Iris & June
Victoria, London, UK
JODIE WHITELAW | OPENED: APRIL 2014
What did you do before you opened Iris & June?
I worked in Telco marketing. It was the typical corporate 9-5 job that paid well but left me with zero job satisfaction.
Why did you decide to open a coffee shop?
I always knew I wanted to own my own business and have always loved good food and coffee. I found myself becoming more and more interested in the process of producing good coffee beyond just drinking it. When some close friends asked James and I to do the food for the day after their wedding in Ibiza we thought it would be a nice thing to do for them and also good fun. So a mate who is a meat broker at Smithfields sorted us out with some top quality NZ lamb, which we froze and transported over in our luggage along with everything else. I was worried about how we’d get through customs, but being Ibiza, it was a breeze. They’re not really too concerned with people bringing in meat…! At the wedding, quite a few people said (probably jokingly) we should open a café, which I’d never even considered being an option. However, it planted the seed and from there I started taking steps to see if it was something I could realistically do. I started with a 10-week cooking course with Leith’s Cooking School in Hammersmith, which I did in the evenings after work. I then followed that with a barista course with the London School of Coffee. Dipping my toes in the water confirmed that coffee and food was something I could make a career out of and more importantly would enjoy. I left my marketing job and went and worked as a trainee barista. I learnt so much about coffee and also about running a café.
Can you pinpoint a defining moment when the dream turned into reality? The point of no return?
I guess signing the lease and handing over all your savings makes things pretty real. It’s definitely up there with the most stomach turning things you’re likely to ever do! However, we were so prepared, committed and ready to take the leap that it was also pretty exciting.
What are you going to be doing in 10 years?
I hope I’ll still be out on the floor working shifts with my team and that Iris & June is going stronger than ever, maybe in various different forms, but still rocking our mission to make people happy!
The biggest challenge was, and remains, recruitment. The culture of the team is fundamental to success and hiring the wrong person can be a disaster. There seems to be a real shortage of quality hospitality staff (especially baristas) in London. It feels like it’s not a respected career option in the UK like it is in New Zealand or Australia and so you tend to get people that are just doing it to make ends meet, not because they love it. Trying to find good people that love working in the industry is so hard, yet so crucial, when your entire business relies on customer service.