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Chanel and Justin's Member Story

At the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) we have been working closely with our members to tell their story. Back in February, we unveiled the winners of the FSB Worldpay UK Business Awards 2016 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. We had the opportunity to speak to a few of the winners from this year, as well as some of the highly commended entries who are taking the small business world by storm.

This year, the overall the FSB Worldpay UK Business Awards 2016 winners were announced as 918 Coffee Co Ltd.

918 Coffee winners

We spoke to Commercial Director, Dave Stallon about the winners, "The 918 Coffee Co has shown incredible entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a dedication to drastically reducing carbon levels in all aspects of their business. 

Their innovative approach has set them apart from other companies in an already thriving sector and they’re a great example of what a successful small business should be. They have contributed to an increase in awareness of how businesses can do more for the environment.

That’s why we were pleased to crown 918 Coffee Co as the overall winners of the FSB Worldpay Business Awards 2016."

We were lucky enough to speak to Company Secretary and Co-Founder Chanel Cornelius, who works alongside her husband and business partner Justin Cornelius. 

Chanel describes the company for us, “We’re 918 Coffee Co Ltd, a coffee roastery based in Dorset. We started out as a coffee shop where we were roasting coffee for ourselves. The blend we developed became really popular and we were approached by a local hotel owner to provide coffee for his hotel.”

Since then the company has grown organically, Chanel tells us more, “Our coffee roasting section of the business has quickly overtaken the coffee shop. We have a variety of customers who range from The Houses of Parliament to Waitrose, other coffee roasters, other coffee shops, farm shops, it’s a whole mixed bag.”

Chanel and Justin found other areas where they had opportunities to expand the business, “We’re also a wholesaler for coffee ancillaries including flavoured syrup and chocolate coated coffee beans – everything that you would expect to find in a coffee shop. 

We offer a coffee machine rental package, which is usually purchased by a new business or a business that wants to expand. If they need the whole package we will provide the machines, the coffee grinder, knock out drawer, the water filter system and the barista training.”

Chanel and Justin’s unique approach, joint entrepreneurial spirit and ethically sound ethos are just some of the reasons why 918 Coffee Co Ltd has become so successful.

“Our biggest achievement is Justin’s invention: the coffee eco-system and the world’s first coffee eco roaster. We’re a sustainable company, we’re trying to do everything that we can and work with other businesses to support them too." 

"At the same time as delivering your coffee beans and cups we will also collect your coffee waste which will then be processed into biomass fuel to fuel our Eco Roaster.” The carbon-neutral journey also comes with old-fashioned and helpful customer service, something that is incredibly important to Chanel, “From my experience as a consumer, the after sales customer service is not that great in other sectors – but it’s really important to us.”

Chanel also discussed the initial spark that inspired the couple to set up their small business, “Justin and I are both coffee nerds! Back in 2009, we realised we couldn’t find any coffee specialists in our home town so we decided to do something about it. Justin has always been an entrepreneur, he will spot opportunities anywhere. We thought there was a need for our business in the local area.

Because it’s our passion it’s made us more of a success, it’s not easy running your own business.”
We asked Chanel why they decided to become members of a business support organisation such as FSB, “It’s a well-established, much respected national organisation. For us, it’s shows that we have the support of the organisation behind us if we need it. The benefits of being a member were a huge factor in making the decision to join. In the end it was an easy decision to make!”

In terms of our FSB benefits that are available to small business owners, Chanel explains how valuable the membership is, “We’ve used the FSB Insurance Service because there are really good rates available there. We’ve worked with a company that’s supported us with HR issues and compliance – things like that. We usually rely on FSB to let us know what’s happening and what offers we can receive. 

The membership gives you that strength and it also influences how other businesses might see you too. You’re aware of all the threats to your business and you have support to call on if you need it.”

We asked Chanel about the future of 918 Coffee Co Ltd, “We've only just launched the Eco Roast technology in September 2015.  Our coffees are now eco-roasted using our innovative Eco Roaster. We have a range of coffee that has the endorsement of the Eden Project and is now available in Waitrose stores nationwide. Our primary business is food-service and not retail, therefore retail is a new sector that may take us in a new direction.  

We are the new coffee supplier for the whole of Eden Project site, a great working partnership. We are also now working closely with new sustainability partners to deliver an innovative complete 'end of life' coffee waste solution.  

Not only will we collect your waste coffee grounds, we will also collect your used disposable coffee cups and guarantee to recycle them into new materials and products. Known as the Coffee-Eco System, this will become a nationwide hub for coffee sustainability. Very exciting times!”

Chanel continues, “We have our end goal in mind, but with these opportunities we need to think about the direction we want to take. You can only plan for so much! We’re trying to make sure we have a sustainable future and that will always be at the forefront for us.”

The business owners are parents too, “We have three children, so they take up any time away from the business. As your members will know, when you’re running a small business you are never really ‘away’ from work.”

When asked about the advice she would give to anyone thinking of starting up their own business, Chanel explains “anyone setting up business needs to know and love the product. Do really comprehensive research and make sure there is a market for that product. Be prepared to live and breathe it.

Learn to delegate early on, because you will quickly become a vital cog that can’t easily be removed and then you could feel trapped. The business will run you rather than you running the business, and that is not a good position to be in – we’ve been there and it’s not good.

Be prepared to encounter failures, rejection is awful and it feels completely devastating, but don’t give up! Bring your head up out of the sand and take a look at what you’ve done! Give yourself that praise and a pat on the back.”

The awards win has had a huge impact of the business, both in terms of exposure and growth, “There have been numerous benefits for us since winning the awards, not only the kudos of being business of the year but also the publicity. We’ve reached audiences that wouldn’t normally be in our range. The prize money has helped us buy a much needed piece of equipment that we’ve desperately been trying to get for a long time: a coffee bag packaging sealer… although I wanted to go to the Caribbean!

It’s an FSB and Worldpay award, so it’s not just an award that nobody has heard of. FSB is a recognised, nationwide organisation who are small business experts. It’s taken us out of the box and popped our heads up into a new world!”

We’re passionate about small businesses and we’ve been supporting them throughout the UK for over forty years. As experts in business, we offer our members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Our mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. 

Initiatives such as the FSB Worldpay UK Business Awards aim to reward and propel start-ups and existing small businesses forward, especially when they’ve exceeded expectations in competitive markets.

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