KIN+ILK: Alex Jenkins

The Welsh contemporary cafe that aims to inspire people through its talks and events while championing local food producers

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

Name: Alex Jenkins
Company name: KIN+ILK
Location: Wales
Date launched: 9/01/16
No. of employees: 30

Tell us what your business does:

KIN+ILK is a family of contemporary café bars that are inclusive and calm and open up the possibility for connection and collaboration through inspiring talks and events.

We serve speciality coffee, loose leaf tea, wines, prosecco, craft beer, cider as well as an ever evolving seasonal menu of great food.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea originated from lots of meetings in coffee shops in and around London, Bristol and Cardiff and also took inspiration from visiting coffee shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Paris and elsewhere

The name KIN+ILK was carefully chosen as part of a thorough branding exercise carried out by the team at Delicious Branding and design expert Angela Gidden MBE. It is inclusive and welcoming – KIN conveys a sense of family while ILK means of the same kind, part of the same tribe, sharing similar values. Naming a new business is so important, as you want to do all you can to encapsulate the values of the brand.

KIN+ILK is all about encouraging people to be together, to share ideas, to have time to reflect in peaceful surroundings, to be inspired, to connect with others, collaborate, create something new or simply meet with friends or colleagues to enjoy something to eat or drink from a menu that’s been put together with real thought and care

How did you know there was a market for it?

KIN+ILK has been percolating for about 18 months. The concept with which we ultimately launched is dramatically different from the original idea. We’ve watched with interest as the coffee scene in Cardiff developed. There are lots of ‘me too’ outlets among the local gems. There are several things that make KIN+ILK different. The menu has been carefully researched and developed through feedback from our target markets.

There’s a real emphasis on honesty and provenance, supporting and promoting Welsh producers wherever we can from the bread we use through to the meat, fish and vegetarian and vegan options.

In terms of the events we hold here, they’re obviously intended to entertain but also make you think. If we can help local groups, entrepreneurs and good causes by showcasing their ideas and encouraging collaboration, we’ll be very happy to do so.

We wanted to do something different, Cardiff’s coffee scene needed something different.

It’s great that the sector is so vibrant locally, and it’s clear there’s a growing demand for coffee shops. We took influence from some of the phenomenal independents in London, Sydney, New York, Toronto and Melbourne.

The city has some great independent operators but is flooded with multinational chains too. We wanted to focus on top quality hand roasted coffee and loose leaf teas, and also be a champion for local food producers. An antidote was needed to the epidemic of brown leather sofas, distressed furniture and mediocre coffee and we deliberately used Scandinavian design influences in our interiors.

We have world renowned designer Angela Gidden MBE working with us, she has designed furniture ranges and fabrics for Conran, Habitat, Orangebox and Camira Fabrics as well as interiors for Chapter Arts.

What were you doing before starting up?

David John Davies:

  • Created and managed a Joint Venture between Spear Inc. of the USA with Ferguson International PLC based in South Wales for the supply of packaging across Europe. Managed the growth of the Spear Europe business from Greenfield manufacturing facility in Cwmbran, Wales with zero turnover in 1999 to €38 million in 2009 creating 150 new full time jobs in South Wales.
  • A shareholder and part of the executive team that drove Spear Group Holdings growth from $45.8 million turnover and $8.01 million EBITDA in 1999 to $200 million turnover and $20.1 million EBITDA in 2009.
  • First class honours degree in systemic counselling in 2015.

Alex Lloyd Jenkins:

  • Art Director at XL-Recordings (the leading British independent record label), responsible for the entire design output for the record label. This included advertising and marketing design work and cd packaging for bands such Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Roni Size.
  • CD cover design for Prodigy’s worldwide number one album, ‘The Fat of the Land’ was included in the Dorling Kindersley book ‘The 100 Best Album Cover Designs’ and in Q Magazine’s ‘100 Best Album Cover Designs’.
  • Creative Director and freelance designer at Turquoise Branding, Warner Music UK, McCann Erickson, Brand Fusion and AGI Media for clients including Disney, Astro, MBC, MBC FM and NTL.
  • Senior designer at Lambie-Nairn, one of the most successful branding design agencies in London. Worked on the rebranding and brand materials for BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and Five Live and O2, CBBC, Cbeebies, BT, ITN, NTL, Worldzap, Music Choice.
  • Created a large format digital print company called Skyhook Screen and Digital Print Ltd with £30K Objective One funding from the WAG. This in turn, with personal investment and bank funding acquired Denbe Display and Western Event Hire creating a new company called Denbe Western with a turnover of £2m and 30 full time and part time jobs in Cardiff. Sold share to business partner in a MBO facilitated via Finance Wales funding.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

We’ve both run successful businesses in the past so it’s in our blood.

How did you raise the money?

£150K funding from Finance Wales and £40K Director start-up funding

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We’re quite unusual in that we have a 10% employment benefit scheme. We also offer higher rates of pay than the other coffee shops in Cardiff to help attract and keep the best staff.

We offer an ever changing menu plus a series of inspiring events, talks and food popups. Key to our business model is effective, efficient and lean price and margin control. Consistent clear branding, messaging, marketing and social media

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Bringing together the right combination of people with the right skills who also share our brand values, passion and vision.

What was your first big breakthrough?

We took the brave decision to drop our previous name and branding and rebrand before launch (at great expense!)

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Research your market, take risks, work hard, be single minded, follow your passion, do something you love, work with people you like and do it well. BE BRAVE.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

To have developed a chain of KIN+ILK Cafe Bars in Wales and the West of England. We’re also looking at developing a bakery, microbrewery and coffee roaster. We intend to develop a range of contemporary Scandinavian led branded merchandise.

Written by:
Back to Top