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Henry Biggs / Shotsmiths in South London

When my dream of opening a coffee shop slowly started to become a reality, obviously the first port of call was going to be sourcing the very best coffee. If the coffee isn’t the best who’s going to keep coming back for more, right?

With a background in cheese toasties and from the looks of it, brand building, Shotsmiths owner Henry Biggs has put down roots on Beckenham Rd, South London. It's pretty special to see how many loyal regulars they've gained in a few short months, including their resident brand ambassador Bradley the bird. ⁠⁠
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We caught up with Henry to get a bit of background on opening up a new cafe and the challenges he's faced early on.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve had a life long dream to own a coffee shop/cafe. It’s just what I was meant to do in life. I soon realised that I had nowhere near enough money to open one. So 4 and half years ago I launched Meltsmiths, my grilled cheese sandwich business as a way to start my journey towards my dream. I started Meltsmiths with £1500 and worked my arse off to grow it in to an established London based Street food business. And after a lot of hard work at the start of 2020 I was tentatively ready to take the next steps in to brick and mortar and Shotsmiths was born.  

Why did you want to start a café?

I’m a coffee fanatic and as I mentioned above it’s just what I had to do (after talking about it for 10 years). I love good coffee and I love coffee shops. I had a vision and a goal and as soon as I was financially ready it was a no brainier. 

What was the start-up process like?

The process started with knowing exactly what the budget was and how much everything would cost to actually open a coffee shop. Then the search for the perfect shop started. I used to drive past what Shotsmiths is now all the time and it was sitting pretty much derelict for a while so I searched for it online. There was no to let sign so it took a while to find it. Once things were progressing I did a very detailed P&L to work out if it was going to make any money. Then Covid struck and made the risk even higher. We were meant to open in April but everything obviously got delayed and I contemplated not doing it. But I had good feeling about the location so just went for it and opened in November 2020. I haven’t looked back since.  

What are you famous for?

I think we are most famous for serving the very best coffee in the area. There’s nothing like us within a mile or so and it was apparent that we were just what the locals needed for a long time. We have the best customers, they are all so lovely and all so loyal. I’m so proud to be part of their daily routine.

How are you planning to grow/scale into the future?

We’ve only been open for 6 months and of course a second shop is on the cards and perhaps a third one day but we will just take it one day at a time.

What do you wish you’d known before you started?

At the moment I don’t think there’s much I wish I’d known. I transferred a lot of the skills I gained from Meltsmiths into Shotsmiths. It was 4 years of growth, adapting and learning about how businesses work and what doesn’t work. 
To be honest I don’t think I would change anything. I have the best team, the best customers and a shop that I’m so proud to call my own. 

Tell us about your relationship with Allpress.

When my dream of opening a coffee shop slowly started to become a reality obviously the first port of call was going to be sourcing the very best coffee. If the coffee isn’t the best who’s going to keep coming back for more, right?
I shopped around and tried about 5 or 6 different roasters in London. But there was something special about Allpress. From the first email, to the first meeting to the first cup of coffee I knew they were the ones for Shotsmiths. Not only was their coffee delicious and customer service amazing but they made me feel part of the family straight away. 
At the time I was new to the coffee shop world and they offered their experience and expertise throughout the whole process. We talked about shop set ups and work flow and it was great to have a second opinion. 
Shotsmiths opened with a bang and were so busy from the get go and Allpress were so accommodating in making sure we never ran out of beans, calling to make sure we were ok and making sure we were hitting our potential. 
Allpress offered me everything I wanted from a roaster and more.