What is Heaven Scent?
We opened the site in a condemned flower shop in Milnathort, Perthshire 10 years ago. It is London or Barcelona dropped into the country. I come down to London a lot for inspiration. Ultimately, a cup of tea is a cup of tea but it is about the environment.
Design is important as there plant pots wrapped in newspaper, typewriters with menus coming out of them, fridges to climb though and my mum even knits all the tea cosy’s for the teapots. People come in and say ‘I want to live here’. There is VW campervan wallpaper, upstairs in the bathroom we have the walls covered in 7-inch vinyls and the hand soaps are in Jack Daniels bottles.
Your main site for Heaven Scent is in a small village in Perthshire. How do you maintain such a business outside of a busy city?
The one word we use to describe Heaven Scent is community. We sponsor the local cycling team and the local film house. The local town house has a film night and we give a discount for people that come in before and after.
We do some work with websites to get people to try us out once for an afternoon tea. We have 1,700 followers on Twitter, are active on linkedin and do a lot of mail shots and advertising. It’s almost about winning fans as much as customers. The reason people come to us is that it is good honest food, good surroundings and good people. It’s as simple as that.
How have you expanded the Heaven Scent Brand?
We also have Heaven Scent Kitchen, which has three vans delivering our products to workplaces all over Scotland.
We have just opened Heavens Above, which is a floor above our Milnathort site. We bought an old Smeg fridge, sunk it into the wall and to gain access you climb thought the fridge at the end of a secret staircase, where you will find four individually designed rooms.
People can bring their own alcohol with them to Heavens Above as we are not licensed. This Saturday we have a table of 12 women in for afternoon tea and they have already dropped off bottles of prosecco. We do not charge for corkage, as I want them to use us again and again.
We also are planning to extend into the back garden and are waiting for planning permission for a Heaven Scent Secret Garden. There will be room for 70 covers, fire pits, an outside BBQ, shake shack and a vegetable patch, which will be gifted to the local school.
How essential are staff in driving your coffee shop business?
We have made a huge investment in staff training and have around 35 people on the payroll. We do an awful lot of one to one coaching and buddying up so that these staff can go away as ambassadors for what we are trying to do and are proud to be at their work.
Do you have plans to expand the brand?
I look at the Loungers concept and I want to do that with Heaven Scent and am now looking for investors.
I have employed a full-time sales manager and her job is to make us busier so I know we have a product we can roll out.
I would like to go for bigger sites in the suburbs of cities. We can ‘t compete in places like St Andrew’s but can in suburban neighbourhoods where you can hang out at night and have nachos and hand made burgers.
We don’t owe a penny and have never borrowed. But now is a time to expand and we are looking at investors and funding to roll out. I would like to open one site a year and don’t see any reason why we can’t have between 10 to 12.
You recently wrote a book called Victus, which gives tips on how to run a successful hospitality company. What are your top tips?
The first thing is passion as hospitality is a lifestyle. There is a certain type of person who works in hospitality as it is long hours, it’s antisocial and you lose friends and family along the way. If someone is setting up on their own my advice would be to keep your eyes open and you have got to have a ridiculous cash reserve.
Secondly, networking. Attend events; go to business breakfasts go to seminars and scream what it is you have that makes you better than anyone else.
Keep the team involved and make sure every person on that journey with you knows what is expected. In the past I made some mistakes where I thought it was all about me. Richard Branson doesn’t drive his own trains or fly his own planes he employs people that are better at it than him to do that. I think in business once you accept the fact that while its your business you need to surround yourself with people who buy into it and are better than you in specific fields.