How a mobile coffee business kept moving forward during lockdown

September 11, 2020 - Martin Currie

Back in 2018, we featured Stuart Pell on our blog for the #OurAyrshireEntrepreneurs series.

Stuart had not long started 'The Espresso Kart', selling coffee from his own bespoke van at various locations across Ayrshire, and at events. 

You can read that blog here - it gives a great insight into how Stuart started his business and what the challenges were. 

Which brings us here to 2020 and the biggest challenge of all: how does his business fare in response to Covid-19 restrictions?

We asked Stuart to update us on how he's adapted his business during these troubling times.

"As lockdown became inevitable, I was particularly worried about the loss of some large events I would lose. It was right at the start of the season.

"The final two weeks before lockdown I tried my best to maximise income and clear stock. The unknown, as for many businesses, was scary. I had been working on an additional income previous to the Covid-19 outbreak through selling bags of coffee for use at home - however there was no guarantee the supply chain would be fully operational.



"We had 3kg of coffee left and some cafetieres so we dropped them at the Covid assessment unit at Crosshouse to save them going to waste, and feared we wouldn't be able to order for a while.

"Luckily after two weeks, it became clear that posting and delivering bags of coffee for home use was possible and would keep generating some sort of income. Albeit 5% of what I had been turning over.

"Although I had closed, this was because it felt right. Being a mobile set up and in the food and drinks sector, it was actually never classed as non-essential. So when my wife was furloughed three weeks into lockdown, I gave it a week and got prepared with advice from East Ayrshire Council licensing and decided to target housing estates where now everybody would be.

"It has been unreal, every day has been equivalent to an event. Although they have been lost, the support from people in Kilmarnock has been genuinely overwhelming and has helped a family business survive through it.

"We have communicated daily through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - lockdown brought a TikTok page for the Kart so another social channel to get involved with.

"There will be a change for the business for the next 12 months. We stopped at offices Monday to Friday and events on a Saturday. As it looks at the moment, we will stop at offices in the morning Monday to Friday and have an afternoon pitch in different locations. Weekends we will pitch up in locations and try to establish these in people's minds.


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"We have learnt to be even more flexible and treat each week/day as an exciting challenge. 

"Things have gone better for the business than we expected at the start of lockdown, a big reason why we continued even after criticism was that the overwhelming support felt it was a small bit of normality in a challenging time.

"We have also been able to look at the next steps as we planned to come into our third year of business and hope to have a second outlet operating soon.

"It will be all change, this business was started to provide a high quality hot drink experience at events. As it stands, we are not sure if we will be returning to all of our events."


Have you been inspired by Stuart's story? Think you could start your own business? Then take a look into the Enterprising Student Fund. The Ayrshire College Foundation will provide funding of grants up to £5000 for students of Ayrshire College who are interested in developing ideas to start up their own business. To help us inspire more students to be enterprising, we are working in partnership with Bridge 2 Business to support idea development.

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