The idea for Lil Coffee Cabin has been percolating since Jeff Conti launched Coffee Cabin, a drive-thru gourmet coffee shop, in Schererville in 2014.
“From Day 1, people have continually expressed an interest in obtaining a franchise, but the cost and operational complexity was a big hurdle. The Lil Coffee Cabin concept is exciting to both new and experienced entrepreneurs because of the low cost of entry and unique point-of-sale based management system,” he says.
The first Lil Coffee Cabin location recently opened inside the Highland Meijer and soon another will open in the Merrillville Meijer, followed by several others. All will bring the same small-batch air-roasted coffees, teas, smoothies, milkquakes, baked goods and seasonal favorites to a new set of customers.
“It’s a completely turnkey business model. We bring the nearly self-contained 80-square-foot log cabin into primarily interior high traffic locations such as department stores, food centers, hospitals, universities, office buildings, and transportation hubs,” he says. “Our POS system tracks everything from employee hours, inventory, loyalty programs, gift cards, etc. and all in real-time. With reduced overhead and many typically fixed costs moved above the line, expenses are covered by revenues to show a profit every day. Labor costs are low and even customer acquisition costs are minimal since we share the marketplace’s native foot traffic.”
Jeff seeks to build relationships with other local and national marketplaces, with plans to test potential permanent sites with full-service pop-up Lil Coffee Cabin kiosks. Franchise disclosure documents are being prepared for registration while the new locations will soon offer more reliable historical financial data.
“We want to be able to demonstrate what franchisees can realistically expect,” he says.
With his background as a modular home designer/builder and the owner of several patents, Jeff, along with wife Dana, called on their creative thought processes to develop innovative operational systems that allow each scaled-down Lil Coffee Cabin to operate efficiently as a full-service coffee shop. Much of the proprietary equipment and systems were developed from years of experience and create a barrier to entry while allowing Lil Coffee Cabin to compete with the big national brands.
Jeff has always found himself in the role of entrepreneur beginning at the age of 17 when he co-founded Minutemen Mobile Mechanics, a pioneering on-site fleet maintenance company serving NWI and Chicagoland. He was later honored by the SBDC as Young Entrepreneur of the Year during its inaugural E-Day Awards in 1991 and the NW-ISBDC has continued to work with him on this latest venture.
For Jeff, being an entrepreneur has always seemed like the most solid career choice.
“It’s about controlling my own destiny. The issues of instability that scare most people never really concerned me. I have faith in my own abilities,” he says. “I have always enjoyed challenges and new experiences.”
Coffee Cabin and Lil Coffee Cabin
Highland, Merrillville and Schererville locations