How This Unique Coffee Cafe Is Brewing Success


In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Jeni Castro is the founder of Coffee Dose, an eclectic cafe with five locations in Orange County, California. Read on to learn how she built a brand that delivers an experience like no other coffee shop on earth.

How did you get into the coffee business?
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I started Coffee Dose six years ago after franchising my previous company. It was a tanning and waxing brand, so I always joke that I went from vaginas to coffee. I’m a master connector, and I was trying to connect different small coffee operators in my area to link up with my friend who was opening a hair salon. I thought it would be a great concept to have coffee and hair. Well, that didn’t work out and I couldn’t find anyone interested in taking an 85-square-foot coffee bar, so I thought, well, I can brand anything and sell anything so let’s try coffee! And that’s how Coffee Dose was born. I had no coffee business experience at all. But as the serial entrepreneur does, I figured it out. Fast forward to today and we have five locations and we’re getting ready to hit our next growth phase and we’re looking for a big strategic partner.

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What’s different about Coffee Dose?
And we are a very fun coffee brand. Our original latte is called “Anti-Bitch Serum.” Our flagship has what we call “the diner experience.” You walk in and it’s this pink and teal look. Everything is made fresh daily and many of our lattes have health aspects like turmeric, collagen, and charcoal. We call ourselves vibe dealers because we are essentially drug dealers. We’re giving the community drugs all day long. We have people that come back for multiple drinks in a day, and I didn’t want people to consume just a bunch of crap like what’s currently out there in the market. Like Starbucks, imagine drinking that twice a day, seven days a week? It’ll kill you. So I wanted to make really good coffee with really good ingredients and serve delicious food in a fun space. Honestly, it’s just a fucking vibe.

Photo credit: Mike Carreiro

Have you had “real jobs” before going the entrepreneur route?
I’ve basically been an entrepreneur my whole life. I mean, I’ve worked for people, but I’ve been fired from pretty much every job. I worked for George Biel, who owns all of the Gulfstream and Hillstone restaurants. I was always trying to rework how they managed the staff. I worked there for seven years and I was let go because, honestly, they were just tired of talking to me. And so I always had dreams of doing my own thing. I really love branding — taking something that could be super simple or something that we use every day and putting a spin on it that makes it special.

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What are some of the challenges of starting your own coffee shop brand?
We’re very disrespected in the coffee industry. And that’s okay! The coffee community is very small and male-dominated. It’s comprised of operators who are diehard baristas — they know every aspect of every piece of equipment and travel to meet the farmers roast growing their beans. I’d like to do that one day, but right now I am focused on getting people through the door. So to do that, I knew we had to be exceptional. I would hate to come out and have people say oh, well, you know, she’s not a coffee person and her food sucks. So I had to go one step further and just blow it out of the water. Our food and drinks are amazing, and when you order your eggs and toast, they come on a plate that says “Fuck mornings.”

What’s your outlook for this growth phase?
I’m really stoked to find the perfect partner because I want these everywhere. It’s going to be a global brand and I feel like I’ve only just begun but I’ve been working my ass off for the last six years. Someone once said that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success, and I feel like I’m living that. I would like to own and operate as many shops as I can for as long as I can. We’ve already talked with some very prominent VCs to lay out the path of what an exit looks like down the road, but it’s hard to even talk about that because I’m having so much fun right now.

Related: This Entrepreneur Wants to Turn Every Home Into an Urban Farm

Any advice for entrepreneurs facing tough decisions?
When it comes to decision-making, I’m like the Magic Eight Ball. Just shake it, see what the answer is and go for it. I love to take chances. I’m a risk taker. I’m a big dreamer. I’m also a manifester and I believe in all that crazy shit. If you think it, it will happen. Whether it’s just me believing my own bullshit, I don’t know. But it works for me. My husband thinks I’m crazy — I’m always sending him inspiring podcasts and quotes from books. But I think for real entrepreneurs, we all live in that space, right?

Have you had any impactful mentors along the way?
One of my biggest mentors is Alli Webb, the founder of Drybar. She’s been a really close friend and a really great mentor. She’s a visionary founder who believes that as long as you put the right people in place, you can grow and run a successful company. It’s very refreshing to talk to someone who has been through that. She’s worn many hats and came from nothing — she just had an amazing idea. I love surrounding myself with people like that.

Photo credit: Jordan Shiley

What are some of your passions outside the walls of your coffee shop?
I’m a mother of two. I have a five and a seven-year-old there. They’re super fun. I’m a professional eater and a professional hotel stayer. I love to travel and that helps keep me motivated. I could work 18-hour days for months straight as long as I know a trip is on the horizon. If the trip is planned, I’m good. Oh, and I listen to murder podcasts. Last night I was at the flagship store, installing something late at night. It was dark and I’m listening to the details about some grisly death and I’m like, ‘What am I doing? This is horrible!’ I think I love the abuse. Working with caffeine and listening to murder podcasts is not a recipe for a good night’s sleep.

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