Uniting Sheffield’s coffee lovers with coffee growers
10 November 2016
Photo: Sam and Tom with their coffee in Pollards Roastery in Sheffield.
There’s no better feeling than sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee on a morning, knowing that you are helping to support the lives of the people that grow and produce it. Speaking to Tom Ramsay, Managing Director of Twin Café, we learn about how this Sheffield social enterprise came about and why if you haven’t tried Twin Café yet, you really need to.
The idea to import coffee from a small farmer’s cooperative in Sheffield’s twin city Estelí in Nicaragua began when my friend’s Sarah and Sam taught English there three years ago, whilst on an exchange programme with The University of Sheffield. They lived with local families, made friends and had a fantastic time, however were shocked by the level of poverty some people lived in. Wanting to help make a difference to the lives of locals and with Estelí being one of the main coffee producing regions in Nicaragua, we had the idea of buying coffee directly from a small farmer’s co-operative, bringing it to Sheffield where it is now roasted and sold locally.
When we first decided to create Twin Café, we realised that a lot of people wouldn’t know why our city was twinned with Estelí. Since the 1980s, after the mining strike in Sheffield and the revolution in Estelí the two cities have connected, building a friendship we have today. We wanted to celebrate this link and use coffee to let people know about this.
Any profits we make from selling our coffee are invested in social projects in both Sheffield and Estelí - so by taking those sips and buying our coffee, you really can do some good! In Estelí, for example, the money we make goes towards a project called Los Angelitos, which teaches kids to play musical instruments. There’s a lot of drug crime in the city and so projects like this one provides a more positive focus for kids to get involved in. While in Sheffield, our profits have helped to support the Roundabout Homeless Charity, which has been providing shelter for homeless people in Sheffield since 1977, supporting over 150 young people every day.
Our coffee is proving very popular. Since we started trading in November 2014, we’ve sold over 2 tonnes of coffee in around 25 places in the UK and over 1.5 tonnes in Sheffield alone which is fantastic! We sell our coffee through our online shop; take it to catering events, festivals, community fairs as well as selling it in cafés such as Union St.
We’ve received great support from the University of Sheffield and Business Sheffield in getting our social enterprise off the ground. I personally attended a couple of courses which Business Sheffield run, such as the marketing, book keeping and tax classes and they have really helped me. I found the SPIN selling workshop particularly useful and interesting. This helped us with the development of our product and sales approach.
If you are thinking about setting up on your own, either as a social enterprise or a small business, the one thing I would say is: Do as much networking as you can. People in Sheffield are really willing to help and go out of their way to do so - it really does pay to talk to a variety of people!
In the future we’d like to become a leading ethical producer of coffee and do more to support the people in Sheffield and Estelí. We plan to run coffee training courses in Sheffield, working with disadvantaged groups to increase employment in the food and drink industry.
Never tried Twin Café before? Head over to Union St on a Friday where we will be running a pop-up café, selling our favourites: waffles and coffee. Go on, invest in your own community by buying a cup of coffee.
If you are looking to start a business, become self-employed or already have a business operating in the city, Business Sheffield are here to help you get your idea off the ground, set up and grow. Call them on 0114 224 5000 to find out how or visit the Business Sheffield events page and book on to a workshop today.