How To Start Your Own Business: An Interview With Bethan Vincent
We spoke to Bethan Vincent, founder of Vincent's coffee, about what it's been like to set up her own business and how she plans to make the coffee trade as sustainable and
environmentally friendly as possible.
Name: Bethan Vincent
University: The University of York
Degree subject: History
Why coffee?As a student, coffee is obviously a big part of your life, especially during the latter stages of writing your dissertation! However, I actually really fell in love with good, (non instant) coffee during my time studying abroad in the Netherlands. I studied in Utrecht, a city half an hour south of Amsterdam, which had an amazing café culture. I started thinking about setting up a coffee business over my daily cappuccino and realised that I could combine both my interests in coffee and running an ethical business.
Did you always know you wanted to set up your own business?I definitely knew from my GCSEs onwards that it was something I was interested in. I'm quite an independent spirit and love challenges, so being in business seemed like a natural extension of these tendencies. During my degree I also became increasingly frustrated with our societal obsession with wealth and wanted to set up something that delivered benefits beyond profit, e.g. jobs.
What did you do straight after university?As soon as my exams were over I started working on Vincent's. I do slightly regret not taking a short break, but I wanted to crack on as I was so excited about setting up the business!
I also felt I needed more experience in the coffee industry, so I took part in a three month internship at a coffee roasters. This really allowed me to gain a practical insight into the industry and also made sure that my knowledge on the subject was up to scratch.
I think some people have been sceptical about how ambitious I have been, especially considering my lack of experience. I also had a lot of people ask why someone who specialised in 'Late Medieval Gender Studies' would go into the coffee business. I feel though that my degree has given me a more critical and rounded view of the world, which actually enables me to take different approaches to problems and come up with more creative solutions.
Did you find that, as a recent graduate, you were taken seriously when starting out?
Honestly, I think if you are confident enough to put yourself out there and speak with conviction and intelligence, people are forced to take you seriously regardless of age.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far?My biggest personal challenge has been motivation, especially when there have been the inevitable hiccups and roadblocks. When you run your own business, you are in charge and there is nobody pushing you, you have to do this all by yourself. The flip side of this of course is that your destiny is your own and you can take it by the horns!
What characteristics do you think make a successful entrepreneur?If I am completely honest, I wouldn't say I was successful, yet. I'm actually not really sure what success will look like, I'm the kind of person who always wants to do more and do it faster and better! (Maybe that's a good trait though?)
I'm also a pretty stubborn and obstinate individual at times, this means I refuse to give up even when things get tough.
What makes Vincent’s coffee unique?Vincent's Coffee was started with a very clear aim; to make coffee that tastes fantastic in an honest and ethical way. We want our customers to trust that we will provide them with excellent coffee with a conscience. We work hard to ensure we select extremely high grade beans which are then blended to give the best flavour and aroma.
Also, from the beginning we have actively involved an ethical specialist to ensure that our coffee is sourced from ethical farms that care about working conditions. We also try and constantly monitor our impact on the environment and are constantly on the lookout for ways to maximise sustainability.
We also want to demystify coffee and make sure that customers understand the difference between our blends and know easily which one will suit their tastes and chosen preparation method!
Where do you see the company in 5 years?We hope to be stocked in every major supermarket and be widely available across the UK. I would also love to see the brand extended to having Vincent's Coffee Shops dotted around in every major city, I have some amazing food menu ideas which would completely go above and beyond the usual cake and Panini offering.
I would also love to develop direct trading links with coffee farms and put in place a programme to help them develop their agricultural practises and infrastructure. I think the development of mutually beneficial international partnerships is essential in helping developing nations in a sustainable way.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?I think I would have to re-iterate one of my favourite quotes, which has been attributed to Christopher Columbus, "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."
Being an entrepreneur means you have to take risks and be a bit brave, but the journey alone is worth it!
Now there's a bit of inspiration to get up and do something! Not satisfied? Below are three more graduates who have taken the plunge, tested the entrepreneurial waters and come out on top!
How to start your own Business - An Interview with Nick Mills
How to start your own Business - An Interview with Tamar Fyne
How to start your own Business - An Interview with Ashley Smith
Want to read more about Bethan's ventures? Follow her blog here, and make sure to check out her Facebook and Twitter too!