate in the US has played second fiddle to the ongoing train-wreck that is the 2016 US Presidential election; but with obvious personal interest in the outcome, I have followed the debate online and frankly have been disappointed (although not surprised) at the negativity with which it has been conducted.

Before I really begin, though, I want to point out that this entire campaign has highlighted the flawed nature of the referendum process: asking the public to vote on a particular policy may be effective when the policy is something tangible and relevant to people’s day-to-day lives (e.g. banning smoking in public, legalizing gay marriage etc…) but extremely ineffective when the policy at stake is as nuanced, complex and removed from public life as national sovereignty and foreign relations.

When the consequences of a particular policy can only be conveyed through metaphors, abstract concepts and politicians spinning models to produce whatever output favors their argument, a public referendum will be decided by anything other than the merits of the policy itself.

We elect politicians to make political decisions, and we expect them to be experts on the political process. Political treaties such as the Maastricht treaty, which governs Britain’s membership of the EU, are some of the most complicated legal documents mankind has ever created, and it is the job of politicians to understand, interpret, and make decisions in the best interests of their electorate. Instead, the buck has been passed to the public, guided by sensationalist headlines and opinion pieces (admittedly, like this one) from people who do not fully understand the intricacies of the political process.

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Questions about the future on a Tuesday morning

  • When self-driving cars are ubiquitous and car ownership plummets, will more people take up cycling for short commutes/enjoyable journeys?
  • What happens to all the real estate currently occupied by  gas/petrol stations when cars charge themselves in our garages or parking lots?
  • When Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality finds its mainstream applications, will we finally see the remote workplace be as feasible as living and working in a creative cluster? If so, does San Francisco suffer a real estate crash?
  • If graphene lives up to its hype and revolutionizes industries as diverse as water desalination to transistor manufacturing to tennis racquet production, who will stand to lead the way in manufacturing? What does 21st century manufacturing even look like?
  • With a population aging more rapidly in China and Japan than in the West, do we look to these places for solutions to the massive gap in caretaking needs that will be required both there and closer to home in the near future? As the jobs in mass employment shift from labor intensive manufacturing to soft skill based customer service and caretaking, what are the implications for traditional gender roles?
  • As customers demand more local food production, is Amazon the Company who will build the logistics channels?
  • Once some form of a basic income is implemented, what are the implications for the entertainment and leisure industry?

Some things I’m thinking about on this grey Tuesday morning.

Changing the workflow to increase creative output

It’s amazing how a change in workflow can either create or restrict an environment for ideas to flourish. Without going into detail, I’ve been frustrated by my lack of creative output, and I believe it’s down to one or two obstructions in my work flow.

If I really wanted, I could probably push through these obstacles and make it work, but the nature of side projects like this blog is their capacity to act as a release. Adding a mental burden to the process is a recipe for failure.

Instead, I’m going to tweak my workflow, writing in a slightly different style (shorter, more conversational) using a different set of tools (for example, I’m blogging this within the WordPress editor itself, rather than my usual Evernote).

This is an experiment, and it may go badly wrong; worse, it might not change anything at all. For now though, I’m happy to be back pressing *Publish*.

 

I’m running the TCS 2016 New York Marathon! +Marathon Update #1

TL;DR: I’m running a big race, and I am asking you to support me here in order to give me the peer pressure I need to actually run this thing (…aaaand it also helps an amazing cause). Plus, I’m putting the FUN in fundraising by offering some cheeky perks and privileges for those who donate more than a certain threshold (see “How I’m Fundraising” below).

On November 6th, 2016, I will wake up at 5am, head all the way down to Staten Island, meet up with 50,000 people as insane as I am, and go on a 26.2 mile jog. You guessed it, I’m running the 2016 New York Marathon!

But…Why?

I could BS you and say that this is all about the kids (more on that later) but this is entirely a personal challenge.  As I try and build and live my life according to my personal values, I am making a conscious effort to grow into the type of man I always I hope I would be “when I grow up”, which includes a vision of how I look, prioritizing a healthy lifestyle, and continually striving to push my personal limits.

I have a list of goals I want to achieve in my lifetime, and graduating college and entering the workforce has made me realize that if I don’t take action now, I never will. Losing weight is a goal that I am entirely in control of, and a marathon (particularly through the heart of my favourite city) is a wonderfully tangible goal I can work towards with a set deadline and no capacity to lie to myself: either I run 26.2 miles in under 4 hours, or I don’t.

Furthermore, the transition from campus life to an office environment that tends towards a monotonous routine (despite the work itself being interesting and varied) has made me value the side projects and experiences that help me live a rich life. I have often found that challenging myself in an area outside my comfort zone is what makes me happiest (see my previous blog post reflecting on 2015), and there is nothing further outside anyone’s comfort zone than Ross Garlick running a marathon. Read More

A (Belated) Year in Review: 2015, The One Where I Graduated and Started Work

The delayed nature of this 2015 reflection is unfortunately an ironic metaphor for how the second half of my 2015 went… the intention good, but the execution lacking as I prioritized work and a somewhat hedonistic mix of laziness and gluttony outside the office. Truth be told, I have had an amazing year filled with incredible memories that will last a lifetime, but I feel as though my personal development stalled somewhat, and in 2016 I vow to get back on track with some challenging goals that will push me to the limits (keep reading to find out!).

But I think it important to reflect on 2015 as a whole, to acknowledge my successes and failures in equal measure, and draw lessons from them. This is my “almanac”, and here we go with volume #2:

Accomplishments

From an objective view, graduating college and making a good start to my career at J.P. Morgan would probably qualify as the two biggest accomplishments I achieved in 2015, but in all honesty they were minimum expectations of mine that I can now check off the list. It’s funny to see how my work style has evolved from college to the office – I now take a lot more pride in the finished project, and have actually surprised myself with the professionalism of my work (at least, I think so), but I still suffer from the same procrastination issues and have a hard time working proactively on a piece of work with no immediate or no set deadline. Either way, I am satisfied with my start and look forward to working #HarderBetterFasterStronger in 2016.

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Regarding Fordham, the highlight of my 2015 was not “walking” at graduation, but rather winning the Fordham Business Ethics Case Competition and subsequently competing (and winning) at the International Business Ethics Case Competition in New Orleans. The reason this was special is threefold: first of all, I was so happy to be able to work on a passion project with Lauren, Gabi and KC; secondly, the topic was something that genuinely interested me, and if you are interested in Self-Driving Cars I think you’d be interested in our presentation, too; finally, it was in New Orleans!!! My first jaunt to the capital of creole did not disappoint, and I can’t wait to go back for some more beignets, jazz and Hurricanes from Pat O’Briens!

Aside from these two “obvious” accomplishments, my favourite successes were my half marathon run and the blog posts I produced over the summer. Interestingly, the two things that made me happiest were both side projects that I said in my 2014 reflection I wanted to improve upon (note to self: side projects are great). The half marathon run was a challenge given the timing (February 21st, in the middle of a brutal winter), but ultimately incredibly rewarding as I crossed the finish line with my brother in 1 hour, 57 minutes. My blogging success took on a different guise than I had envisioned – I was hoping to write more often than I ultimately did, but instead the success came through the improved quality of the posts. This was reflected anecdotally, with people going out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed my writing, and also objectively, with much improved traffic and even a front-page cameo on Hacker News for my post on co-living! I feel like I truly progressed as a writer in 2015, mixing analytical pieces with more personal contemplations, and I plan to take that to the next level in 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.36.22 PM

Despite writing just 11 posts last year (vs. 16 in 2014 and 18 in 2013), 2015 saw heavier total page views and unique visitors than any other year!

Failings/Room for Improvement

There were two areas of my life that unfortunately were submerged under waves of work and laziness, (not to mention waves of craft beers and mouth-watering meals) in 2015: namely following through on side projects, and keeping control of my weight. Unfortunately I have a tendency to put off things that don’t have a pressing deadline (see above in regard to work); as a result, the things that matter the most to my long-term happiness are often put aside in favor of an extra 30 minutes in bed, a mid-afternoon coffee and pastry, or a third craft beer to celebrate the start of the weekend. I didn’t blog as much as I’d have liked in 2015, and other side projects (dinner parties, Williamsburg bridge walking tours, brewing my own beer) never made it off the ground. Not only that, but my weight has slowly but steadily increased and I don’t like it. Today I weigh 185 pounds, probably 15 pounds heavier than I’d like to be. I acknowledge that it is easy for me to fool myself into thinking I’m doing well if I do 2 or 3 weeks exercise consistently, so by documenting my current weight here I will be able to compare like-for-like a year from now. In 2016 I will make every effort to right the ship and point it on course for long-term happiness (cheesy, I know but I had to tie the metaphor together somehow :) )

Travel

It would have been an epic feat if I had managed to topple last year’s travel haul, but nevertheless I managed to hop on a plane for 5 very different adventures in 2015: New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, a Californian road trip and a couple of long weekends in the Florida. It is actually crazy to think about how different these types of trips were: a college ethics competition, Spring break with 9 friends, an Easter backpacking with KC’s brother and sister, a 5-Star road trip with the fam, and a couple of trips to our home away from home in the Keys.

Fun & Other

  • I read a lot of incredible sci-fi books, inspired by the Asimov Foundation Series – Brave New World, 2001: Space Odyssey, Dune, The Martian, Cloud Atlas (<<< read this book)
  • I read some other great books – The 4th Revolution, Founding Brothers, Alex Ferguson: Leading, Career of Evil (3rd Cormoran Strike novel)
  • I read some incredible articles – check out my Pocket Profile for the best of the best
  • I loved continuing my relationship with the Compass Fellowship on the National Council, especially with great peers such as Amy Chen and Harry Shulman
  • I threw 2 kickass barbecues in our back yard, with more to come!
    Favourite Beer of 2015: Jammer, the Summer Seasonal from Sixpoint

So what are the goals going to be for 2016? What do I have to look forward to?

  • I’m running a marathon!!!!!!!!! More to come in a separate post, but I will aim to complete the NYC Marathon in Nov-16 in under 4 hours.
  • I want to be more proactive in achieving my goals, whether at work or independently.
  • I will write 26 blog posts in 2016, each of at least the quality I produced in 2015.
  • I have plans to travel to Oslo (for a weekend), Chicago, Brazil and Colombia; I’m hopeful that I can squeeze a trip home to the U.K. in there somewhere.
  • I get to find out if I am legally allowed to work in the U.S. for the next 5 years! H1-B decisions to be made in late April.

Wishing all of you a productive, positive 2016.

Ross

Rambler-in-Chief

Citi Bike’s complicated ownership structure masks a brilliant business strategy

“Operated by NYC Bike Share LLC”

This phrase, posted under the Citi Bike logo on the Redistribution vans which shuttle bikes from station to station, has often made me stop and wonder, who exactly is that?

As I looked for an answer, I stumbled upon mini-revelation after mini-revelation, and as I write this post I hold a new appreciation for the business model design behind Citi Bike.

My curiosity regarding the proprietorship of Citi Bike stems from my personal experience with the service. Anyone who has crossed paths with me over the past three months knows that I am obsessed with my Citi Bike membership. With 23 bikes docked at the end of my block, I have used my $149 annual membership for a variety of reasons: quick pedals down to the L train, half hour commutes to and from work in Midtown, gentle Sunday rides through Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and even for 45 minute cardio workouts. My online stats show I have taken 73 trips averaging 12 minutes, traveling over 100 miles. I love Citi Bike.

So with a personal interest in bike sharing generally, and Citi Bike specifically, I started researching, and after a morning’s worth of Googling it turns out NYC Bike Share LLC is a small subsidiary of The Related Companies, the massive Real Estate firm founded and majority owned by Stephen M. Ross, the billionaire mogul who owns the Miami Dolphins. The organizational structure which led me to uncover this connection, however, is rather complex.
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I hate the Social Security system. Let’s fix it.

The pension system is a broken system that is quietly driving us over the cliff to another financial disaster, and worse, a potential human tragedy. Yes, I’m talking about social security, the system that helps Grannies and Grandads enjoy their golden years. Most people may not have much of an opinion on social security; those that do may have qualms but still accept the system in a more abstract sense. I want to overhaul the system from top to bottom. It sucks.

“Why do you hate the pension system so much, Ross?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are a list of the things that get me angry about the way the pension systems in the UK and US are structured:
Read More

Thoughts on Campus, the Failed Startup that Almost Reinvented How We Live

It saddens me that the first I heard about Campus was news of its closure. On June 18th, the housing startup founded by Thiel Fellow Tom Currier closed its virtual doors, ending a two year experiment in co-living at 34 properties in SF and NYC.

Campus acted as a psuedo-property manager, signing large properties on long-term leases and renting either single or shared rooms to Campus members. Its mission was to build communities within its properties by grouping tenants with similar interests in the same house and allowing relationships to flourish in communal kitchens and lounges. It also provided services to take care of residents’ needs, from basics (toilet paper) to premiums (professional cleaning service), all in exchange for a monthly fee on top of the regular rent. Fast Company reporter Sarah Kessler spent six months in a Campus residence in NYC and wrote a great piece about the experience, concluding, “while Campus, the business, was a failure, Campus, the living situation, was a success.”

Campus CEO, Tom Currier, agrees with Kessler. On the company homepage he says “Despite continued attempts to alter the company’s current business model and explore alternative ones, we were unable to make Campus into an economically viable business… while we are deeply saddened by this situation, we are so proud of the community that has burgeoned over the past two years.”

It is a shame to see such a promising venture fold, as the value built in the community has been widely acknowledged by its residents, many of whom have mourned its loss on social media. The business model rests on being able to charge members a premium to the market rate for living in the community, and Campus clearly struggled to find the right strategy for monetizing its community.

Regardless, I think co-living has a bright future. As urban millenials increasingly value life-enriching experiences and lifestyles that prioritize flexibility and quality, co-living can offer instant access to a community of like-minded individuals and the promise of authentic experiences that are tailored to an individual’s identity. For recent graduates who face the daunting prospect of social isolation in a new neighborhood, this is particularly appealing. Read More

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