Perky Blenders was founded by husband and wife duo Adam and Victoria Cozens in 2015 with the vision of creating a speciality coffee company that's responsible, friendly and accessible to all. Read on to hear from Adam about Perky Blenders, how he started his small business journey and why he uses Capital on Tap.
Tell us a bit about you and your business?
I’m Adam Cozens, the managing director and co-founder of Perky Blenders, which I started with my wife. We’re a husband and wife team, and started the business just as we were having our second child - just a bit of a challenge! One of our core values is being a family business, with the others being responsibility and pride. These run right the way through everything we do.
Perky Blenders is a specialty coffee roasters, which basically means we’re at the premium end of coffee. We currently have four shops of our own, three of which are in Waltham Forest and this year, we moved into North-West London with our shop on Finchley Road. We also run some franchise stores – you can find us on Kensington High Street in a lovely large store with high-impact branding.
The split of the business is that as we’re at the top end of quality for coffee, we aren’t the cheapest. We were also early adopters of coffee by post, which has increased in popularity over the last few years, for clear reasons! We were well set for people to buy coffee at home when they needed it after the onset of the pandemic.
The final part of the business is our brand - we feel like we have an impactful, punny brand which is really important to us. We were recently awarded Britain’s Best Small Business Name by Simply Business - out of 1500 entries, we got down to the final 10 as voted for by the public!
Our brand is so important to us as it represents who we want to be. There can be some snobbery in specialty coffee and we want to make sure we aren’t like that. We’re approaching the market from an inclusive approach to contemporary coffee - whether it’s lifting down some equipment, to showing a customer how it operates, or making sure people feel comfortable to ask questions in our stores – we do our best to create that atmosphere. We like to have fun, but we like good quality coffee too.
What makes Perky Blenders special?
One of the unique elements of our business is the collaborative side, which goes right the way through everything we do. We pride ourselves on that core value of family and collaboration and including ourselves in the community.
We’re very active in the small business sector - we like to help enable, mentor, and give advice where we can do to other businesses that are starting out or need help. I talk at schools, particularly on business topics, encouraging students and the schools themselves to recognise that you can do something different and it isn’t impossible to build your own company.
Our community focus has been particularly important in the last couple of years, which have been really difficult for small businesses. We had people reaching out and wanting to support us! People were ringing up and asking to volunteer because they were furloughed, offering things like graphic design for free. There’s a really inclusive feel about what we do and I think that’s paid off because we’ve built a great community as a result.
We know how difficult it was when we started out to get ourselves known, so we tried to collaborate with the coolest brands that we could find – the other really exciting small businesses in the area that we could bounce off to grow.
Now, we find that we’re attractive to global brands! Levi’s, for example, launched their concept store last year and wanted us in central London to launch it. We also launched the UNIQLO store on Regent Street recently and we’re launching a product with Nescafe at the end of this month, so you’ll see us on the supermarket shelves. We built this value within our business and now global businesses want to associate with independent, family-owned and funded, community-loved businesses.
I think this is also why we appeal to customers in such a young audience - 25% of our online customers are under the age of 22, which is really interesting. When I say we’re on the contemporary end of coffee, we’re definitely engaging with the right tribe. Those values clearly resonate with a younger generation, which is really exciting.
Generally, we differentiate ourselves by collaborating with the right groups and organisations, but not forgetting our responsibility to smaller businesses and making sure we’re able to advise and help where we can.
What inspired you to take the leap into entrepreneurship and how did you go about it?
I’ve had a few small businesses I’ve worked on in the past, but fundamentally my background is in engineering - civil engineering is the easiest way to describe it. My wife Victoria was working for a major legal firm in IT, sort of frontline customer service.
I think most people have a little itch of imagining how nice it would be to be in control of your own destiny and build your own business family. Most people have got a desire to do something for themselves, I think what you realise is you’re never working for yourself when you’re working for the bigger places.
We chose coffee because it’s a great industry. It’s more interesting to talk about that over a coffee than to talk about engineering. It’s a really fun industry that’s evolving and something that’s so wide and broad. I’ll be out in Brazil at the beginning of August, which is the first time I will have gone out to source, as it’s one of the regions we get our coffee from. So I’ll be out in Samambaia, with Francois, our head of coffee.
It’s such a lovely journey for me as when you start out with the concept of a business, people are immediately joking around like, “Ooh will you be going out to South America then?” and it seems like such a distant dream! We’re only talking about 2015 too, so to be here seven years later actually influencing the trade of coffee is amazing. We’re the biggest buyer of coffee from Samambaia in the UK, so we’re truly influencing life from that direction.
That’s the great thing about specialty coffee is that there’s an element of trust built into the community. You’re directly able to make a difference by making sure that you’re getting the best quality for your customers, but also buying coffee fairly and ensuring the money is going to the right places and people.
How do you use your Capital on Tap card to support Perky Blenders?
The first thing it’s beneficial for is our cash flow. You’re able to have a little bit of foresight of what’s happening month by month, and for this, we choose to use our cards for all our spending. It’s easier for me to get an additional card for our staff, whether it’s our in-store staff or a more senior member.
We use that on a monthly basis, so we repay our card in full each month. It’s flexible and works with our digital accounting software Xero, meaning everything is nice and straightforward. We actually changed from another supplier to Capital on Tap because everything works better.
What do you think is the most significant challenge facing small businesses today?
There’s a whole list of things - we’re in times of change! Costs are clearly changing for us. One of our biggest challenges is that our product can’t be grown in the UK. The chain of events in terms of cost of coffee is impacting the whole industry. For us it’s the purchasing of green beans and trying to maintain that quality. For our customers, because we’re focusing on quality, that obviously impacts the cost side.
Beyond coffee, I think costs are probably the biggest concern for small businesses. We’re lucky enough to have adapted our business from the outset which has helped massively. For example, we deliver by bicycle, and our coffee ground waste is also taken by bike to local allotments for compost. Even a small thing like that, a lot of businesses will be paying for that to go away, but for us, we’ve managed to avoid a lot of the impact of fuel prices. However, when it comes to roasting coffee, we are of course affected by gas prices there.
Human resources for small businesses are becoming increasingly tricky - we have 44 staff at the moment who are all really talented. You can’t just walk off the street and into a shop. We run a two week training that you need to go through before you’re making a nice flat white for a customer. Since Brexit, we’ve seen that it’s been difficult to find enough talent. While we’re doing well because we have an attractive business people want to work for, the hospitality sector has definitely seen those challenges.
What's your top tip as a small business owner?
I have two key nuggets of advice for those looking to start up a business. I’ve met with, talked with, and mentored a number of people who are looking to start their own business. Some of them have planned it all out with every tiny detail and have a huge business plan, but just haven’t got started.
What I like to say is, the first half of a startup is literally just starting. Get going, have a plan of action, and think through what you’re doing. It’s easy to pause and you can miss an opportunity if you wait around too long.
Secondly, make sure that you have a vision. There’s nothing wrong with that vision moving from left to right while you’re steering the ship of your small business - in fact, it almost definitely has to in order to be successful. But you know you can adjust it a couple of angles with a vision ahead of you. And make sure you have a team of people with you who are engaged in that same vision. It’s valuable and it’s the best way to succeed. Establish the values of your business. What’s your purpose? Those are the things that will drive you to success in the future.