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Alex Jenkins from KIN+ILK - a coffee shop with a difference - talks branding, finance and growth

Cenydd Rowlands Senior Investment Executive at Finance Wales structured the loan for Kin & Ilk. He said, “When Finance Wales backs a new business we look for a robust growth strategy and a management team with the passion and drive to make it happen. The Kin & Ilk management team have a strong vision to grow their brand and have already opened their second coffee shop in Pontcanna.”

RedHanded: What was the original inspiration for the business?

Alex Jenkins: To create a warm, inviting, calm, comfortable space perfect for collaboration and connection hence the name – KIN, for family, and ILK, for your friends. Spaces people are comfortable working in, and can also meet inspiring people at our ‘meet your Ilk talks’ from business and creative industries, such as law firms, graphic design and PR. All backed up by great food and great coffee.

Is the focus on attracting creative or business types? 

Not specifically. We have to reflect where we are. So we’re also working with the University of South Wales and run where students can have their work critiqued from people in the industry. We also want to inspire people and get business leaders or sports stars to tell their story through events such as Zero to Hero.

What’s the background of the people behind KIN+ILK?

Dave Davies is a serial entrepreneur. My background is in the music industry - I was an art director, went into branding and opened an exhibition/events company. Rhys Champion was in hospitality. And about a year ago we met designer Angela Gidden, OBE, who helped us rebrand the idea.

How long did it take to get off the ground?

After the rebranding it took 4-5 months. It took so long to find anywhere that loads of ‘coffi’ shops opened and they were all brown/vintage so we changed tac and went a clean, minimalist Scandinavian route.

What made you think there was an opportunity in quite a saturated market?

The opportunity to do something different. A lot of business people, especially freelancers, work and meet in coffee shops so we wanted to create a space more conducive to that. We also have a drinks licence that allows us to stay open later so people can stay on, have a drink or meal and socialise. That way the space and resources work even harder, and bring in a different crowd. A modular layout, projectors and a good sound system with lapel mic’s means we can have events. We’ve also tried to elevate our offering – where others do paninis we’ll do toasties using Alex Gooch artisan bread, for example.

What steps did you have to go through to get to a working project?

Firstly we had to establish our brand values. Then find the right space, which needed a heck of a lot of research – footfall, local demographics, costings, finding an iconic space. Then finding a lease, staff, creating a menu.

How was it funded?

We put money in ourselves, used lease-hire for equipment and we’ve had £150k from Finance Wales. Dave had worked successfully with Finance Wales before so we approached them with our initial business plan, which was developed with their help. They decided to back us on the strength of the plan, the management team and the brand. They’ve been exceptionally supportive and been great partners. As is often the case with start-ups we didn’t hit initial projections which can create a bit of a panic but through them backing so many businesses in hospitality they were able to reassure us what we were doing was right. They were very patient and we had a continual dialogue which has been very helpful. The support has been very refreshing and constructive - not only have they supported our ideas they’ve given us ideas, which has been key.

What are your priorities going forward?

We want to support local suppliers, particularly with pop-up food events and a range of local craft ales. We’ve introduced an employee benefit scheme to encourage our team to grow with the company and ensure they offer the best customer service in Wales. We also listen to our customer feedback and react quickly if we feel it fits within our brand and ethics. We have just opened our Pontcanna branch and in the longer term hope to have another in Wales and then over the Severn!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to do something similar?

Get your branding and values right. Research the market – you’ve got to prove there’s a market for what you want to do. Putting finance in place is key but it has to be the right financial support. Make sure you have the right staff, who also believe in what you’re trying to achieve. Listen to criticism but don’t depart from your brand values and what you’re trying to do.

1 Capital Quarter, Tyndall Street, Cardiff

31 Cathedral Road, Pontcanna, Cardiff

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