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You started off selling coffee from a cart in Victoria! How did you find the move to permanent coffee shops?

 

It was much warmer! Working outdoors is great for most of the year but the winters were tough. The first Notes wasn’t too far from the cart, and it was lovely when old faces came in and we could offer them a beautiful environment in which to spend time – and a proper cup to drink from! From a coffee-geek point of view, the atmospherics of changing weather can really affect the grinder, so we could deliver a more consistent coffee indoors.

 

Notes takes its name from the first branch in St Martin’s Lane which was a music shop – is how have you kept this musical element alive as the business has evolved?

 

Yes, our first branch had been a CD and record shop, serving the opera house crowd next door – when we first opened, we continued to sell music for a couple of years. We wanted a name which worked for coffee and music, and my brother came up with Notes. When describing the flavour of our single origin coffees, and our wines, we talk about notes of chocolate, or vanilla, or tobacco. Nowadays we keep the music side of the brand alive through live jazz gigs – Tuesdays at Bank, Wednesdays in the summer at Kings Cross. Come along!

 

As well as serving quality coffee, Notes turns into a wine bar at night – what was your thinking behind this?

 

Again, it was initially driven by our first location in theatreland. Our customers often asked for something stronger than a coffee before the theatre, so we applied for a license. As the business grew into the City, we saw that there’s demand there too from people who want a drink but might not love going to the pub. So, if you come in to Notes in the evening you’ll see people enjoying a glass of wine, a cocktail or a craft beer. People love the spaces we have designed, and we work hard to ensure that after 5pm, they really feel like a wine bar rather than a coffee shop serving wine.

 

You now have 9 sites across London, where are you hoping to open next?

 

We want to keep growing in London, while maintaining our high standards. I can’t announce our next location right now – but watch this space!

 

Do you find that customers tend to be similar across the various sites or does it vary depending on where the site is? E.g. do you get more banker / City-types at the Angel Court branch vs the Nova Victoria site which presumably attracts more tourists?

 

Yes, the crowds do vary depending on the location. They are all looking for something a bit better than the norm though!

 

Would you consider opening coffee shops outside of the UK?

 

Not right now – but never say never….

 

What has been the game-changing moment in your career so far?

 

Opening our first branch in the City (Moorgate, 2014) really showed us the potential of the brand. Since then we have grown pretty quickly.

 

What has been biggest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur?

 

The challenges are always changing. Although in some ways each opening is a little easier than the last, moving from six to nine sites last year was more challenging than I’d anticipated. Right now, I feel my biggest challenge is preserving our values and culture – fantastic service and delicious coffee, food and wine – in a team of over a hundred.

 

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

 

Lead by example.

 

Finally, a bit of fun – please can you tell us your favourite app, book and holiday destination?

 

I’m not that into apps… though I’d recommending ditching the native apple apps and using Google photos / calendar / mail instead. I just had a great holiday in Cuba where I read Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea (set in Cuba) – it is short but has really stayed with me. Right now, I’m struggling to put down Sam Bourne’s ‘To Kill the President’ – a thriller set in Washington which is rather too close to reality. The Plot Against America (Roth) is also great alternative history on a similar theme – and feels all too prescient.