The Curious Bear Club was founded and created by Louise Webster. Through her experience as a coffee professional and Managing Director of The Coffee Consultancy, she saw an opportunity during this Covid-19 Crisis to create a virtual coffee experience for businesses to use for staff and client engagement.
The Curious Bear Club is a fun and interactive coffee club that brings people together to learn about, discuss, and drink fantastic coffee. During this event, Louise hosts a virtual coffee tasting just like the professionals do. This process is called coffee cupping. Inside each box, guests are sent four different coffees, from different countries to showcase the diverse flavours that exist within coffee. Guests are shown how to set up and take part in their very own coffee cupping from the comfort of their home. The aim is to provide and fun and educational event, that introduces new audiences to what great coffee is and where it comes from.
Due to the nature of this start up and how it came to be, events are currently hosted by Louise from her home at this stage. This has kept costs to a minimum but does have limitations. The aim is to expand this so we can be running larger and more frequent events, which can bring in new hosts and digital content creators.
The Curious Bear Club is at growth stage and has been fully self-funded. All the design and packaging has been created and ready to go, with a tried and well-received hosting format. The Curious Bear is suitable for so many different businesses and will help organisations engaged and in touch with their teams as well as their clients.
They are looking for a small amount of funding for a suitable, professional location to host from and digital hosting equipment such as cameras and lighting. They would also like to invest in creative content that can be used by the host to make the events as fun and engaging as possible. Alongside a small marketing budget to help promote this product to a wider UK audience.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I fell in love with coffee and the hospitality industry a little over 6 years ago, whilst on a working holiday in Canada. I went on this trip because I was feeling at a loss with what I wanted for my career and was out of ideas and needed a reset. I was fortunate to finally find a job that I excelled at and loved.
After returning to the UK I continued my journey to learn as much as I could about coffee and continued working in a variety of roles in the industry. The more I learned about coffee, the more I wanted to share it with others. Too many of us are drinking bad coffee. Bad tasting coffee, but also bad from an ethical and sustainable point of view.
I love my industry, but it also has some unfortunate characteristics that puts up unnecessary barriers to entering it, but also the wider knock-on effect that means we shut down opportunities to educate people on the importance of understanding where our coffees come from. I was finding that my voice was being lost and my ambition for myself and my industry was being overlooked. This is why I decided to start my own Consultancy business, to allow me to reach and teach people in an authentic way that is important to me.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
To take a risk and allow yourself the opportunity to build your life around your work and to be authentic within it.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
The UK coffee industry has seen year-on-year growth for over two decades. The UK is a growing nation of coffee drinkers. They are also becoming accustomed to much better coffee, but they may not understand why some coffee tastes better than others. During lockdown, independent coffee roasters all over the UK saw a big uptake in online retail sales – as households, missing their morning commute coffee, wanted to experience something similar, so they started buying better quality coffee.
Having run a number of events this summer, hosting virtual coffee tastings gave me the confidence that businesses were happy to pay for this style of event. I also saught feedback after each session to understand what was working and ways to make it more engaging. After each event, I had very positive feedback from both the host organisation and their clients.
When developing the branding I brought in outsiders feedback to make sure my vision matched that of potential buyers. I am currently in talks with two larger well know brands about hosting events with them. One is a water filtration company that are very interested in partnering with me moving forward. We are currently discussing how best this might work.
Even from this early stage, I am confident in this product and format but can see so much potential to develop this brand into a larger events company, that allows us to support independent coffee businesses and raise awareness of the difficulty coffee farmers are facing due to climate change. I see this as a business for good as well as profit.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Self-belief and confidence, being able to ask for help and support, collaborative approach to working
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The freedom of being able to run your day, week, life, and the exciting conversations you have with people you don’t expect. Opportunities can come out of nowhere and you get to explore new ideas and collaborations. Even if they don’t lead to anything, the journey in itself allows you to grow and gain new insights and knowledge.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Julius of Second Shot Coffee. His vision to create a coffee brand that was really a vehicle to improve social mobility and to end homelessness. What I love most about his vision and his message is that you can serve fantastic coffee at the same time as taking direct action to end homelessness. I have found that businesses that focus on having a successful business that allows them to do impactful work are a far better model to drive forward change, than if you just set out to try and help an individual cause. The more successful your business is, the more money you have to put towards your mission.
I visited Second Shot on its opening day and have followed their success over the years and it is amazing to see how far they have come.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Who did you talk to originally to understand where help was most needed and how you could create a business that could be impactful. In our western coffee culture, we often have this view that coffee farmers are poor and they need our support. I see this as quite a patronising approach and would love to understand what conversations need to happen that allows you to put forward a plan that can directly improve the situation, whilst at the same time developing and creating a successful business and brand.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Launching my Consultancy business and landing work straight away.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Lack of confidence and allowing imposter syndrome to hold me back. I have always considered myself a very confident, outgoing person. Going into business by yourself is quite a scary thing to do. To give up a well-paid job, with an extremely well-known company to starting out alone was a very humbling experience. Imposter syndrome is a destructive thing and something that needs to be understood and resisted.
I think if I was to do it all again, I would have continued working part-time whilst building my company up. I would also tell myself to stop hiding behind a screen and to get out there and meet people and tell them what I do. I would also be kinder to myself. I was naive if I’m honest. As usual, I jumped right into something and then figured things out as I went along. While this can be a great attribute as a business owner, it can also be a flaw. Having a roadmap of what your business wants to look like and routes how to get there are key to not only its success but also your mental well-being.
How have you funded your ideas?
The Curious Bear has been entirely self-funded. I have used the money from past events and put this straight back into the business to develop the concept, brand and packaging.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Not at this stage, no.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
The name and the reputation of the City are really helpful. For me, working in coffee, Oxford has a thriving coffee scene and I have met and worked with some fantastic people and businesses already and I intend to support them further through The Curious Bear. I have also been a part of several great networking events and organisations.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
Obviously I would send them to Enterprising Oxford as a starting point. I would also encourage them to seek out suitable networking events as there are so many in Oxford City, but also in the surrounding local areas in Oxfordshire. I would also suggest OxLEP.
Any last words of advice?
Be confident in your idea and yourself and be prepared for a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions.