Coffee has remained big business during lockdown. We may not be able to pop to our local coffee shop but we are still getting our fix, with coffee brands reporting huge sales increases. Whitstable-based speciality coffee roastery Lost Sheep, have seen an explosion in their online sales, with their fully compostable, plastic-free Nespresso compatible capsules a runaway success.
Stuart Wilson, Founder of Lost Sheep, recently joined us for a virtual coffee break to answer our 7 Everyday Interview questions.
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a racing driver as I especially loved watching Rallycross and always wanted to take up Go-Karting. I also went through a phase of wanting to take up boxing but let’s just say my parents vetoed both.
Where did the idea for your brand come from and how did you bring it to life?
After a year backpacking in Australia and Asia, my wife and I developed a taste for first-class speciality coffee and particularly the flavours of the Melbourne coffee scene. When we returned to the UK, the first thing I did was buy a coffee at Heathrow airport. That was the defining moment for Lost Sheep: that coffee was quite frankly disgusting! It was nearly 10 years ago but I can still vividly remember the realisation dawning that we were going to have to do something about it.
We began selling our coffee from a three-wheeled micro-coffee van and we secured a pitch for it in Canterbury High Street right outside Starbucks. On reflection, this probably wasn’t the best place to pitch up – talk about a David & Goliath scene! Never the less, we managed to introduce speciality coffee Aussie-style to the fine people of Kent. The key is to weigh and time every shot to ensure consistently beautiful coffee.
Now we have the coffee pod in Canterbury, a Coffee/Kitchen location at the Ashford Designer Outlet and in 2017 we opened our own Speciality Coffee Roastery in the vibrant seaside town of Whitstable. Last year, we pioneered fully compostable, plastic-free and crucially airtight capsules which was a speciality coffee industry-first.
Since then, the online retail business has gone from strength-to-strength. We’re in Morrison’s stores across Kent, we’ve launched a subscription service and rolled out fully recyclable packaging across the entire coffee bean range. Our motto is ‘Drink Different’ and we’re challenging the accepted norm in the UK coffee market.
What has been the greatest challenge to your brand/work?
Fundamentally, the greatest challenge is getting people to understand the difference between speciality and standard coffee, without being over-zealous. There’s still a lot to be done and we are the ones who are going to get it done, once people taste our coffee they do convert and that’s amazing to see. It’s a hugely proud moment when you get feedback from your customer saying that they never knew coffee could taste like this.
On a practical business level, the challenge is always funding to enable us to expand and take the business to the next level. We were about to start our first round of crowdfunding in April and had a huge amount of interest in it. Then the pandemic hit, so naturally this on pause for now.
Who was or is your greatest influence?
That’s a tough one! I admire brands and business leaders who are disruptors in their fields and challenge industry norms, people who do it for the love of what they do. BrewDog is a good example, they’ve done great things for the craft beer scene and made the craft beer category accessible to the masses. That’s exactly what we plan to do to the mainstream coffee industry, make speciality coffee accessible for people.”
How would you describe your personal style?
“I’m a jeans, t-shirt and trainers kind of guy. I don’t really do suits but love quality, comfy classics which serve my everyday life running round the roastery, having meetings and visiting the retail outlets. I do love a flat cap in the winter, I have several from Goorin Bros, a US brand that makes great caps.”
Tell us something no one knows about you?
I don’t like coffee…. JOKING! I used to work in McDonald’s when I was a teenager and absolutely loved it. Probably because it was mostly just all my mates working there having a laugh all the time.
7 words to describe yourself.
Chilled, caffeinated, detail, dad, bubbly, stubble, perfectionist.
Written by Patrick McAleenan