top of page

"We bought a van on ebay for £500 and put a coffee machine in the back"

I talk all things coffee, parking fines and Aus with owner of Routes coffee, Will Penfold.

C: Tell me where it all began?

W: So, me and my best friend Jim used to work in Australia together in a coffee shop and when we came home we wanted to start our own café, but we couldn’t afford it. So, we bought a van on ebay for £500 and put a coffee machine in the back of it and started doing small events and festivals. Then eventually through time we’ve managed to upgrade it and now we’ve got a shop in Hackney Wick.

C: How old were you when you started it all off?

W: 23!

C: How did you reach out to people and do the festivals?

W: Through people we already knew in the industry so e-mail for example and social media.

C: Do you hire anyone?

W: Just my co-owner’s little brother at the moment! We also take ten people or so to some events, so we’ll just hire them for the weekend.

C: How do you find London compared to Winchester?

W: It’s way more expensive to have the lifestyle, but you have to work anyway to be able to survive.

C: Do you use social media?

W: We try to but I’m not very good at it! We’re doing about one a week but you should be doing it more than that.

C: Where did you train in great coffee making?

W: In Australia! There were some great barista’s and I got lucky because my friend hooked me up with the owner of a roaster over there and so I flew over and the next day I was in his café making coffee with some of the best baristas in Sydney.

C: What’s the plan for your business?

W: Good question! We try not to think about that. I mean, you should have a plan but ours is a pretty organic business and for me it’s more about the lifestyle, so we want to be able to do something ourselves and not have to work for anyone. Plus doing events means we can run our own schedule. So yeah, I think just keep on doing music festivals, having fun and seeing where it goes!

C: Do you think people need to go to university if they’re starting their own business? W: I think it’s probably a good idea studying business, not necessarily at uni but doing a course. We’ve learnt a lot since starting it and you move forward and then you get hit back twice. So, the business side I’ve learnt a lot, just by like getting fines, having to do all the accountant things too we’ve tried to do ourselves. We’ve only recently just got our own accountant. But, if you love what you’re doing then people will see that in you and it will just grow naturally.

C: Did you have to work another job at first?

W: Yes, I was working full time for a coffee roastery. I was doing that Monday until Friday and then the events Saturday and Sunday, and then eventually the events just took off.

C: How long did it take for you just to be independent and live off that money?

W: It took a year for me, but whilst I was working Jim was living off the business, because obviously we had the shop at the time but it was only busy enough for one person. I was working full time whilst Jim was living off the business, because we could only afford to pay one wage at the time. It worked out well because I learnt a lot!

You can find Routes by visiting:

bottom of page