[Editor's Note] Milos Bezanov is a second year student currently studying International Politics at King’s College London.
On the face of it, there's nothing spectacular about Shoreditch Grind. They're a coffee shop, located next to Starbucks on the Old Street roundabout. That said, although there are hundreds of coffee shops all around London, there's something about this one that makes it that little bit different. Founded by Kaz James and David Abrahamovitch, the former a successful musician, DJ and producer, the latter a UCL Economics graduate and would be investment banker.
With this combination of perspectives, it's easy to see why Shoreditch Grind is so different from all those other countless coffee chains', indistinguishable in name or the quality of the service they provide. However, how it set itself apart and achieved success is not so easy to spot, and to do this we need to take a look in more detail at those who founded it.
Kaz and David have been best friends for 10 years and both love coffee. David finished Economics at UCL, and after doing internships at various investment banks and seemed destined to follow the path set out by friends and family. However, he quickly realised that it wasn't for him; “It was the natural progression, but I never liked being a small cog in a big wheel”. By contrast, Kaz James' life took a very different road. Raised in Melbourne, Christopher (yes, that's his real name) studied at various private schools, and was always involved in music. Thus, having captured his imagination at an early age, he decided to skip university in favour of a music career. Whilst on the face of it, they appear very different yet they are similar in all the important aspects; they both excel at what they do, neither of them wanted to remain locked in, and neither are afraid to take risks.
However, anyone in the business world knows it takes more than passion and ability to make something a success. David Abrahamovitch recalls how they reached their idea; “ (Kaz) is Australian and Aussie’s are massively into their coffee, and they were all amazed how difficult it is to get a good cup of coffee over here- that told me there's a gap in the market”. It was from here that they decided to set up a Coffee shop at the roundabout on Old Street, next to a Starbucks. Whilst it seems like a bad idea to set up next to an established coffee chain and your main competitors, David doesn't consider these big players as their competition. In fact, he takes a different view on it; “If anything, our competition is other independent cafés, but really they’re more like friends to us – we’re a community.” With this in mind, it made sense to choose the place they did; “If Starbucks opened a site there, that means there's demand”. Would you forego a career in Investment Banking to open coffee shop from scratch next to one of the most dominant forces in the market? It's easy to look back at the success of these two and say yes, but looking forward, it doesn't take a genius to realise which most people would choose. Then again, David and Kaz aren't like most people.
Opening in June 2011, the first feature of the business that appeals is the thought and care that goes into the making of the coffee; “we add our own blend of beans roasted to our exact specifications, and even more importantly some of the best (mostly Aussie) baristas in London”. Sure enough, their reputation and popularity grew from there, having been interviewed for the gateway (which is handed out at my University, as well as 15 others) and various other magazines. However, this is not the only way in which Shoreditch Grind separates itself; Kaz James; “ We wanted to create something that could bring music and coffee together”, which explains the presence of a recording studio on the floor above; “We've had Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones and Coldplay”. Top quality Coffee, and top quality music to go with it. It's no wonder this business has been making a name for itself.
However, it hasn't all been fun and games. It took 18 months to get the business up and running due to the difficulty in finding decent builders and electricians (a problem we're all too familiar with), on their budget. On overcoming this, the work doesn't stop; (David) “A business like this will not work unless you are very hands on... However much work you think it's going to be, triple it”. However, despite this continuous work, and the difficulties along the way, Shoreditch Grind have created something so unique that, after a while you forget it's a coffee shop. So next time you're in Shoreditch make sure you visit the Shoreditch Grind.
Till then you can always get wholsesale coffee beans delivered to your home, to tide you over!