Case Study: Would You Risk It All for Grapes and Beans?

Over the weekend I came across this video (created by Caleb Brown) via the Inertia Wins blog.

The video tells the story of a married couple who took the risk of starting a coffee and wine shop called Grape + Bean.

In response to the video, Inertia Wins blogger Ryan Young asked the perfect question: “What’s at stake for entrepreneurs?

Every day people take risks to start new businesses. Some risks are certainly bigger than others, and some endeavors are certainly more worthwhile than others. But who is to say which endeavor is worth what?

The beauty of the free market is that no central planner can dictate whose idea is more beneficial and whose isn’t. We, as a society, are in control. And thus, entrepreneurs must tailor their products to society if they wish to be successful.

In the video, the couple talks about how they put their livelihood and their family stability on the line by launching Grape + Bean.

But why? For what? Were they inventing a new means for time travel? Were they creating the next communication medium?

No. They were simply creating a venue in which their community could gather to enjoy the “liquids of life.” As the husband says in the video, “I wanted the coffee experience to be something unique and special.”

I know what you’re thinking: “Really?! That’s it?!”

Was this a need the community longed for? Perhaps, but I think most people would have gotten along just fine with a cup from Starbucks or a bottle from the liquor store.

But that’s the point. Capitalism redefines society’s needs.

Grape + Bean is a coffee and wine shop in Alexandria, VA.

Long before coffee shops existed, people were worried about how they were going to find clean water, not how they were going to get a more “unique” coffee fix. But now that society has progressed and coffee is affordable and deemed worthwhile, it opens up endless opportunities. Coffee lovers don’t just sit around and watch Starbucks suck up the competition. They live their lives, and by doing so they continue to identify needs.

I know that we don’t need coffee in the way we need air or water or food or whatever. What I mean is that capitalism allows society to tackle big problems and move on to other things. Innovation never stops.

For me, this says something significant about the human spirit. Even in our modern age of convenience and security, individuals are highly motivated to take risks. All of the “big comforts” are well within our reach, but we are still willing to strive and sacrifice for the improvement of our fellow man’s quality of life, no matter how tiny or gradual that improvement may be.

What we can gather from this is that there is more to life than material satisfaction; for if there weren’t, we’d all simply enjoy our stuff. Instead we look at the world and think, “How could we make that better?”

The story of Grape + Bean is just another example of how our free enterprise system motivates and enables individuals not just to dream, but to do.

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