Following the ongoing pandemic and the lasting impact it is having on small businesses, I wanted to catch up with small companies around South Wales to find out how they were doing, who they are, and what their business is all about.
My first interview is with Brew&Co in Neath. The owners are lovely, I loved finding out more about the business and their journey. Pop in if you’re in the area, you won’t be disappointed, their coffee is fantastic and they have a selection of sweet and savoury treats on offer. What always strikes me is how friendly Samantha is, she’s always smiling and happy to talk to anyone who comes in. Plus, if you’re lucky you might have the pleasure of making Chubs’ acquaintance, then you really are in for a treat.
Who are Brew&Co?
We are a husband (Wayne) and wife (Samantha) indefinitely ruled by our 2year old English bulldog (Chubs) our brand ambassador/ mascot/ boss man).
What’s the story behind your business?
After meeting and living in Dubai for over 12 years, we decided to take the step to come back home to set up our base and hopefully one day extend our little family in South Wales where we would have the support from our nearest and dearest. In doing so we went back and forth as to what we would do here for work (Wayne being the owner of a Crossfit facility in Dubai and Samantha being an operations manager). Our one mutual love was for the love of coffee which is where Brew&Co came from. I (Samantha) was born and raised in Neath and Wayne from South Africa and having travelled and lived all over the world, we both had a lot of ideas to try and bring a speciality coffee shop to the area. Everything in our shop means something to us, from our bulldog logo, to the coffee machine we use (the same machine was used on our first date in Dubai) to the artwork on the wall of the world map (considering our background and travels). Brew&Co is truly our little home from home and most importantly is the only dog-friendly artisan coffee house in the town.
What are the biggest challenges for you as a small business?
Finding staff that share the same passions as us for coffee/dogs and most importantly, providing an excellent customer experience. Another is anti-Social behaviour in the area that effectively loses custom and is not within our control to resolve.
Has anything unexpected happened along the way?
Many things have happened, not to mention the global pandemic which we are absolutely so thankful to have overcome (and still overcoming). One of the main unexpected issues we have been through was with our coffee machine malfunctioning resulting in it catching fire on our premises. But we have made amazing contacts in the industry who are helping us along the way.
Which brand (s) of coffee do you stock and use?
Origin coffee roasters (Stronghold Blend).
What’s unique about your coffee shop?
- Dog Friendly.
- Artisan Products.
- Speciality coffee brewed by qualified baristas.
- Family run.
As a small business, how do you find time to manage all aspects?
Allowing yourself free time is absolutely key, it’s one of the most difficult things to do especially when you work with your husband, however we have learnt the hard way to be able to shut off at specific times and focus on other things besides the business. Organising your days to the best of your ability including social media content, stock takes, ordering and planning ahead for future changes. Allowing room for mishaps to occur and having contingencies in place to ensure the business can still run.
Are there any other local businesses you work with?
- Basekamp/Afan Coffee
- Haystack bakery
- Totally Welsh Milk
- Knipes&Co the bacon specialists
- Vancakes vegan pancakes
How important is social media to you as a small business?
For the products we sell, and to the market we attract, it is almost imperative that we have a social media presence. We do however keep it very personal and interact with our customers in person just as much as we would on social media.
What impact has Coronavirus had on the business?
The financial impact was inevitable for us as a small business and many factors meant we were not able to get certain funding throughout it however, after two months we put things in place to be able to open again which we are super thankful for as it got us through the worst of it.
What are your favourite memories to date?
The first day we opened our doors, we were partly ready, things were missing from our walls and we had no clue what the future would hold but that first customer that walked through the door that just happened to be passing by and smelt our coffee. It was an absolutely amazing feeling. He’s now a very good friend of myself and Wayne’s and visits every morning at 8.30 am for his flat white.
If there was one thing you’d recommend your customers have to try what would it be?
I don’t think I would recommend one thing specifically, however, we try to educate lightly about the difference between speciality coffee and other regular coffees especially the difference in taste. People that are used to a certain drink in let’s say a well-known chain coffee shop are more often than not pleasantly surprised with the difference in quality that they can clearly define when trying our coffee.
Maybe cheesy, but what do you hope the future holds for the business?
Expansion is always the dream and a little badly kept secret is we have things in place to extend the premises to offer a wider range of food and seating for our customers.