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Start-up stories: Oslar Coffee

Oslar Coffee logo featuring a central bag of coffee beans with a giraffe at either side.

Jason Oslar began Oslar Coffee 10 years ago. He incorporated his company with Duport in January 2012 and since then has gone through some changes but the brand is going stronger than ever.

Jason has always had a passion for coffee and enjoyed seeing the coffee making process in various cafés around the world. Moreover, he enjoyed the European café culture so rarely seen up until recently in the UK. Before embarking on Oslar Coffee Jason worked in IT for more than two decades, but his dream of working with coffee did became a reality and the business has moved from strength to strength.

Knowing of Jason’s wish to open a coffee shop his wife bought him a small ‘how to start a coffee shop’ book. Jason began working through the book building a business plan. The business plan started as a hobby to do at weekends but eventually, after a year or so, Jason decided the time was right and incorporated his business on the 4th of January 2012.

The detailed business plan took into account as much as is possible to plan for, including contracts and details of anything that could be organised in advance. With a pot of money behind him, Jason found a property to rent in the nearby town of Wokingham. After negotiations around rent, lease periods and break clauses, by May 2012 Oslar Coffee had its first premises. Renovations took a further 3 months so doors opened on the planned bank holiday weekend of 24th August 2012.

The unique selling point in the company was and still is its coffee. Jason found his suppliers while out for a coffee in Putney, London. To this day, 10 years later, Oslar Coffee still purchases all the coffee beans from the same company, now called Hartland Coffee Roasters, currently based in Wales.

Along with sourcing the perfect coffee, Jason worked systematically through the 300 or so items in his project plan. From finding accountants or purchasing coffee machines, to choosing a range of cakes, Jason diligently working through the points in his plan.

The importance of having the comprehensive business plan is very clear in this business. At all times Jason was able to pin down deadlines and know when next steps should be taken. Jason attributes this comprehensive planning to skills he developed in his previous IT work when he was working to project deadlines with very specific budgets.

Jason also wasn’t afraid to borrow ideas from elsewhere for help and inspiration. In particular, the Caffé Nero model with its grab and go sandwiches and Panini proved useful. Buying in pre-made food to sell rather than preparing on site freed up time and resources for Jason to concentrate on the other aspects of the business. Prioritising your time in your business is always important.

After almost eight years in the shop Jason Oslar and his wife decided to move to the south coast. He sold the Wokingham shop as a going concern but with the caveat that the new owner had to change the name. Oslar Coffee would begin a new adventure with a mobile airstream unit, Shirley, thus alleviating the expensive rent and rates which Jason had identified as a drain on the business.

Adapting and changing your business model, when things aren’t working or when you want a change in direction, are vital in lots of businesses. In our next blog featuring Oslar Coffee we will see how Jason effectively managed a change in business model.