While at Radley, Ed was secretary of the JCR. He played most sports: rugby, hockey, lacrosse, golf etc. After Radley. Ed spent four years at Trinity College, Dublin, studying economics and another two years studying for an CFA exam (Chartered Financial Analyst). Today Ed has six coffee shops, Over Under, which turn into cocktail bars at night and jokes that the JCR proved to be a good training ground for a career in the hospitality sector!
Did you have specific plans when you left Radley?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. I thought it be would something to do with economics and finance. My careers advice focused very much on ‘traditional’ careers such as law and banking etc. I did an internship which I didn’t particularly enjoy but from that I at least knew I didn’t want to do pure finance, more in the sales line.
Given your current career do you regret your time at university and CFA exam?
No not all. University prepares you for life in the sense that it builds confidence and gives you a good network. There was a great entrepreneurial community which has proved very useful! Plus it was fun and I made many good friends.
What inspired you to open coffee shops and not pursue a career in finance?
During my travels around the world (USA, Hong Kong, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand) I visited many coffee shops and was aware of the different coffee shop cultures. But it was when I worked in New York for as a ‘manny’ (male nanny) that I really got into the coffee culture scene and the way hospitality is done in America. Coming back to London the difference in hospitality style from New York was huge, and not one I particularly liked. That was when I decided to recreate the experiences that I had enjoyed.
What makes your coffee shops different from others?
Our focus is coffee with a friendly service, we don’t take ourselves too seriously but want to ensure it’s the best service you will get anywhere. We’re not like the typical high-street chain coffee shops, plus we have fresh food deliveries and hence all our food is freshly made at reasonable prices.
When it’s not lockdown our coffee shops change to cocktail bars. We create a completely different atmosphere by flipping tables and even the walls are on hinges which change from light to dark. It was fun coming up with the concept and working out how to make it work in reality. It takes 20 minutes to change from one to the other.
How did you set about financing your business?
I managed to save quite a bit of money when working as a manny. Friends and family have invested, plus funding from a Government start-up loan.
Is this the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I was very set on doing this. While setting up any businesses is risky I was lucky that both parents have set up and run their own business so I had a lot of knowledge to tap into. I knew from my travels and working around the world that an office job wasn’t for me, that wasn’t the work lifestyle I wanted.
All your coffee shops are based in west London, why there?
There was less cool stuff in the area so not much competition. Earl’s Court was my first location back in 2017 and today we have 6 shops, South Kensington being our latest one. We did open one in Manchester but decided that was too far away so sold it, just before Covid hit!
Talking of Covid, lockdowns will clearly have impacted your business. How have you adapted and are you keeping your head above water?
Covid has had a massive impact but we have risen to the challenge and now do deliveries which are proving to be very successful. So much in fact that even after Covid and lockdowns are a thing of the past we will continue to offer a delivery service.
What are your future business plans?
To build on the hospitality brand creating a fun relaxed atmosphere, increase our online consumer platform, and, of course, focus on the coffee.
Lastly, what advice would you give young ORs wanting to set up their own businesses?
100% go for it. Ask as many people as you can about your business. Some people are naturally negative but may have valid points. So, listen to all and choose what you want to act on.
To find out more about Ed’s coffee shops, click here.