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Here in Derby, there used to be a Cafe on a lovely street called Sadlergate. It’s still there now and it’s way more glammed up but a few years ago, it wasn’t too sexy.

Here’s the story…

Let’s call the cafe/bar “The Cafe” because I’m not using the real name.

The Cafe was, in effect, a room, a bar, tables and chairs, a really terrible toilet and a coffee machine. The owner spent about a tenner on decor, the staff were run off their feet, the coffee wasn’t anything to write home about and the menu was basic.

Hell, it didn’t even have wifi!

A recipe for success or failure?

Every day, it was rammed full.

The prices were outrageous. The food was average. The service was slow. The toilet was disgusting. But it was busy. Very busy.


Skip back a few paragraphs.

The cafe was a shell of a room with a few tables and chairs, and a coffee machine. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than a coffee shop. It didn’t have a theme, it didn’t have a speciality, it didn’t stock hipster coffee. It served coffee. End of.

The owner experimented while the cafe was open with raising prices, changing the menu and tweaking the staff numbers. He did it live and optimised it until it was rammed every lunchtime.

Personally, I hated it because I wanted something a little more plush (I’m a snob). The wood chip walls made me feel cheated out of £3.50 for an Americano and the toilet (did I mention the toilet!) was rank!

Contrast this to another cafe close a little further out of town, let’s call it “The Other Cafe”.

I walked past there every day and watched them kit out the space.

High stools in the window, artwork on the walls, a 24” iMac as a till, refurbished windows, a huge coffee machine, free wifi and gorgeous branding.

They posted on social media about the opening, they were active on Facebook and Instagram, they looked like they knew what they were doing and had a fuck ton of money to spend on it.

Guess what?


The shiny, new grey door never opened and not one coffee was sold.

(Dramatic pause)

The difference between them was this…

Only when “The Cafe” was working did the Owner reinvest it and do it up.

The guy who owned “The Cafe” knew how to make money. It wasn’t a pet project like “The Other Cafe”. He spent as little money on the MVP (minimum viable product) to get it open and get bums on seats.

He spent time and money on getting it to work THEN kitted it out. He wasn’t precious about the branding or the menu. He did the minimum to get ONE SALE then tweaked it to optimise it.

The message in this is that we look for perfect instead of the sale.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

We hide behind the process of making everything perfect then open the doors to customers. Then we realise we don’t have any customers.

Fast forward to today…

“The Cafe” no longer has wood chip walls and the toilet is a whole lot better. Phew!

“The Other Cafe” sits empty with the fixtures and fittings ripped out with a For Sale sign on the door that never opened.

Produce your MVP, get one sale, tweak, rinse and repeat.

So, what I wanna know is… have you done this, are you doing this right now?

Let me know WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO DIFFERENT by leaving a comment below. Go on, don’t be shy!

Carolynne Alexander is a Business Mistress and Profit Provocateur for Female Entrepreneurs who are more about working on their business instead of in their business.
As a recovering Fortune 500 employee, she realised that “business as usual” was killing her soul so she flipped the bird, moon-walked outta there, and went back to making a big impact for small online businesses.
And when she’s not knee deep in writing, marketing and coaching, you’ll find her serving up a Dose of Realness about Entrepreneurship over at