I was in Newcastle a few weeks ago, visiting the likes of Hatch and Bunker, as well as catching up with some friends (such as Alison at BLK Coffee). Also on my list was Flat Caps Coffee, which I’d first visited over three years ago, immediately falling in love with it. My policy on the Coffee Spot is not to rank places or give them numerical ratings, but there’s no denying that Flat Caps is an all-time favourite, while I count its coffee as some of the best I’ve drunk (Flat Caps won the Coffee Spot’s Best Filter Coffee Award in 2013 and Best Espresso in 2015). However, I received a call from Joe Meagher, Flat Caps’ owner, who said he had a surprise for me, one that involved being somewhere (not the shop) at nine o’clock the following morning…
Those that know me will realise that 9 am rarely features in my vocabulary, much less in my consciousness. On the other hand, Joe’s as much a morning person as I am, so, reasoning it must be something special, I arranged for Joe to collect me at 8:40 the following day (a Monday morning!). This had better be good, Joe!
You can see what Joe’s surprise was after the gallery.
As I noted in my original write-up, Flat Caps isn’t the easiest Coffee Shop to find; in fact, it’s one of the hardest! In a basement beneath a shop, the only access is through the shop itself, which has some definite advantages: it’s very unlikely anyone’s accidentally wandered in, so pretty much everyone has come specifically to see Joe and drink his coffee. This gives Flat Caps a cosy atmosphere, almost like a secret club. The flipside is that it’s not easy to attract new customers, while being in someone else’s shop means that Flat Caps can only open when the shop’s open. This, in turn, limits Joe’s ability to host any extracurricular activities such as cuppings or training courses.
Unsurprisingly, Joe’s been considering expansion plans. He’s looked at putting in his own entrance, direct from the street, allowing Flat Caps to extend its opening hours. However, it’s not as simple as just installing a staircase: for example, without access to upstairs, Flat Caps would need its own toilet. By the time Joe costed it all up, he decided it might be cheaper to open a second shop, which brings me to Joe’s surprise…
Joe had his eye on a new property and took me to look over it with him (there are pictures in the gallery). It’s one of three potential spaces and while I think it’s his favoured location for the second Flat Caps, until pen’s been put to paper, nothing is certain. And, of course, pen can’t be put to paper until Joe has the funds to secure the tenancy. Which is where you, dear readers, come in. Joe is launching a Kickstarter to fund Flat Caps II.
A word about business funding. I confess that I’ve been sceptical in the past about Kickstarters, but I’ve also spoken to plenty of coffee shop (and other small business) owners about the difficulty of raising capital from traditional sources (ie the banks). Typically business loans start at an eye-watering 12% interest and that’s only if you can get one. With not much in the way of assets or security, most banks won’t even lend to small businesses. Joe, for example, started the original Flat Caps using his redundancy money (a surprisingly common source of funding!). Even “large” small business, such as London’s Beany Green and the Grind chain, found it easier to crowd-fund by issuing bonds (both of which I’ve invested in) than to get finance from the banks.
I’ve also backed a few coffee shop Kickstarters, albeit on a smaller scale than the bonds: the original Grindsmith Pod for example, and Monday’s Coffee Spot, Muni Coffee Co. When looking at Kickstarters, I rarely consider the rewards: rather, I decide if it’s something I want to back, then I work out how much I want to give. Only then do I look at what rewards are available. However, in the case of the Flat Caps’ Kickstarter, I urge you to take a look, particularly if you live in Newcastle or are a regular visitor. Joe is offering Flat Cap Pounds (my term, not his): for every £1 you pledge, you get £2 to spend on coffee in either the original or the new Flat Caps. The only caveat is that you have to spend your Flat Caps Pounds by the end of this year…
So, what are you waiting for? Get pledging… What was that? The link? Oh, yes, I suppose that would help… Here it is:
The good news is that not only was Joe successful in his Kickstarter, but he managed to fund not one, but two new coffee shops as a result: Flat Caps Carliol Square and Flat Caps Campus North. Neither of these is actually the spot that Joe initially had his eye on, but without the Kickstarter funding, it’s safe to say that neither would have happened!
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