How has the lockdown affected us?
As we endeavour to be transparent and open about how we run our business and the principles we live by, we thought it might be of interest to some of you to know how we have fared during the last few months.
The immediate effects of the lockdown
I hate to remind everybody, but on 23rd March 2020 the country was locked down. Businesses closed instantly, and the economy was largely brought to a swift halt. Businesses that were agile enough to adapt quickly did so, but some others remained unable to trade.
We’ve watched with interest as some of our favourite independent businesses moved quickly to stem the losses. We’ve watched with pride as some of those businesses made very difficult but principled decisions to restrict themselves more than the Government intended and refused to put staff and customers at risk for the chance to make a few extra quid. We’ve also watched with dismay as a number of business insurers have tried to avoid paying out for business interruption cover. In fact, I – with my barrister wig on rather than my barista apron – offered help to a number of such businesses to see where those policies could be challenged.
The lockdown hit at a very interesting moment in time for us. We signed a lease on our roastery in late February 2020; the culmination of several months of trying to find premises of the right size, in the right location, and with a landlord willing to allow us to drill a great big hole in the wall for the ventilation. It was meant to be the biggest hurdle we’d face in our start-up journey. However, by this time it was abundantly clear that things were not right in the world.
On the day before lockdown I met with a tradesman who was going to get the unit shipshape and ready for roasting. The idea was that within a week we would have everything in place to start roasting. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, as the Prime Minister set out the very next day.
Missing the boat, and yet not sinking
The impact of lockdown on our business has almost certainly been net negative, but there have been some bright spots. The fact of the matter is that we have continued to be liable for – and pay – our overheads. However, unlike a lot of our competitors, we have been fortunate that our overheads amounted to our rent and utilities. We’re not sufficiently well-established to have anybody on our payroll yet, and so our outlay has been absolutely minimal whilst more than zero. We have also been helped to a great extent by the Government's small business grant.
The big downside is that we have been unable to benefit from the immediate huge surge in home coffee consumption. We are absolutely delighted that many of our favourite roasters had their wholesale accounts replaced by dozens – if not hundreds – of new consumers who were dabbling at home for the first time. We can only hope that when our first bags start leaving the roastery we won’t be forgotten by the new home baristas.
There are always opportunities and threats when starting a business in uncertain times. So far, we can at the very least say that we survived the worst of it. It’s now up to us to prove that we can now thrive by doing what we set out to do: roast great coffee and do some good at the same time.
We know that a lot of people are rooting for us. We really appreciate your support, especially since it’s based on little more than some Twitter posts and some promises of delicious coffee. So, if you have been one of the many who has reached out to us with words of encouragement, we say a big thank you. We can’t wait to really show you what we can do.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones