This interview is taken from Join Aspire
The London food and drink scene is great in so many ways, we have amazing bars and restaurants, but the mainstream coffee culture is so far behind. Particularly where we are, in the heart of Silicon Roundabout and on the edge of trendy, forward thinking East London, we think our locals deserve a better cup of coffee. My partner is Australian and Aussie’s are massively into their coffee, and they are all amazed how difficult it is to get a good cup of coffee over here. That to me says there is a hole in the maket, and when we came across the site at Old Street, we thought it would be perfect.
So does the competition ever put you off at all?
If you mean the Costas and the Starbucks then no, as we don’t really consider them our competition. Some people thought we were crazy for opening up next to Starbucks but I think it was an advantage. It highlights what we’re taking on really, because we are clearly so different to them, and it shows that there is demand there if Starbucks have opened a site. There are customers who will always visit these chains, and thats fine, we’re focused on delivering fantastic coffee to customers who want it, and we think over time more people will come around. We do sandwiches, we do a lot of other things but the coffee is always our focus. You can’t get, in our opinion, a good cup of coffee in one of the massive chains. There’s only a small number of places in London where you can get a proper cup, and we like to think we’re one of them.
How do you ensure your coffee is the best available?
We have our coffee roasted especially for us. We tweak it regularly because it’s not a constant thing; it comes from a live crop. Tobi, who’s responsible for the whole coffee experience visits our roasters and works with them to keep it to our exact specification. We use the best machines, the best milk, and most importantly we employ a team of fantastic and passionate baristas.
What has been the biggest surprise in terms of opening up?
That a project like this is much more work than you can ever imagine, It just takes a massive amount of love. A business like this will not work unless you are very hands on, and you have to learn every aspect of the business, particularly in the early stages, and that take’s a lot of work. However much work you think its going to be, triple it. It was difficult because both my partner and myself have other careers. I’m usually here every day before and after going to my other company. You give up your life a little bit, especially at the start, but it’s worth it.
You seem very entrepreneurial; what has set you apart from your peers?
During my time at UCL I did a couple of internships at investment banks. A lot of my friends, and family friends are traders and brokers. It was the “natural” progression but I never liked being a small cog in a big wheel. I remember figuring out during an internship how a team of 20 people could easily be reduced down to 10 if they were more efficent. Anyone could have come up with it, and its very obvious to you but no-one wants to listen to you. From then on, I realised I needed to do my own thing.
Would you call on any experiences during university to run your business?
Personally I think I learnt more before university than at university, but without a doubt I am where I am today because of the education I received. I was really lucky to go to a really good school, get good A-Levels and a great degree and be brought up by amazing parents who taught me more than anyone else. I think I’ve learned a lot more from my friends than my contemporaries at university. I was very lucky to have some special and entrepreneurial people around me as I was growing up. It was very inspiring. It sets the bar higher and makes you really push yourself.
So it’s all been worth it so far?
Yeah, definitely, the response we’ve had has been great, everyone who has been here absolutely love it and we continuously get great feedback. Sometimes you set up businesses and they take a long time to become successful… My other business will take years and years to work, here every day you get little bits of success which is great.