Trading Stories: Coffee and a chat just the right blend for Declan’s business

Trading Stories: Coffee and a chat just the right blend for Declan’s business
Anthony O'Driscoll and Declan Nestor of Mr Cotton serving at Tellengana House, Blackrock Road.

When and how did the business start?

I started part-time in October 2006 and went full-time April 2007.

How did you get into this industry and what's your background?

My background is IT. I just wanted to set-up my own business and deal with the public. I used to work in business parks and I found them to be soulless places sometimes. I liked to go out and get coffee and have a chat, and I used to see the coffee carts in places like the IFSC in Dublin, and I had one of those Eureka moments where I realised I could do that. I could be out there all day instead of in the office.

What does your business do and what services does it provide?

We are primarily a mobile café business which provides a barista coffee service to business parks around Cork. We have four daily routes and a Barista Bar in Abtran in Mahon. We also do coffee at Weddings and for corporate events.

Last year, we setup the Cork Barista School. We provide barista and coffee appreciation courses and have a lot of exciting plans for the coming year, to develop the school further. It's getting harder to get jobs now unless you have a qualification. A lot of people were coming to us asking us to train them or to give some experience to someone, and we had groups coming to us who were long-term unemployed who were looking for training. So, we're helping people to become more employable, and it's giving them the edge when it comes to getting jobs. The businesses in Cork are looking for people with the skills and training too.

Anthony O'Driscoll and Declan Nestor of Mr Cotton serving at Tellengana House, Blackrock Road.
Anthony O'Driscoll and Declan Nestor of Mr Cotton serving at Tellengana House, Blackrock Road.

Where do you source your coffee and other ingredients?

We import our coffee from a company called Delta in Portugal. We’ll also be starting a novelty coffee option at our Barista Bar using guest coffees from local roasters.

What's your idea of the perfect cup of coffee?

My own is a cappuccino or a flat white. Your choice of coffee is a personal thing and our job as baristas is to listen to the customer to try and discover the coffee that suits them best. It starts, however with the espresso shot. If this isn’t right, you are wasting your time with everything else. We put a lot of emphasis on the brewing ratio (weight of coffee grind in proportion to the weight of the espresso shot) on our courses and in training our own baristas. Once that is right, it is up to the customer after that whether they want to add hot water or hot milk, syrups, chocolate or anything else.

Who else is involved and have you got many staff?

We have five full-time and five part-time staff. Being a mobile café business, most of our baristas have to be able to drive, which presents its own challenges.

How is business at the moment, and has much changed since you first opened?

I was full-time about 18 months when the recession hit, and this had a big impact. Coffee sales didn’t drop as such, but muffin, scones, and sandwich sales. did. It was very hard to expand during this period because the banks weren’t willing to lend.

Things are definitely on the up now. People are more optimistic, Corporates are hiring us more frequently and the barista school is flying. We are also doing between 25 and 30 weddings a year. The bride and groom will hire us to be there when people come out of the church. I know when I go to a wedding, I'm always rushing around and then I sit down and realise I never ate breakfast. You come out and you're dying for a cup of coffee and a scone or a sandwich, and the dinner might not be until 6pm or 7pm. So it's a nice touch to have at a wedding.

What are your customers like?

Engaging. They love to chat and tell us about their lives, and we love hearing about them and telling them about ours.

What sets your business apart from others?

The coffee has to be right or our customers wouldn’t come out to us but what is equally important is that our staff our engaging and friendly. We achieve this most of the time, I hope.

What's your favourite thing about the business?

Meeting new people. Everyone has a story to tell and I’ve heard some gems through the years.

What's the most important thing you've learned since you started?

Your 'to do' list never gets smaller, so go home at a reasonable hour and spend time with your family.

More in this section

Sponsored Content