The Atlanta Small Business Profile – Tiffany Lopez, Barista Lab

Today on the Atlanta Small Business Profile, host Ted Jenkin has a conversation with Tiffany Lopez, Owner of Barista Lab. Barista Lab is diligently bridging the gap between coffee manufacturing companies and coffee consumers. The company provides a selection of premium equipment, with top-of-the-line brands, through an eCommerce experience.

Transcription:

Ted Jenkin:

Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Atlanta Small Business Profile. I’m Ted Jenkin, small business expert. And today, we’re talking about some really cool stuff. It’s this barista. A lot of you say that we’re a barista, but you don’t know a lot about espresso machines, coffee machines, and what barista’s does actually do. I have the expert on today, Tiffany Lopez, who is the owner of Barista Lab. I know it’s early, you’re out on the West Coast today so I appreciate you joining the show. I wanted to ask you, how did you get started in opening up Barista Lab and what do you all do?

Tiffany Lopez:

Yeah. Well, you know how some people think that they have to settle for mediocre coffee? Well, at Barista Lab, we supply you with everything you need to make the coffee of your dreams. So you can drink coffee that really lifts you up instead of coffee that you get disappointed in. And so that’s our main goal.

Ted Jenkin:

Is there a difference? Tiffany, is there really a difference? Like some people say, I’ll just get a cup of Folgers and some people have these really expensive machines, but there really is a difference.

Tiffany Lopez:

There is such a big difference. And I’ll tell you this, the quality of your life is also different, the quality of your day, how you wake up and start your routine and just really get focused. And like you have a ritual and it’s just an amazing life. I guess, to squeeze the juice out of life. I feel like coffee really does that. Good coffee really does that

Ted Jenkin:

And you actually had training right? In 2010 with a world-class barista. Did this influence what you think about coffee?

Tiffany Lopez:

Absolutely. So I was trained by world barista champion, Michael Philips. He stood there with his clipboard and his drills and drilled me for actual competition training. I wasn’t going to competition. But yeah, so this is where I kind of learned about really good coffee and that was my introduction.

Ted Jenkin:

Well, I thought while I had you on the program today and we’d been in the midst of obviously people call it the new normal unprecedented times, but there are a lot of people because they’re spending so much time at home that they’re making coffee at home. Is there anything you’d recommend to somebody watching today about the kind of equipment to buy at home and what they should be doing with their coffee?

Tiffany Lopez:

Absolutely. So I would really recommend buying from a local roaster and supporting your local shops and roasteries. Just find one you like. So it really starts with having a good quality product at first. Some people say you can’t polish a turd. So I would say that’s one major thing. And then another thing that will make a huge difference, no matter what coffee brewer you have, the grind matters. The grind will influence your brew time, your flow rates, and to really be able to dial in your brewer. It’s important to have a consistent grind and a really great grinder. So I would say that would probably be my next thing.

Ted Jenkin:

So where do I go? Tiffany tells me all this stuff. This is what I should be doing at home, but I know nothing. Is there a place for me to start?

Tiffany Lopez:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s so many places that you can start. So I would say somebody who’s just starting off might be starting and looking for new ways to brew. There’s like new brewers. I would call it like, there’s four really, there’s total immersion. But anyways, I’m coming out with a course. That would be a really wonderful place to start for anyone who’s either beginning or even intermediate and advanced, because I feel like there’s always more to learn and there’s always a next place to go. So that–

Ted Jenkin:

What are you doing inside of the course? Are you teaching people how to be their own barista?

Tiffany Lopez:

Absolutely. So it starts with, it kind of takes you on the journey of how I started and how I learned. And it starts with learning about coffee as a product and as a living, breathing like thing that we put inside of our bodies and how to make sure that you get the best quality. And then it goes from there into principles about coffee and then how to brew and how to identify brewers, grind size, how to tell the difference in a bean comparison and all those kinds of like fun, nerdy things about coffee.

Ted Jenkin:

I wanted to ask, because of the pandemic this year, did it affect the coffee business a lot? Was it harder for growers that might be in different countries that would normally ship their beans? Was it harder to do that this year?

Tiffany Lopez:

I haven’t really seen a shortage in coffee beans, or I haven’t seen that side of coffee affected. I’m in the online space, so I’ve seen a lot of issues with online. Warehousing really filled up, the amount of orders that are coming in online are way more than there’s ever been. And I feel like e-commerce is exploding. But with that, there’s some industries that have to kind of adjust and customers are waiting longer for packages. A lot more packages are getting lost, those kinds of things. So I’d just say that’s like a few things to keep in the back of your mind if you’re ordering.

Ted Jenkin:

Well, like any business, everyone’s got to market their business. And obviously it sounds like you’re coming out with a course, which if you love coffee, this might be a good holiday gift or something that you might want to give to someone who is a coffee enthusiast. But you also sell a lot of online products. I know that you sell some high-end espresso machines and things like that. How do you market those products? Are there tricks of what you do on the internet, or how do you get that out there?

Tiffany Lopez:

Yeah, so there’s a lot of different ways and I’m also working on new ways of marketing because there’s so many online businesses, but I’d say social media, Google Ads, and Amazon is a big way, SEO, so writing blogs and really optimizing the website and email marketing. Email marketing is still really big.

Ted Jenkin:

I know you’ve got a lot of experience with Amazon. Tell people what they don’t know about Amazon or how they get started because there are a lot of people saying I want to be on Amazon. I don’t know what it looks like. Has it been worth it for your business?

Tiffany Lopez:

It has been worth it. I get these questions a lot because I have friends who want to come into the game now. And my main thing is you just have to get started, just start practicing and just dig in and go in there. I would say if you’re looking for products, kind of like figure out who would do you know that you could get exclusive product from, because the whole name of the game is you want to own that listing. And if you have family or friends or if you have kids and they have friends with parents that have product or something, and it’s not on Amazon, I’d say go use your resources to really figure out what kind of product you can own a listing on. And then I would also highly recommend having an end game. So the end game may be where do I go from here? Do I want my own website? Do I want to own something else? How do I want to serve this customer and then kind of like figure out how to create your own brand?

Ted Jenkin:

How have you been able to manage your energy and your enthusiasm to be an entrepreneur during these difficult times?

Tiffany Lopez:

I think as an entrepreneur, these are the times that we really thrive. I feel like being an entrepreneur is all about that pushing the envelope, figuring out how to make the tough times, how to get through those tough times and breakthrough. And I really feel that in my heart that the struggle is real and that’s what being an entrepreneur is about. But in terms of keeping my energy up, like I’m telling you this year has been very challenging, but other parts of my life are not so challenging. So really try to look at what is going on outside. If you are an entrepreneur and your business is the main thing because that is it’s my life, but to really look outside and be like, “Wow, there’s so much beauty and so much calmness elsewhere.” That’s kind of how I stay grounded

Ted Jenkin:

I really like that. I know it’s been challenging for a lot of entrepreneurs that are out there. If I’m buying a brand of coffee maker, do you have ones that you like or ones that you would recommend? Because sometimes people get online and they look at Google shopping or they do go on Amazon. They’re so confused because there’s 800 pictures. They don’t know which one is the right one, any ones that you would recommend?

Tiffany Lopez:

Yeah. So I recommend based on values. So what are your values? Is it easy? Is it the least amount of technique with the best squeeze possible? Are you money conscious or is it the best thing for your buck? That’s really how I advise on how to pick a coffee brewer. For example, I love the full bodyness of a total immersion brew. And I don’t like using a lot of technique all the time, so my go-to daily brewer is like a Clever Dripper or something that’s clever-like. Now there are other brands like that, but it’s just you put the coffee in, you pour the water in, you wait, you put it on top of the carafe and it comes out, and then you can drink it. Sometimes I just liked that ease.

Ted Jenkin:

So for people that are watching the television program today, where can they learn more about you, the course and Barista Lab?

Tiffany Lopez:

Yeah. So the course is Make Better Coffee and baristalab.com is where you go sign up for the newsletter. We have a little introductory mini course that you can get videos on for the beginner beginners and then some info for brewing, and kind of like the questions that you asked today for our email subscribers and YouTube. YouTube is where you can learn about all the little things about coffee.

Ted Jenkin:

Well, I want to say thanks so much for waking up with us. Thanks so much for joining the program today. It’s always inspiring hearing other entrepreneurs, not only here in Atlanta, but all across the country. And listen, if you’re a coffee enthusiast, I mean, this is the person to talk to. Take the course, learn more about the products because we’re all picking up new hobbies in this pandemic times right now. Maybe this is time for you to learn a little bit more about brewing that better cup of coffee that can wake you up, make your life better and help you become a better entrepreneur yourself. Tiffany, thanks again for joining the program today.

Tiffany Lopez:

Thank you so much for having me now.

Ted Jenkin

You’re welcome. And I’m Ted Jenkin, a small business expert. Look forward to seeing you next week right here on the Atlanta Small Business Profile.


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