Founder Focus: Henry of The Gentleman Baristas
Established in 2014 by ex-journalist turned actor, Ed Parkes, and coffee aficionado Henry Ayer, The Gentlemen Baristas is an artisan coffee house serving a superb cup of coffee in creative and inspiring surroundings. We caught up with Henry to find out what makes the business tick, and how his two sons keep him from burning out.
What was your eureka moment?
Ed will say it’s when we finished at the London Coffee Festival, had a few beers, ignored our girlfriend’s texts for pleas of “when are you coming home?” Putting the world to rights, what would make a great coffee shop experience?
Later that year I persuaded Ed to join the coffee company I was working at. A year later things started to take shape… In 2014 push came to shove for me and my hand was forced, later that year joined me.
What is your elevator pitch?
“Well mannered coffee” Or Free training for all…
How did you test your idea?
We didn’t need to. We’d been making it work for our wholesale customers for the company we worked for. Spending quality time with them, genuinely caring…we saw a gap in the market. A relaxed informal space to have a coffee. Welcome to our house, it’s not a café or coffee shop it’s a coffee house.
Penny universities are what coffee houses of old once were, so why not create our very own house of coffee.
Good coffee is a right, not a luxury.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
Never give up..
Pull in every last favour you have out there from every last person, you’d be surprised at what comes back.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
We both have people we respect in and out of the industry and that’s important to have that mix.
People now ask Ed to look at their business plans which he gladly does on a regular basis. He’s become a whizz at this over the past five years.
I have mentored two startups this year alone venturing out alone to open their own place. We’re often asked for advice on various aspects of the industry. The industry is a small one and as such you meet a lot of interesting people, we’re always up for a coffee and a chat…
What’s your plan B?
For me, there wasn’t one. For Ed, journalism or acting, maybe.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
All of them, money spent on time, spent on the energy of the training we give to any new member of staff or current member wishing to learn more about the industry. And that applies to our wholesale clients too.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Losing a tender or two, we just weren’t ready…
What is coming up for Gentleman Baristas?
Innovation; cold brew, 0% abv cocktails, seasonal drinks, master classes.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
Kitchen confidential – just read it. It taught me a lot about the hospitality industry. It’s the one book I’ve given numerous copies of away.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Know when to switch off, staring at your phone late into the evening is not downtime. Answering emails at the weekend is not switching off. If you have family, spend time with them rather than your phone.
Whenever I ring Pete at Kaffeine the first thing he asks is; “how’s the life-work balance?”
My answer isn’t always the one I wish it were…
For me, I have two young boys who remind me why I’m doing this and why I shouldn’t take myself too seriously….life is too short for burn out.