7 lessons learned: Jeremy Torz, co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee

Jeremy Torz, co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, looks at the seven lessons he has learned since starting the business, with the benefit of hindsight.

optimized-jeremy-2016Jeremy Torz is co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, an artisan coffee producer and roaster based in East London. Jeremy and his business partner Steven Macatonia pioneered Union Direct Trade – a unique business model that forges a productive and equitable relationship between all participants in the coffee supply chain. In the year of its 15th anniversary, Union Coffee will top £10million in turnover for the first time, having grown 28% since 2014 and increased staff numbers by 81% in the same period. Jeremy and Steven have also brought out their first book, Real Fresh Coffee.

1Follow your passion

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that passion is key to success. There are many well-known entrepreneurs who had a unique view of the world that others didn’t see at the time. Don’t be afraid to do things differently and follow your true passion – it will give you the drive and ambition to keep moving forward and, ultimately, succeed.

2Don’t spread yourself too thin

Trying to do everything at once may spread your resources and attention across too many fronts. Over time, I’ve learned that establishing greater focus for your business will help you grow in a much stronger and more profitable way. Don’t be afraid to start small and ensure you remain focused. 

3Invest in your people

It’s a good idea to bring in experts in specific areas to enable operational excellence. Investing in your employees and growing the team will enable you to think about the strategic direction of the business rather than focusing on day-to-day operations. It will also motivate your staff to learn and develop.

4Value your suppliers

Steven and I learned early on is that the happiness of our suppliers is vital to our success. That’s why we developed Union Direct Trade – a sustainable way of sourcing coffee that sees us paying at least 25% over the Fairtrade minimum, and working extremely closely with farmers and co-operatives in coffee growing countries, not only ensuring a good deal for them, but also resulting in ever higher quality of coffee for our customers.

5 Manage your cash flow

Your business plan is a crucial pillar of future success so the help of a professional accountant may prove invaluable. Small things like depreciation and other hidden costs such as the use of your own time can add up quickly and slash your profit figures when fully taken into account, so don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional accountant.

6Learn to say “no”

Over the years, I’ve learned that yes isn’t always the most appropriate answer. Sometimes turning down new business – even if it’s considerable – is the right thing to do if they do not buy into your passion and ethos. While turning down big orders can be difficult, if your business is in good shape, you can be sure that the right opportunities are just around the corner, allowing for the right kind of growth that doesn’t entail compromise.

7Keep your eyes open for opportunities

Inspiration can strike any time so don’t be afraid to pursue new opportunities and business avenues. Union Hand-Roasted Coffee is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, which inspired Steven and I to look back at everything we’ve learned and write our first book, Real Fresh Coffee. It seemed like the perfect way to help more people fall in love with great coffee, while talking about the relationships we’ve built over the years and our personal take on the coffee world.