BEN & LUCY NICHOLSON | OPENED JUNE 2014
Why did you decide to open a coffee shop?
This is actually linked to why our café is called Nelson Coffee Co. During our honeymoon to Canada in 2009, we decided to spend a few days in a town called Nelson where the locals recommended we visit a café called Oso Negro. We had never tasted coffee that good before and were awestruck at how the café appeared to be integral to the community by providing awesome coffee and a vibrant space for locals to interact with each other, either to develop ideas or just hang out. We felt that Eastbourne, our home town, needed a café that served awesome coffee within a friendly and inspiring space too.
Is the reality reflective of your early dreams?
The reality is probably better than what we had imagined. We exceeded our sales estimates fairly early on and over time we managed to build a far better team than we’d thought possible, comprised of people genuinely passionate about coffee and great service. People say that you’ll never find a team that cares about your business as much as you do, but a lot of the guys in our team certainly come close!
How do you keep your team engaged and motivated?
We are more and more careful about who we recruit in the first place. We only hire people that have previously shown an enthusiasm for our café. All of our current team were customers first, they applied to work at Nelson because they already loved being here. In our experience you will always struggle to motivate and foster genuine engagement from your team if they haven’t already bought into your business as a customer.
Our challenge is to develop that engagement and motivation further. We constantly look to the team to help us keep Nelson improving. By delegating responsibility and encouraging the team to constantly input their ideas they may feel a stronger connection to the business.
How do you keep yourself motivated now that the business is up-and-running?
We have no problem with motivation. We are simply never satisfied with Nelson. We spend 99% of our time discussing the businesse’s faults rather than the things we are doing right. We constantly want to improve what we do because we care.
What did you get right in the initial stages?
Sounds obvious but great coffee and customer service. We were fairly confident from the start that if we got those two right we would be ok. Eastbourne is not like Brighton or London where there is an abundance of speciality coffee shops, so if we served good coffee we figured we’d stand out fairly easily. Although we were intent on serving speciality coffee we never wanted to be snobby about it. We didn’t want anyone to feel excluded by our offer, speciality coffee should be for everyone.
How did Ozone get involved?
When we were in the midst of planning for the café, we would often make trips up to London for inspiration and we stumbled across Ozone completely by chance. We were really impressed with the space and the quality of the coffee. After our visit we got in touch with Ozone and talked to them about our plans. We were also in discussions with a few other coffee roasters, but Ozone was the only company that seemed genuinely excited about our plans. They recognised that this was a big step for us and sought to advise and support us in so many ways other than just supplying us with awesome beans.
Our relationship with Ozone definitely seems more than just a typical business to business relationship. We feel part of the family.
What are your biggest challenges?
Despite our efforts to engage and motivate our people, staff turnover is still probably our biggest challenge. We’re in an industry where turnover is typically high so it’s never going to be easy to keep hold of great people. We also don’t want to be afraid of great people moving on, because the team should always be stronger than any one individual, and we also want to try and help our team to fly their wings on their own to fulfil any ambitions or dreams they might have. It’s a careful balance