IAN OWEN | OPENED: MARCH 2015
What did you do before you opened MUD?
Before opening MUD I was a Chef. I started working in kitchens at the age of 16, specialising in fine-dining and modern British food. My career as a Chef was spent working in a range of Michelin Star and Rosette restaurants both in London and Wales, working my way up from a Commis Chef to Head Chef.
Why did you decide to open a coffee shop?
Mainly, a love for a great cup of coffee and awesome brunch! I always wanted to run my own business. While I loved the adrenalin and intensity of leading a kitchen, I had a desire for more flexibility in my role and wanted the opportunity to feel more engaged with customers and have full control over the front-to-back operations of the business.
My partner and I have always been massive fans of brunch and coffee – visiting the newest café openings in London far more than we would restaurant openings – and felt that this was an area that was growing in popularity, with demand for quality increasing. We felt that there was space for us to offer our own take and use my background in fine-dining to create tasty, attractive dishes coupled with beautiful coffee in a laid-back, welcoming environment.
We wanted something easy-going and informal to reflect our personalities, and from this MUD was born.
Can you pinpoint a defining moment when the dream turned into reality? The point of no return?
I think it was the moment that we received the keys to our café (then a Chicken Shop!) in Tooting. I remember the date well: 19th December 2014. There was so much work still to be done at that stage, but all I can remember feeling was excitement and eagerness to get started!
Is the reality reflective of all your early dreams?
The reality is awesome. Don’t get me wrong, from when we got the keys, to opening the doors of MUD in March 2015, to today, there has been a lot of stress, work, and sleepless nights, but the last year has been the most exciting of my life and running my own café has exceeded all expectations. It’s been a steep learning curve but I love going into work every day, chatting with our regular customers, training and developing staff, creating new dishes and engaging with the local community. Best of all, it’s fantastic to see that people are enjoying what we do – we’re so pleased and grateful for all the support that we’ve received to date in Tooting.
“After deciding to call our cafe MUD, we went about choosing a logo. In keeping with the name, we wanted something simple and clear. We were keen for lots of input (third-party views in this area were just as important, if not more important, than our own) and put a range of options forward to all our family and friends for a vote. Our current logo won by a huge majority (and it was actually our favourite too!). After that, we were in no doubt: that was the logo for us.
We often hear about people’s mistakes in the early days. What did you get right from day one?
I’m really pleased that we stuck to our core vision and ideas. As you would expect, everybody gets pretty excited at the thought of opening a café, and so many people had their own views as to how we should do it; from layout and design, to menu structure, to opening hours. We were clear on our concept from day one and were very conscious of the need to stick to that, despite all the distractions and everyone’s good intentions and advice. We designed every part of MUD ourselves.
We resisted the urge to call in professional help for the design and layout – in part, because we also had an eye on costs. As an independent, start-up business, budgets were tight and we had to spend wisely. Having now been open for one year, I am so pleased that we were so hands-on in the early stages of the business and stuck to our guns as to what MUD should be all about. How did Ozone get involved? We knew that serving great coffee was core to our business. Towards the end of 2014, we started looking for coffee roasters in London and who would be the best fit for MUD. Right away, Ozone stood out. It became very clear from the start that they were not only interested in providing us with the best coffee, but they were also committed to our business and would become an invaluable resource in supporting us in building and developing MUD. They were there for us right from the very beginning: visiting the site before refurbishment, acting as a sounding board for ideas, recommending the best coffee machines and grinders (and helping us source these) and helping with Barista recruitment and training.
The support from Ozone has been unwavering and the team continues to help us out in all sorts of areas today. Since opening, we’ve upgraded our coffee machine and grinders, we now offer two of Ozone’s coffee blends (Empire and Clipper) to our customers, and also sell a lot of Ozone coffee beans to take away.
Just as important is that not only are they a top supplier, they are also a great bunch and good fun over a beer!
What are you going to be doing in 10 years?
Hopefully still enjoying lots of good coffee and brunch! It would be great to think that there would be a few more MUDs floating around London and that people continue to enjoy what we offer. A holiday before then would also be great!
Finding the right people with the relevant skills and right attitude to represent our business took some time but we’re really pleased and proud of our fantastic workforce that we now have in place. We were careful to ensure that everyone we hired, be it Floor Staff, Baristas, Chefs or Kitchen Porters understood the importance of the role they played in the café and were committed to delivering at the highest standards. We have a really diverse, enthusiastic and skilled bunch working with us who all understand the core values of MUD and appreciate the importance of serving a consistently high-quality product coupled with the best customer service. Being a small group, we also like to think that they feel invested in the business, know how much they’re appreciated and enjoy turning up to work every day!