In the latest issue of yu magazine, we spoke to three successful young entrepreneurs who all started out at the University of York. Here we ask Bethan Vincent (History, 2013) of Vincent’s Coffee and Bright Ethics the questions that wouldn’t fit in to the feature.
Where did you come up with your idea for Vincent’s Coffee?
As part of my degree I was lucky enough to study and live in the Netherlands. As coffee culture is huge over there it was strikingly obvious that there was a huge difference in their business model when compared to the UK. There were barely any chains and independent coffee places were proud of their coffee and displayed lots of information.
I’ve always been interested in ethical business and it started the seed of an idea, that didn’t fully germinate until I’d been to talk to the Careers Centre at York University.
Did you want to do something with history originally?
I worked at English Heritage for four years throughout my degree and, although I loved it, it was clear this wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Academically I’m still very interested in history and always will be, but the ethical side of business is what seems to have grabbed my interest for the near future. I may well study a part time MA in History next year as well.
How did you find out about brewing coffee?
I actually worked as an intern at York Coffee Emporium and learned so much about processing coffee. I also learned a lot about sourcing and how to ethically source beans. I use a German importer at the moment and eventually will go straight to the source. That would be the ideal but I’m not quite there yet.
Are you looking to supply restaurants and cafes?
It will remain mostly retail and will always be companies that share the same ethics and values as us. I’ll not be going into supermarkets or anything like that, it’s very important that we keep the heart of the business where it is.
How difficult is it running the two brands concurrently?
There is actually a lot of crossover between Bright Ethics and Vincent’s Coffee strategically, and from certain points of view they really complement each other. It is, of course, hard work and as I have to fulfil all the orders myself, I do rope my partner in a fair amount when it comes to making sure the coffee goes out where it should, It has all worked really well though so far and I’m really enjoying the challenge.
Do you ever think you’ve taken a big risk?
Yes, I do. Of course I do. I’ve invested my own money into Bright Ethics and Vincent’s Coffee but risk doesn’t scare me. I’ve always been one that will go out on an adventure and try something new. It’s taken me a bit by surprise but I’m ploughing all my energies into the businesses. I want to make a real, tangible difference in the world.