Norfolk church couple offer coffee with a conscience
Attleborough couple, Mark and Jacqui Dawes, have taken their gift for hospitality into the public and church arena by investing in a unique custom-made mobile tea and coffee van and training as baristas. Sandie Shirley reports.
The Hope Coffee Company was launched this autumn and can be hired for church, charity, community or private events across Norfolk and Suffolk.
The three-wheeled Piaggio Ape (pronounced Ah-Pay - means Bee in Italian), manufactured in Italy and customised in Yorkshire, holds the key to the couple’s nurtured dream that evolved from their active roles in hospitality – a way of life first witnessed in childhood.
Mark saw the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy from his role as sales director for an air-conditioning company. Without a safety-net or tried-and-tested plan, there was no option but to take to the waters of faith.
“Even though all the practicalities are not worked out, sometimes you just have to go with where your heart burns,” says Jacqui.
With a Land Rover and trailer bought from Mark’s redundancy pay-off and a new website, the couple are geared-up for a fairtrade ethical mobile business to fill a unique gap in the market while building the Kingdom of God.
“We do not want to take trade away from existing cafes, but we are busy exploring new avenues and are open to ideas,” says Mark. The company is already breaking new ground - at Attleborough’s public firework display their success prompted organisers to book them for next year and it has opened other doors.
The couple researched a variety of mobile vans for their business, choosing the Piaggio Ape for its unique appeal and because it enabled them to serve while being alongside their customers instead of behind a high counter. They made regular trips to Hull to ensure it fitted their own specifications and trained as baristas. The couple began researching organic, fairtrade and ethically produced products as well as sustainable and compostable ones. Mark also bought a coffee machine to experiment at home.
The idea for the mobile company came when other options failed.
“A couple of years ago I wanted to take early retirement and open up a café to give back to the community. We researched a variety of local businesses that were for sale, but we were unable to find the right premises, in the right location, at the right price.
“Then I suddenly realised that our church was going to have a café and maybe we could run it to make church more accessible to people, but we learnt it would be two or three years before the café is a reality.”
The Hope Coffee Company is often parked at Hope Community Church Wymondham where the couple are members. The business serves the local businesses, the community Hub as well as supporting various church events until the church café at Ayton Road opens. “Our company allows us to set the welcome and greet and serve customers, so we are like the ‘face’ of the church even if people never go inside,” says Jacqui.
“The company is called Hope, through our church connection, but it also brings hope to people’s lives by buying from ethical producers and re-investing our time and resource in local charity projects,” adds Mark.
For Mark and Jacqui, the business is a natural progression. They currently head-up church hospitality - organising and being part of the meet and greet team and help host a full calendar of events that calls for a cool head and ready, serving hands.
Running a church ‘life’ group, they open their home to build and share relationship over prayer and bible study with an added accent on hospitality. They also host events at home that draw people from the community and provide overnight accommodation to homeless youngsters through the YMCA ‘night stop’ scheme.
Being hospitable has been a way of life seen during their respective childhoods when it became a reflection of their parents’ Christian faith. Mark’s father was a senior civil servant and preacher and both parents were missionaries. Says Mark: “Many nights I did not sleep in my own bed because we had people to stay from other countries and every Sunday there were people for dinner.”
Jacqui adds: “My parents were always involved with Sunday school and young people’s work. It has always been an open home at the heart of community.”
“I spent 30 years selling air-conditioning but it’s more rewarding selling coffee and tea and gathering communities together,” says Mark. “We took the van home to Attleborough to clean it and while it was parked on our front drive, we were able to bring the neighbours together as we served them coffee - some had never met before.”
A career in international sales and marketing has given him invaluable skills and with Jacqui they forge a trade that has brought versatility to the fore: pumpkin spiced lattes were served in October and hot chocolate laced with orange syrup will be served at Hope Community Church’s Christmas performances on December 23. Dairy-free alternatives are available and next summer they are planning iced lattes and Affogato Italian ice-cream with espresso. Coffee cocktails and ‘mocktails’ will also be served.
The business plan extends far-and-wide with a ‘tailored’ service for fetes, wedding fayres, conferences, public events and private hire for birthdays, weddings etc.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07484 224092
Kingdom Coffee - coffee with a conscience - UK Christian fairtrade and ethical company