6 tips for starting a small business as part of your retirement plan


Jim and Diane Morton have a unique addition to their retirement plan: Liberty Beans Coffee Company. The two combined their skills – Jim is a chef and Diane is a chemist – to create an excellent cafe and launch their business. Jim is the roaster and obsessed with getting the perfect roast for every crop of coffee beans. Don’t ask him about the coffee unless you have plenty of time. Currently, they are teaching high school and working on setting up their business before retiring.

Here are some tips from the two for starting your own business:

1. Why start a retirement business?

According to Diane, “We knew that after we retired from teaching, we wanted to do something else, maybe start a small business. Having spent most of our career talking to people, we knew that no matter what company we chose, our people skills would come in handy. »

“I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug,” Jim said. “We want to stay active when we stop teaching. We talked a lot about it and are very excited about the next chapter. I don’t think there is a better purpose in life than to make a positive difference in the life of a young person. Diane and I have done our best to do this for over 20 years as teachers, Diane as a science teacher and I as a culinary arts teacher. Now is the time to prove what we preach, that in America, with hard work, education and dedication, your success is in your hands.

Jim and Diana

Photo credit: Liberty Beans coffee

2. Decide on a business

“We always knew that our business would have something to do with food or drink, two things that we really appreciate,” Diane said. “Two recurring thoughts over the years were a brasserie or a café. Jim came across a coffee roastery for sale at the right time. Although we didn’t buy it, it kind of pushed us towards the coffee idea. Whatever business you decide on, it obviously has to be something you love and have a passion for.

“I definitely agree with Diane on that thought!” said Jim. “With my culinary background, there were many options to explore. On a Saturday during the pandemic, I was searching Google for small businesses for sale. I came across a small coffee roastery for sale. We weren’t really looking to buy a business, just to generate ideas. I tend to do things 110%, so I went down the rabbit hole with specialty coffee.

“I think if you’re going for a small business, it’s important not to have rose-colored glasses. I researched market growth and potential entry costs as well as possible revenue streams, before determining if I was good at roasting coffee. I remember a business class in college where the professor said “it’s not a business until something is sold”. I then wrote a 7-year business plan using a template found on the Internet, which attracted a few investors. We also thought it was important to hire a professional to help us develop our website. Of course, you could use a do-it-yourself website builder such as Squarespace, but we knew we were in it for the long haul and wanted it to look professional with help and upgrades. continue. Another tip would be to develop a budget, then double it! he added.

The many varieties of coffee beans Jim works with.

The many varieties of coffee beans Jim works with.

Photo credit: Liberty Beans coffee

3. Choose a product

Why coffee? “A good cup of coffee with a good story behind it has always caught our attention,” Diane said. “I think we have a good story and I have to say Jim definitely roasts great coffee!”

Jim believes coffee roasting is the perfect combination of science and culinary arts. “I have a culinary background as a chef and Diane is a PhD scientist. It’s like Christmas morning for me when I get a new green coffee. We have 3 roasters: a 1 pound sample roaster on which I trained to see if I was good at developing the best flavors from the beans, a 5 pound roaster that we started roasting commercially, and a state of the art 6k roaster. small batches of the new single-origin coffee using different roast settings to discover the optimal roast profile, then we decide whether to offer it as single-origin or use it in blends. This is where my love for culinary arts and flavors come into play. Let’s face it, your whole day can’t be great if it doesn’t start like this! Most of us start with coffee. It makes sense to have a b onne cup to start the day. You need it. You deserve it,” he said.

Jim shares Liberty Beans at an event

Jim shares Liberty Beans at an event

Photo credit: Liberty Beans coffee

4. Operation of a business

There are quite a few things that go into owning and operating a business. “Jim has the creativity and the business acumen of the business, so he did all that kind of research,” Diane said. “He’ll tell you he definitely went down the rabbit hole with roast coffee. I love it when we sell coffee at a festival and someone says to Jim, “Tell me about your coffee”. I want to say to them ‘do you have a few hours in front of you?’ »

YouTube was Jim’s friend during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve watched hundreds of hours of coffee roasting YouTube videos,” he said. “I also watched videos on marketing, business plans, etc. There really is no excuse today. If you want to learn something, there is an overwhelming amount of free information. Licensing and regulations are really state specific. Again, my advice would be to start on the web. You should check with local municipalities and state-level departments. It also depends on your business. For start-ups in the food and beverage sector, there are a few additional steps to take. Another tip: most small business owners are more than willing to talk about their business and help get you on the right track. »

5. Include a business in your retirement plan

Many people find it hard to slow down after working their whole lives, which Diane felt. “As I’ve said before, none of us want to retire without something to occupy us,” she said. “We also thought the company would leave a legacy for our two children, if they wanted to take it over.”

Jim said, “I will have a small teaching pension in the New Jersey public school system and I am very grateful for that. I realize that a pension is a rare thing today. We are in our 50s and in good health. We plan to grow Liberty Beans Coffee for the foreseeable future. We believe things happen for a reason. Not randomly, but if you live well, are a good person, opportunities sometimes arise. You must be ready and willing to seize the opportunity. We love what we do. The feedback on our coffee has been amazing. I end every social media post with “we appreciate you” and we really mean it. We know coffee drinkers have many options. We intend to offer the finest specialty roast coffee at a fair price for many years to come.

A Liberty Beans mug

A Liberty Beans mug

Photo credit: Liberty Beans coffee

6. Marketing Tips

Diane found a way to increase sales by offering her product for fundraisers. It’s a win for both the nonprofit raising money for their organization and for the Mortons growing sales and giving back to their community.

“I run the fundraising part of the business so I can comment on that,” she said. “I send one-to-one personalized emails to fundraisers for schools, teams, nonprofits, etc. When they express interest, I send them coffee samples in custom-labeled bags for their organization. Once they see the tag with their band’s name on it, that usually closes the deal.

Jim said: “My first tip for marketing would be to remember to budget for it. A good rule of thumb to start with is that 10-20% of your income when you start should be reinvested in marketing. It can be a struggle at first. Diane and I haven’t made a cent out of the business yet. We have investors that we feel compelled to please first, but everyone’s business plan is different. We continue to dabble in social media marketing, but you have to admit, it’s not in my wheelhouse. I think there is still great value there. I post almost daily on Instagram and Facebook, as well as paid ads. I think social media advertising depends on your level of expertise and comfort.

“A segment of our business is fundraising and Diane does a great job sending direct emails to organizations of all kinds that need to raise funds,” continues Jim. “Sometimes you have to be creative and think outside the box. For example, we include a discount code on every fundraiser bag to incentivize follow-up orders. It’s also important to paint a picture of your ideal client. We have a patriotic theme because we love our country. We have two wonderful children and our son is an active duty Army combat medic. It was important for us to show how grateful we are to live in America. America may be divided on many issues, but one thing we all agree on, we all deserve a good cup of coffee. After 17 months, we felt ready to hire a PR agency to help us with our marketing efforts. »

There are so many uncertainties in the world today and retirement could be different in the future. The Mortons have a great plan for their future and their coffee is really good (I tried some).

For more tips on how to be financially successful in retirement, check out these stories:


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