Shilpi Arora – Coffix
“I started this business purely for the love of coffee. That’s what inspired me. I’d wanted to do something with coffee for a long time and I’d been following this brand for a few years, doing my research. I was working in the corporate world – I have a media background.
We were looking for shops, but it was too big of a jump to take while we were still working – leaving a high paying job and getting into this. Then my husband and I both got made redundant three years ago and we had to just do it! I’m happy I did – the timing was right and it was meant to be.
I’m proud of having my own business. Our coffee is 100% premium, organic and fair trade, but we sell it at a fair price and we need large volumes to sustain the business. We used to come to Howick for the Saturday markets and I was familiar with the setup here. There are 18 cafes around which tells us about the huge coffee culture in Howick. So we looked around and we found this spot.
We’re still here after lockdown, but it wasn’t easy, even though it was only five or six weeks. Everyone struggled. When we opened for takeaways in Level 3 – that it was huge – it was so overwhelming to see how much people missed their coffee. The community came out to support us and it was incredible. We had people come up to us – some of whom were regulars, but quite a few weren’t even our customers – with a stash of money trying to help every business by sharing the love. Other people came up to us with an envelope with cash inside and gave it to us as a welcome back token.
It was amazing – we didn’t even know some of them, but in these crucial times they were coming up to us saying, “we’re really happy to see you – we want you to stay and we’d love to try your coffee”. They were going around spreading the love. These people didn’t have to do this – they shouldn’t really care, but they do, which is the beauty of the community here.
It really touched me. These are human values and you sometimes wonder where they are living in our current world. I was almost in tears. They didn’t have to do it, but the kind of bond we share now is more like family. That’s what kept us in business.
The most influential person in my life is my father. He’s a very hard working, self-made man. He wasn’t given anything from his parents, so he worked hard towards his goals and dreams. He’s just turned 70 and he’s still working full time. The greatest quality is his generous heart. Even when he’s working and making money, he doesn’t do anything for himself. It’s all to earn and then give. He believes in charity. He really inspires me – the hard work, taking care of your family and giving, which is what I hope to imbibe. It’s an amazing quality.
I believe that whatever you do, you have to give it 200%, plus give value and add value. In my business model, we’re adding value every day. We’re giving people a premium product at a fair price. It just gives me so much joy. When people come in and buy a coffee for $3, they say, ‘wow that’s cheap’ and have to correct them and say ‘no, it’s affordable!’. I live by this. I truly believe in this model, although I have to do my hard yards to keep the overheads really low in order to sustain it.
Howick a very special community. I really want to move here now as I feel like I’m part of it! The community spirit, especially at this time when everyone needs kindness, is what I love about it. You can actually see it and feel it. People’s actions speak louder than anything else. What I love about Howick is its people. Really lovely people.”