Grinding out a successful coffee-roasting business

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No ceiling to their ambition

Husband and wife team Justin and Chanel Cornelius set up 918 Coffee Co in 2009, initially as a chain of coffee shops. But it wasn’t long before they realised that to really grow the business, they would need to focus on coffee roasting.

“We felt that there was a limit to what we could achieve in the retail environment,” Justin says. “But in the coffee roasting business there’s no ceiling.”

The company has established itself as a coffee roaster and supplier to retailers and trade – including Waitrose amongst its customers as well as having a partnership with the Eden Project in Cornwall. More recently, it has developed the world’s only eco-roasting technology, Eco Roast, whereby waste coffee can be used as the fuel to roast fresh coffee beans.

“We’re getting to a point now where we need to heavily invest, so that money would enable us to get the extra pieces of equipment that we need to build the next stage of our growth.”

‘Organic’ financing the key

It takes significant cash to fund product development and innovation – but Justin has always favoured what he terms the “organic” route (perhaps fittingly for his business!)

Although the company has made use of external funding, it has been very limited and difficult to secure. 

“We have had to put our hands in our own pockets and also made real use of the Royal Bank of Friends and Family in the early years!” Justin quips. “That’s actually a good acid test, of affordability and what you can pay back.  After that, you have to be receptive to other funding methods depending on what you want to achieve.  There are so many forms of funding out there – you just need to get out there and find out what would work best for you.”

There’s a satisfaction, though, in growing this way.

“Borrowing a million pounds would have made our growth much faster – the organic method is certainly the slowest, however, we can look at our roastery, our warehouse, our offices and think: we’ve paid for them, we own it!”

Plans for a franchise roll-out

Now, Justin is set on developing the Eco Roast technology and is looking at a franchise model for its roll-out.

A new team member is set to join, which will take the company’s ranks to 13. “It’s crucial to have the right team around you,” Justin says, “You need people with the same ethic and understanding as you.”

Given the prospect of new retail and trade customers coming on board, Justin also hopes to double the company’s daily production capability to 5 tons per day.

Plenty brewing for the future then!

More about Justin Cornelius

Justin Cornelius is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for all things coffee. And after a spell as a quantity surveyor from 2006-2008, coffee really has been his life ever since. Setting up the 918 company with his wife Chanel in 2009, based in his native Dorset, Justin has been steadily establishing himself in the coffee industry, from coffee shops in the early years through to roasting and now eco-technology. With innovation at the core of everything he does, the future is always a new challenge!

visit the coffee 918 website

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Our Asset Finance will get Justin what he wants, quickly and easily. So he doesn’t have to pay all those large costs upfront for his expensive assets, we’ll purchase them for him set up repayments over an agreed term.

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