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Inside The Bradfield Centre Episode 37 - Kickstart Coffee

Hannah founded Kickstart Coffee which is a not for profit coffee company here in Cambridge that uses its profits to support disadvantaged children in Uganda. Learn all about the inspiration for the company, and how Hannah has grown the business. We at The Bradfield are proud to use Kickstart Coffee for the coffee machines in our member areas, and Kickstart features as a guest coffee in the Lakeside Cafe - buy a cup and start making a difference!

Episode Transcription

James Parton:

This episode is brought to you by the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, which is home to the people and businesses tackling the grand challenges facing humanity and shaping the future of food, energy, medicine, and mobility. Linking two of the UK's powerhouse cities, it is one of Europe's most exciting growth stories.

They aim to improve the health as well as the wealth of this unique region by bringing together businesses and political leaders to amplify the region's existing collective strengths and create a place where people and businesses can thrive. To learn more, visit techcorridor.co.uk.

Welcome to Inside the Bradfield Centre. I'm James Parton, the managing director of the Bradfield Centre.

Adelina Chalmers:

And I'm Adelina Charmaz, I'm known as the geek whisperer.

James Parton:

And today we'll be talking to founder of Kickstart Coffee, Hannah Nunn. So I'm really looking forward to this episode, this is a fantastic story. So looking forward to talking to Hannah, who we'll introduce in a second. And Hannah isn't a Bradfield Centre member, but it'll all make sense as you listen to the interview. So joining us in today's episode is Hannah Nunn, founder of Kickstart Coffee. Thanks Hannah, for taking the time to come and chat to us.

Hannah Nunn:

Thank you for having me.

Adelina Chalmers:

Lovely meeting you Hannah. Tell us a bit more about what is Kickstart Coffee.

Hannah Nunn:

So Kickstart Coffee is a nonprofit coffee company where all the profits that we make from sales are sent back to a school in Uganda that we support that houses 120 orphaned and disadvantaged children.

James Parton:

Fantastic. How did you come up with the original idea? Have you got a background in industry?

Hannah Nunn:

I have no background in food or drink whatsoever, only started drinking coffee two years ago. But I've been supporting this school for nearly 18 years now, when I first went as a student nurse, when I visited Uganda. And about two years ago, I was walking around a craft market in Kampala in Uganda, found a beautiful bag of coffee in a fabric bag and instantly said, I'm going to set up a coffee company. So, that's how it started.

James Parton:

For a non-coffee drinker, that's a bit of a leap of faith.

Hannah Nunn:

Non-coffee drinker, but my husband loves coffee. So it was actually a wedding anniversary gift. And then I said to him, I'd like to set up a coffee company. Doing fundraising for the last 18 years is quite hard work, trying to find new ways, new fundraising. So I thought that setting up a coffee company would be a sustainable income for the school and the children.

Adelina Chalmers:

And why coffee and not something else. I know this particular bag of coffee sounds like it was very special, and it sounds like your husband probably will have enjoyed the coffee that came out of it. But why coffee in particular? Tell us a bit more about how this all ties in with the school and the fundraising. It's really interesting.

Hannah Nunn:

So, Uganda isn't known for its coffee, however it does grow beautiful coffee. And during that trip, I had this vision and aim to find a coffee grower. So we were only there two weeks, so I rang around a few people and was put in touch with a farmer on Mount Elgon, contacted him. Within two days, 20 kilos arrived. I brought the coffee back to Cambridge, this was 2019, shared it with my nursing colleagues, and we sold 20 kilos in two weeks. And that's really was what made me go, "I need to do this."

James Parton:

So, to get on the podcast we talk to entrepreneurs all the time. Some of them are Bradfield Centre members, but not everyone is. So, when you don't have a background in the industry and you've never run a company before, what was the thought process of going through having that blank sheet of paper and figuring out, what do you do first? How do you take care of the finances and all those kinds of things? It must've felt pretty overwhelming.

Hannah Nunn:

It was a massive blank piece of paper, in a pandemic being a nurse. So you can imagine, I was thinking, "How on earth am I going do this?"

James Parton:

And all that spare time.

Adelina Chalmers:

Yeah, all that spare time that is just gives you during a pandemic.

Hannah Nunn:

I knew that the product was good. And once I knew that I had the coffee, it was then about looking at branding, coming up with a name. Packaging, I would like it to be eco sustainable packaging. And the main thing really was to think a name, and Kickstart Coffee came from, we put it out on social media for people to decide or give us some opinions. And Kickstart Coffee just really stood out for me. Kickstart I know is used quite a lot, but Kickstart for me, for the children is giving them a kickstart in life, and it just fits so well. And also the teachers, to really support them, fund their salaries, to give them a life as well.

Hannah Nunn:

So, I think finding a brand, a logo, I used a graphic designer in Uganda, so really important for me to give back to Uganda as much as I can. So I've got someone called Francesco who does everything for me, all my imaging, colors, logo. And then it was about finding a packaging, finding a roaster in Cambridge, because I'm not a roaster, I have no idea. I've learned a lot in a year. So, Coffee World kindly roast for me, and they've really supported me. So thank you to them.

Hannah Nunn:

But the blank bit of paper fills up quite quickly to be honest, when you kind of go, "This is what I need, I need to do a website." I've never built a website, but I did it myself. Looking at pricing, looking at your profit margin, how can you squeeze those profits down, making sure that you're not taking from the farmers, that you are having enough profit for the children? So again, my husband has been amazing, he's an entrepreneur/businessman.

James Parton:

Member of the Bradfield Centre.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah, he is a member of the Bradfield Centre.

James Parton:

In fact Phil's been on the podcast before.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. So he's really been able to guide me and keep me on track. I think it's quite easy to go, "Oh, what about this? Should I do this and that?" And he's like, "No, keep focused. This is what you need to do, this is the coffee." And then bringing in a different blend. So we've now got two different blends for Kickstart Coffee. So it's about growing it from here, and how do we grow the company really.

James Parton:

So, did you do all of this as part-time alongside the nursing? At what point did you decide, "You know what? This is such an opportunity I need to switch careers?"

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. So about in, I would say June, May/June time, I thought to myself, "Actually this is taking quite a lot of my time," and it was about what gives me energy. So what gives me the most energy, I've been working in the NHS for 20 years, very different type of working. And for me it was just taking a risk and saying, "Actually, I want a new challenge. I want to learn. I want to learn how to work for myself. If I don't send an email, I'm not going to get an email back." Believe me, you walk into the hospital, I have 200 waiting for me. So it was about a change of direction in life really.

Adelina Chalmers:

So you stopped doing nursing work now from June this year?

Hannah Nunn:

So I left only six weeks ago, full time, but I can still go back and maintain my registration. I'm also going to be working at the university as well.

Adelina Chalmers:

So what will you be doing with the university?

Hannah Nunn:

Teaching the future students of Cambridge.

Adelina Chalmers:

Nursing?

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah.

Adelina Chalmers:

Rather than coffee making.

Hannah Nunn:

No, nursing.

James Parton:

It sounds like you've got lots of spare time.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah.

James Parton:

So was always going to be a not-for-profit endeavor? Because I guess, with your 18 years of working with the school already, it was always going to be a not-for-profit from day one?

Hannah Nunn:

Always, always, yep. And we've set the company up for, it's a community interest company. But I've got no desire to make money from Kickstart Coffee. If we can support 120, 1,200, 12,000 children, if not more, would be the dream. But for me, it's not about money for myself. And I'm in a privileged position with Phil that I can do this full-time and not have to work full-time.

James Parton:

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Adelina Chalmers:

So tell us a bit more about the school that you're supporting with the funding you'll be getting from selling all this amazing coffee. What will you be spending the money on?

Hannah Nunn:

So, last month for example, our profit was 700 pounds total, which after I think we're nearly at a year of running the company, and that paid for two teacher's salaries, paying for the children to have weekly food deliveries. We pay for health, so if any child needs to go to the hospital for an appointment, then we would pay for that. We've funded a little boy having a major heart operation, and that was in May. He never would have been able to have that operation without us supporting him.

Hannah Nunn:

We plant fruit trees. The school is self-sufficient with their food growing, so we have supplied seeds for them to grow their own food. And also just supporting whatever they need. What's really important is that I don't dictate where money goes. I've got a lady who's the director of the school, Agnes, and she will say, "Actually, Hannah, we need money for this." I would never go in there, and I've learned that over 18 years, yes, I can support, but will never direct where it goes.

James Parton:

Has the pandemic affected, disrupted your ability to get over there or the supply of beans and stuff like that? It must've been pretty challenging.

Hannah Nunn:

I think the saddest thing is that I haven't been there since November '19. And the what's happening in Uganda is quite sad, the children haven't been at school for 18 months. Although, because this is a school we're able to keep up education by paying teachers. So our children are actually quite privileged in the sense that they are getting that education. But COVID in a third world country, they've got no access to vaccines. There is no end in sight to how long lockdowns will happen, and it's pretty dire to be honest.

James Parton:

So they're locked down, but don't have the vaccine option?

Hannah Nunn:

I think they've had 3% of adults vaccinated, so not great.

Adelina Chalmers:

So, how are you able to get the coffee into the UK from Uganda at the moment, considering all the madness that's going on with traveling and import and all of that?

Hannah Nunn:

So importing has actually been, once I learned how to do it, when the first beans arrived in August last year, I thought you collected them from Heathrow terminal. And it was only when Phil said to me, "Honey, you can't just go and collect coffee beans."

James Parton:

On the baggage carousel.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. I had no idea. But I thought, "Okay, this is going to be a bit more complicated." So then I've become an importer and an exporter, and learnt all that. So I have a ton arriving on the 20th. So it will leave Entebbe, and then I'll get it within three to four days. Production in Uganda has been slower because of the pandemic, but thankfully I've ordered, I'm on my last 60 kilo bags, so it will arrive on the 20th. So yeah, it hasn't been a problem.

Adelina Chalmers:

Amazing. And how are you selling it to the moment? How are you distributing it to people? How's that going? That's really interesting.

Hannah Nunn:

So, we have a website that we sell to customers throughout the UK and in Cambridge. We're developing a tub where someone in Cambridge buys a tub, we deliver it to their home, we collect the empty and refill, looking at an eco sustainable. From a B2B perspective, so Bradfield Centre have kindly taken on the coffee, which has been incredible because the profit from that is paying for teacher salaries every month, it's amazing.

Hannah Nunn:

So, for me, it's looking at other business centers, business opportunities where I can sell larger quantities, which will then give me a larger profit. But I'm always looking at ways, I'd like hotels and cafes, but I'm taking it a step at a time.

Adelina Chalmers:

Sounds fantastic. And James, can you tell the difference between this coffee and the other coffee you had before?

James Parton:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's proving to be really popular. Are you getting really good feedback from the Bradfield members?

Hannah Nunn:

Yes. I haven't gone around and asked everyone, "How was the coffee?" But I know that it's a good product. I'm a bit addicted to it now, but it's chocolaty, it's really tasty flavor, isn't it? But the feedback from everybody else has been incredible. And I have repeat subscribers who buy it monthly or weekly even. So I think if you have a good product and it's doing good, it's a win-win situation, isn't it?

James Parton:

And we've got the posters up by the machines just to tell the story of the people that benefit from it as well. So I think it's a great thing. You've touched on some of this already, but when you think about how you're going to grow the business, you've touched on new blends. So I guess, some new product innovation and talked about some new opportunities to sell it in other locations, new channels to market. What's your ambition or what's your plan to scale the business over the next say year or so?

Hannah Nunn:

So, I think keep doing what I'm doing. I'm hoping that doors will open. I'm hoping my confidence will grow as I go into businesses. It's a brand new field for me. Give me an unwell child and I'll thrive, but this is so new. So I think this year is about consolidating what I've learned in the last year, and really each bag sold, each tub sold is amazing. And I see that as a bonus every time. So I think it will be consolidating and gaining confidence. And if I can get a few more big deals, then that would be incredible for me.

James Parton:

And it's probably a timing thing as well, isn't it? Because now we're seeing a lot more people returning into the Centre, so naturally the usage of the coffee and stuff is all going to accelerate from this point onwards. So, I think it's a great time to be out there telling the story.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. And just walking around Bradfield Centre before we started, and I could hear the machines whirring. So yeah, it's really good.

James Parton:

We should probably do something like calculate how many cups of coffee it takes to fund a teacher, to get some kind of competition going.

Adelina Chalmers:

That's what I was thinking. I was wondering, one tub, I don't know how many kilos of coffee it is, but what does one tub give you in terms of funding things at the school. And what's the smallest package of coffee you sell, and what does that do? What does that give you?

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. So a 250 gram bag, the profit is about three pounds. A kilo bag, profit is, you're looking at nine pounds. So, from a website perspective, seven bags of one kilo pays for a teacher. So a teacher's salary is 70 pounds a month, for example. So, for the Bradfield Centre, as quantities go up, you're looking at potentially four or five teachers a month.

Hannah Nunn:

For me, supporting the teachers is actually a really key part of this. And I never knew it to be honest, I thought it's all about the children, children, children. But actually if we don't support the teachers, if we don't value them, if we don't pay them well, then they're not going to teach the children well. So, for me, it's valuing that teachers, it's a bit like in the UK, we should be valuing our teachers, then actually the children will benefit tenfold.

Hannah Nunn:

So my focus at the moment, there's 11 teachers at the school, is to get them on salary. We had one teacher called Andrew. So Andrew and Joshua are being paid monthly completely, they hadn't been paid for a year. So they be going to school every day, teaching the children every day, but not getting any money for it. And it's just not okay, is it? So that's my aim really is, and that's my focus. So whenever I sell a bag, it goes, "Okay, that's 10% of the salary. Okay, what can we do to get the next 10%?"

James Parton:

Well we should stay close so we can update the members on how the profits have been used, so that they can understand the impact.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. So what I've developed, I've got it with me actually, is a newsletter. So the newsletter is the first one, and it's going to, I think every three months that we can give round to the members of the Bradfield Centre to say, "This is where your money has gone. This is what it's used for." And also just a few pictures of the children and what the school looks like. And I think it makes it real.

James Parton:

Absolutely.

Adelina Chalmers:

Absolutely. I'm just wondering, what are the biggest challenges at the moment? What can people do to help you accelerate your growth?

Hannah Nunn:

So, Bradfield Centre members can order the coffee for use at home.

Adelina Chalmers:

Is it through the website?

Hannah Nunn:

Through the website. And there's a free pickup here. So, Phil can bring boxes in, and it can be collected from here. That really would be incredible, because once you try a bag, I think you'll enjoy it and then you'll buy more. And that really is where we're going to be able to get the profits up.

James Parton:

It's such a great story, and congratulations.

Hannah Nunn:

Thank you.

James Parton:

It's fantastic. And hopefully the podcast along with everything else you're doing gives you a bit more visibility and people will get in touch.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah. Thank you so much.

Adelina Chalmers:

If anybody wants a fantastic cup of Ugandan coffee, I think they should go to kickstartcoffee.org and really order a bag from Hannah, because it sounds like they'll be addicted.

Hannah Nunn:

Yeah, exactly. Thank you.

James Parton:

The show was produced by [Karl Homer 00:19:35] of Cambridge TV, and you can listen to previous episodes by searching for Inside the Bradfield Centre on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or by visiting bradfieldCentre.com. If you have a couple of spare seconds, please give us a five-star review, it'll really help other people discover the show.

 

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