In her column focused on small businesses, Waltham Forest Business Network’s Jo Sealy interviews a community-minded coffee shop owner
Afshan Ahmed runs an independent, family friendly, ‘foodie’ coffee shop and larder based in Chingford that specialises in fresh, innovative foods, homemade cakes and locally-sourced gifts and food products.
I asked what the drive was to start up her business, Oh My Coffee; Afshan said: “I had an idea to create a place that was family friendly, where children could develop their social skills in an environment that felt welcoming.
“When I started up, I found lots of information online, and through asking lots of questions. I felt the bank and tax offices were helpful. I am a great believer in planning, planning, planning.
“It’s not been without its challenges though – building our fantastic team of staff has taken time.”
The businesswoman and mum says that her biggest achievements have been growing the business every year and not staying static. The coffee shop has won awards for good service and prides itself on its sense of community, which includes offering book and craft clubs. The recent opportunity to expand into next-door premises was a calculated risk which has proved to be a turning point for the future of the business.
“In 12 months’ time, I would love to see all our plans coming into fruition. We are working to increase our own range in the larder, which stocks lots of great locally-produced products, and bring added interest to the high street. Watch this space!”
Afshan is passionate about having a vibrant high street with diverse shopping opportunities. She says: “We do not consider rivals or competition, we see other shops as adding something different to the high street which is in turn great for us, almost like partners. A diverse shopping area is great for all local businesses.”
What advice would she give to those thinking of starting a business? “My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to see every hurdle as an opportunity, and keep positive.
“The most satisfying part of running my own business is I love what I do. Every day is different, from business planning to making handmade chocolates. I love the flexibility it gives me. I am a great believer in ‘you reap what you sow’.”
To find out more about Oh My Coffee:
Do you know a great small business in Waltham Forest with a story to tell?
Waltham Forest Women in Business