PostRoast: Looking to roast the competition in the coffee industry

An Edinburgh University spin-out has launched a coffee subscription service - delivering fresh coffee beans to the doors and offices of its members on a weekly basis in an attempt to compete with high street retailers. PostRoast founder Adam Bennett told BQ of his start-up journey so far.

The idea of PostRoast is to deliver fresh coffee beans to doorsteps and offices within 24 hours of roasting at the same time every week.

In an attempt to compete against high street coffee shops, Adam thought of the concept to provide people with freshly ground coffee within the comfort of their own homes and work places without needing to leave their seat.

Adam told BQ: “PostRoast is a flexible no strings attached fresh coffee (and I mean fresh) distribution platform.

“Scientifically, fresh coffee is best brewed within seven days of roasting as chemicals in the air oxidises compounds responsible for the perfect flavour and aroma. 

“Members tell us how much coffee they or their group drink a day so PostRoast can work out the exact amount of ground or whole-bean coffee required for the week.

“Working with award winning roasters we then post it directly to their doorstep or office within 24 hours of roasting at the same time every week.

“So our customers consistently drink the freshest possible coffee from just £3.49 (7 portions of coffee/ week, unit price lowers at larger volumes).”

He continued: “We keep coffee simple, with no artisan coffee jargon. Initially we will offer two blends: “smooth and velvety” and “strong and punchy”.

“Furthermore we thank all our members with two separate loyalty schemes while teaching them the simplest ways to brew the best coffee in the home or office. 

“Further down the line we want to make things even simpler by selling the best coffee brewing hardware right on our site so consumers don’t have to trawl through the web.”

Like many entrepreneurs featured in BQ over the years, Adam felt he needed to be his own boss and wanted a life a little different to the usual 9-5 routine. He told us: “Throughout my high school years I knew I wanted to own my own business, why? The thought of joining the daily rat race, not being able to be creative and dynamic in a business work place while working exceptionally hard for an others benefit are all things which scare me.

“Yet the idea of the unknown, doing something new and taking calculated risks, excited me.

“Coming up with an idea, a viable idea, was one of the hardest parts.

“I am originally from Yorkshire. While working as a barista in Leeds I was pulling an espresso, at the same time I overheard customers talking about the hugely successful

“This was that light bulb moment. We could apply the mail order subscription model to fresh coffee, where coffee isn’t novel but a true everyday consumable which is best when fresh!

“I could provide exactly the right amount of the freshest coffee directly to the consumer.”

It was Adam’s journey from Leeds to Edinburgh as a medicinal chemistry undergraduate which pushed him further to launching the business.

He said: “University fees had rocketed so I wasn’t going to come. But I realised I needed to attend university not simply due the idea of a missed opportunity, it meant I could surround myself with people possessing skills I didn’t have, willing to help initially for little.

“This paid off and now I have an amazing development team of 9 people working on PostRoast with a whole array of skills.

“As a student at the time I had little money so I needed funding before anything could happen.

“Attending The University of Edinburgh has been invaluable, their entrepreneurial and enterprise department Launch.ed are fantastic.

“I applied for grant funding and to date have received £3,500 from a pot of alumni donations. The Scottish Institute of Enterprise also helped me cover 75% of my professional trademarking fees for “PostRoast”.”

Adam then continued getting as much part-time work as possible to further fund the venture before launching PostRoast. “To get the ball rolling I needed to work a huge amount of hours on top of chemistry degree and a part-time job, often leading to 60-70+ hour weeks.

“This all paid off in June when I was awarded the Enterprise Award 2015 after pitching to angel investors and business experts, providing a further £5,000 grant as well as membership to Entrepreneurial Scotland Future Leaders.

“Now it is just a matter of the full launch within the month.”

The Launch.Ed programme at Edinburgh University provided Adam with a mentor as well as funding, which helped him with his business plan and other topics he was uncertain of. He said: “My first mentor was Alison Gee, who first stabilised and helped me plan my idea in 2013/ 14 and has continued to advise me to date.

“The Scottish Institute of Enterprise has also helped in many ways through one to one meetings, workshops and boot camps.

“One of the most interesting ideologies I have gained from SIE was the idea of consumers “hiring” a product (Clayton Christenson’s milkshake marketing), which helped me  understand consumer behaviour.

“I have also recently had support from Bridge2Business Edinburgh (Justin McGirr) and am due to speak to Business Gateway. I am also currently looking for an established mentor from whom I can seek advice from throughout the launch.”

All entrepreneurs face challenges when launching a business, especially when delving into the unknown in an unfamiliar market. Adam told us: “My biggest challenge so far has been tech development. Building the system and website takes huge amount of time and money.

“My biggest problem was finding the people to help me create the site, and maintaining their interest. One thing I have learnt is not to work with developers over distances during a small-scale start-up.

“On two occasions the project was put back by developers who advised they were close to finishing the project, looked to be completing work, yet hadn’t completed anything of note. Now I always ensure I work with people in the same city, preferably in the same office.”

After working with web developers and assembling his team, Adam is now set to launch the company in the very near future. “We are due to launch within the month and I cannot explain how excited I am to venture into the unknown.

“All my market research indicates consumers will take to the service positively, but I am looking forward to really understanding the public opinion while the service is actually being used!”

Adam spoke very highly of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, stating it “is a hugely exciting, stimulating, fun and a creative process.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working on PostRoast for the past few years in general, regardless of the few downs that have occurred. You are in full control of what happens and all your hard work is for you.”

To ensure the business model was sustainable, Adam had to be innovative and be sure to differentiate from any other coffee providers.

In doing this, he said: “PostRoast is the only mail order subscription service for fresh coffee that will allow UK members to easily drink, exceptional coffee, inexpensively. Without ever being burdened with huge amounts of waste stale coffee.

“Few of us see value in hugely expensive artisan beans, as we drink coffee every single day these prices are not sustainable. Yet in coffee freshness is key. So we offer good beans at the ultimate freshness for the best possible brew, we stay away from this artisan label and the prices that match.

“I have much more hidden up my sleeve, but I’m going to keep this a secret until launch!”

BQ will continue to cover the story of PostRoast as the business launches and goes live online.