Richard launches cafe in a van

Richard Baker, left, and Kevin Haswell

Richard Baker, left, and Kevin Haswell

First published in Startup Companies The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Business Reporter and Books Editor. Please contact me on 01865 425461

A YouTube video about 'coffee art' set Richard Baker up for a new career in van-driving — with a difference.

He was working as a freelance chef but wanted to escape the late-night shifts which are a feature of the catering industry.

Mr Baker, 36, (pictured, left) wanted to set up his own café so that he could spend more time with his family, and enrolled in a course in coffee-making, inspired by a video about latté art on the YouTube video site.

"I decided about a year ago that I would look into getting a café, and now here I am with a very shiny new van. It is a lot more cost-effective than buying bricks and mortar.”

He starts his day at 6.15am at Banbury Railway Station, selling to commuters, and then tours small industrial estates, selling to workers who need a caffeine lift or lunchtime sandwiches.

His new life started after the coffee-making tutors, Youri and Samantha Vlad, put him in touch with Coventry entrepreneur Kevin Haswell, who had 18 months' experience of running the Really Awesome Coffee Company, selling from a van which toured workplaces in Coventry and at Warwick Science Park.

Mr Haswell (pictured, right), 31, had dreamed of becoming a professional boxer, but after being plagued by injury had set up his own company. The idea was so successful that he was looking to franchise his idea to business partners.

He said: “I was sat in a coffee shop in Prague trying to work out the next step in my career and I thought about an episode of The Apprentice where they had to sell coffee from a van, and I thought ‘I could do that’.”

Mr Baker sells Awesome Coffee, but sources his own hot and cold food, including pies, muffins and brownies. He tries to use local suppliers, including cake-pops made by Natalie King of Banbury company Hello Babycakes.

He is in talks about catering at various local events in the summer, including the midnight walk for Katharine House Hospice in June.

He said: “It is proving quite popular and I hope to have a second van by early next year.

"I have always done breakfast shifts, so I am used to getting up early. But now I can see my daughter when she gets home from playschool and spend three or four hours with her.

"That was a big reason for doing this — to spend more time with her as well as being my own boss."

As for the latte art, he is still perfecting his skills.

“You need to do 15-16,000 coffees before you can do it right, but I try to put a heart on. It gives it a bit of style,” he said.


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