Describe Old Spike in two sentences…
Old Spike is a social enterprise and speciality coffee roastery with a focus on great coffee that acts in a responsible way to both people and planet. 65% of our profits are reinvested back into supporting our core social mission around the training and employment of people experiencing homelessness.
Was there a particular moment that made you decide to embark on the Old Spike journey?
My love of coffee started at an early age but the turning point for me was when I lived in New York and witnessed the emergence of the speciality coffee scene back in 2008. When I returned to London, I saw an opportunity to start a roasting business that combined great quality coffee with social impact. The rest is history!
Tell us about Old Spike’s core mission…
Old Spike operate at the premium end of the coffee market and our customers have access to some of the best coffee available. Our ability to offer a great product and service is fundamental to us being able to deliver against our core social mission, which is the training and employment of people experiencing homelessness.
Our programme is unique in that we re-invest 65% of the profits we generate back into the business to ensure we are delivering against our impact goals. This funds a custom barista training programme where trainees get a full induction into the fundamentals of being a barista and then ongoing paid placement at our cafes serving customers. This process takes around 6 weeks and at the end of it, we ideally offer them a role within Old Spike or with one of our many employment partners.
How are you using coffee as a vehicle for social change and what positive impact have you had?
Since we started our operation in 2015, we have grown from strength to strength. In turn that has increased our ability to have impact. In that time we have helped people turn their lives around – for some, that can simply be an opportunity for employment, where previously they have been overlooked. For others, it’s providing a long term career, which not only gives them financial security, but also a strong purpose, which is really crucial.
What has been your biggest challenge and your most uplifting success?
I think when you start your first business, there is a lot of learning on the job. For myself and my business partner, not only had we not run a social enterprise before, we had no idea how to roast coffee! So there was a lot of learning and research involved. With that, mistakes are inevitable but it’s how you learn and react to them which will determine whether you succeed or fail. I am thankful to say we are now entering our 7th year in business and thriving!
What makes your coffee different?
Our social and environmental initiatives is really what sets us apart from other coffee roasters. There are many companies that can roast delicious coffee but for us the challenge is to do that whilst having meaningful impact at the same time.
That being said, the quality of our coffee has to be amongst the very best in the UK in order for us to hit our impact targets. First and foremost we want people to love our coffee so we can ensure a sustainable business in the long term.
What should consumers know about the specialty coffee industry, but probably don’t?
It is a challenging time for the coffee industry with the cost of green coffee more than doubling in the last couple of years.
What cause in coffee drives you?
For us, we want to extend our impact and do more at origin to ensure we go above and beyond in supporting farmers and their livelihood.
We are currently supporting a number of initiatives but one recent one is the Ethiopian Stumping Project. This is financial support to farmers to allow them to triple their coffee output within three years.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Climate change is a problem for coffee growing with increasing temperatures making it more challenging for farmers to grow speciality coffee. With coffee consumption increasing year on year this is a real issue. This is part of the reason that we decided to start our own tree planting initiative, where we plant one tree for every bag we sell. We started this in September 2020 and have now planted just over 70,000 trees.
What is the future for Old Spike?
The future is exciting! We are just about to purchase a new roaster to accommodate our continued growth and are hoping to launch in a major retailer very soon… We also have new product launches with our compostable pod range and canned cold brew ready for the summer… They would taste great on The Conduit’s Roof Terrace!
What moment of coffee brings you joy?
At 5.30am when I am awake with my youngest son watching Sarah & Duck on CBBC. That is when I need it the most.
Finally, what’s your order?
I generally order a cortado when I visit a café but at home I use a V60.