Over a Brew with… Southpaw Coffee
This week we had the absolute pleasure of chatting to @southpawcoffeelondon co-owner Orlando. Having opened the store…
A female-run, cafe on three wheels operating in East London in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park – this sums up Blue Daisy pretty well. We had a great chat with Emily this week to ask how she started her three-wheeled, electric-converted TucTuc from North Germany and some of the challenges she’s faced starting her own business. It was interesting to hear how she has adapted to find a sustainable work/life balance and being able to be there for both her loyal customers and her own needs.
‘It’s a female-run, cafe on three wheels operating in East London in Tower Hamlett park – so yeah, it’s all about cakes, coffee and good vibes.’
‘We’ve been going since May 2021, so nearly 2 years now! I bought the TucTuc at the beginning of Covid in 2020, I worked on the project with my Dad for around a year, getting the TucTuc ready and dealing with all the legalities that come with it. The process was very slow, but we got there!
The TucTuc is fully electric, I drive it from my garage every morning to the park, I try to be there whatever the weather but this winter has been a little tough on me. I did have that awful cold that was going around in December which lasted throughout Christmas and really put me out for a while.’
‘I’ve always worked in hospitality, my first job was in a cafe, serving coffee. But when I look back some of the coffees were a bit questionable and I didn’t have half the knowledge I know now. Then I worked in different roastery workshops – it’s really interesting how differently roasteries approach the topic of coffee compared to cafes and the average consumer.
I studied design for a while as well, which means I can now do my own CI and marketing bits, so everything is in-house in terms of the imagery and aesthetics of the business. I also love baking, I love to do it on my own terms though and don’t want to be waking up at 3am to bake a croissant for someone else business.
Everything I do is homemade, which is what my Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for – baking and ordering. I’m then out working from Thursday to Sunday. The first year was fun, but with the second year coming to an end I need to start setting myself some boundaries by actually taking the Monday off and having some time away from the business. ‘
‘So I started off with 3 days of trading and quickly jumped up to 4 days. I knew there was a community that wanted it, so I wanted to be there for that. It is kind of difficult being the face of the business sometimes, it can be a bit daunting for example if I have a sick day and I see one of the regulars. It is great, but if I’m happy and healthy people can wonder where their coffee is!
That being said, all in all, it’s such a rewarding job, it’s mostly the same people coming each week and I’ve even seen babies and kids grow! It’s when people walk off, turn back and shout ‘the coffee is amazing!’ this is what I really love about it. The gratification you can get is amazing.’
‘I’ve done some training with the various hospitality roles I’ve had beforehand. I’m now with Flying Horse Coffee Roastery, who did not do coffee training with me, but it was because I do have a lever coffee machine – they’d never worked with that.
In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error with my lever coffee machine because I’d never worked with one before. I knew I only had the space for a single grouper machine in the 1m wide TuTuc. I ended up opting in for the theatre of the lever, people love watching you do it, actually pulling through the shots – I must say I love doing it as well!’
‘It started with the lockdown, I quit my job in hospitality and was just fed up with working for other people. I then started my own business supplying little coffee shops with bakes when the pandemic hit. A couple of weeks into Covid, my parents called me up from Germany and sent me a link to the TukTuk on eBay. It was their crazy idea and I jumped on board straight away. A week later they drove up to Northern Germany with the trailer ready, FaceTimed me and we then went for it.
I then started to look into how to even get it registered on the road, it was so difficult trying to get insurance as well! Fortunately, we managed it and to my knowledge, it’s the first Chinese no-name TucTuc to be insured on British roads.’
‘I can see myself expanding to a larger vehicle, something that can drive longer distances. Because at the moment I am bound to local locations, don’t get me wrong I love the community but I wouldn’t mind being able to attend private events which are at more of a distance from where I/can get to.
I do actually have a wedding coming up in May, which the TucTuc is having to get towed up to, so we’ll see how that goes!’
‘The hardest part for me was definitely the legal side of things, as English is my second language all the documents were quite intense and difficult to read. Health and safety, certificates, and various contracts- it was quite a lot. There was so much more than you’d ever think.
My whole business is based on my favourite flower, the chicory plant. It’s got a natural kind of vibe anyway, the root can actually make a great coffee substitute as well so it comes full circle. The flower grows alongside paths and roads and is a violet-blue colour. I couldn’t see myself along any really busy streets, however when approaching the council Hackney actually offered me a spot outside Dalston Junction station – however, it just wasn’t for me. I then started to contact all the parks in East London, fortunately, the spot I’m in now responded straight away and it’s a lovely place. I wanted to co-exist with the park, the history and all the lovely people that visit there.’
‘I actually went into a deep dark hole of watching KERB Food videos, they organise street food markets. They had a series in lockdown about the street food business and broke down everything in terms of margins, taxes and everything in between trading on the street – it was so interesting and became a huge help. It was all so new to me going into it and I felt like an imposter. It’s all maths behind it and I would say doing some good research before you start is very helpful.’
‘Oat flat white. Very East London. It’s the best combination of fluffiness, not too dry, not too milky.’
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