New Kings Coffee: Jason Nichols
After working in a bank "for way too long", this entrepreneur decided to set up his own coffee business - and even had to seek royal approval
Tell us what your business does:
Provide a selection of quality, single origin, Fairtrade and organic coffees, individually wrapped in coffee bags (like teabags) for freshness, convenience and choice.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Seeing tea selection boxes at hotels and conferences and wondering why the same didn't exist for coffee. Then being served coffee in a coffee bag and connecting this idea to the selection box and hey presto!
How did you know there was a market for it?
Initially I didn't and everyone I spoke to about it asked “why hasn’t this been done before?” – good question. But after speaking to more and more people, and researching the market I found out that the largest UK producer of coffee bags sold five million last year, plus there are more and more companies offering this product.
What were you doing before starting up?
Worked for a bank for way too long. But having a background in strategy development, product development, pricing, branding and marketing has helped with my start-up.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Always. My parents ran two businesses when I was a child. Plus, I actually started my own business when I was 18, running a mobile bar service, but was then seduced into the employed world.
How did you raise the money?
Self-funded, so far.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Key target markets are 1) consumers, via online sales, and 2) other businesses such as hotels, offices, event organisers, food service/distribution companies etc., through direct marketing and presence at trade shows and the like.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
In my experience, starting up a business is a series of hurdles to overcome. I had my company registration initially rejected because the business name required ‘royal' approval; and I've had to learn to do everything myself, like design logos and labels, create a website etc., as I don't have huge funds to pay others to do it for me.
What was your first big breakthrough?
I'm still waiting for this! But smaller breakthroughs include working with my supplier to find a solution that accommodated my initial low volume order, whilst still being viable for them.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Start doing something that progresses your idea, however small that might seem. This might be a free online survey to test the market, or a homemade prototype of your idea to demonstrate it to others. Plus, seek help – get a mentor, attend networking groups, go along to entrepreneur events – the advice you can pick up is invaluable.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Running several successful businesses. I have an idea for mens formal shoes next and then a whole list of other business ideas to test.