We Are Here founded in Leyton in 2015 is a coffee brand on a mission to make ‘good coffee uncomplicated’. With its eye-catching minimalist branding and easy to understand serving notes We Are Here are keeping it simple by offering a capsule range of 3 x styles of coffee without any of the jargon. I sit down with the founder Em Herriot to find out the inspiration behind the brand, the highs, and lows of running your own business, Em’s favourite places to buy gifts and the worst present she ever received which was from her dad read on to find out more.
Gift Cartel: What inspired you to launch your own coffee brand?
Em: I thought that coffee needed a bit more of a light-hearted approach rather than one that makes your mates roll their eyes or descend into an abyss of boredom. The amount of info put on a coffee bag along with the pure quantity of choices is pretty overwhelming and (sometimes) a little misleading. If a coffee bag told me it tasted like Strawberry, Ice Cream, and Biscuits I'd buy it on that and then get home and probably brew it in a way that would taste like Weak, Sticks, and Cardboard. I thought that there must be a simplified approach to make sure we all have a tasty coffee without having to spend more than 2 seconds thinking about it.
Gift Cartel: When did you start We Are Here?
Em: Long story short, the company started out in 2015 as a coffee cart and after a small tragedy/theft in between was reborn as a roaster in February 2020.
GC: 5 years on since the launch of We Are Here and having dealt with a major setback with your coffee truck being stolen, what continues to motivate you, and has your drive changed for running your own business?
Em: There's something about doing something for yourself. That genuine deep down belly excitement over something silly (often packaging) that you just don't get anywhere else. When you catch that 'good feeling' about something and you can just run as much with it as you want is the reason I guess you break out on your own. Obviously, it's all on you too so there are the occasional days when you feel the weight of everything on you but then again that also gives you a kick up the bum to keep going as you don't have that sweet set salary coming in each month.
GC: What would you say is the best, most important thing you have learned since starting your own business?
Em: Nothing too interesting or groundbreaking here but, don't stop making changes or improvements. There's often a big build-up to a launch of a website and in reality, that's the start of the build. Figuring out what you thought might work or look good but actually doesn't, tweaking, testing, changing. Asking for opinions everywhere, listening, and actioning them. To never be afraid of bad feedback.
GC: What do you enjoy doing that you didn't think you would? Has anything surprised you? Have you discovered a hidden talent aptitude for something you didn't think you had?
Em: This is going to sound a bit odd...but packaging up all the orders. Really and genuinely makes me so weirdly happy. I get to write little messages/riddles/games to everyone to say thanks. Having complete strangers buy something you've created makes you feel like you've got it right I guess.
GC: Since relaunching We Are Here have you encountered any stumbling blocks? How did you overcome them and what did you learn?
Em: Postage costs and accounts have been our biggest and most boring block. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation in that you can't apply for business accounts until 1. you're running and 2. you send enough parcels, so you can't really get that organised before setting off and therefore lose a bit on margin. My advice would be to speak to the various companies so you know what their minimum is so that when you hit that number you can get cracking with a business account.
GC: What is your vision for your brand? Has it changed since you started, if so in what way?
Em: I want to make good coffee, uncomplicated. I'd love for more people to drink 'Specialty' coffee at home and not just in coffee shops. I've not included the country of origin, varietal, meters above sea level, or tasting notes - all of which are standard on most other coffee bags and could make the industry a little bit mad at me. However, there's a massive gap in knowledge which I think has been overlooked by lots and simply creating coffee for how people brew and drink their coffee could help fill it. If We Are Here is a stepping stone for those to learn more about what they like, I'd be pretty happy with that.
GC: Aside from launching your own business what has been your biggest achievement to date career-wise? What are you most proud of?
Em: Hmm apart from being Surrey's Under 12 Badminton Champion? To be honest I think I'm proud that I've not been scared to try anything new. In fact, I really like it (probably too much). I've had so many (failed) ideas over the years and they've all taught me something no matter how painful the failure may have been at the time.
GC: Great advice! Do you have any tips on how to deal with failures?
Em: Take time to process, learn, and start again. Maybe cry a little bit in between too.
GC: How important is it to you to have a structure and routine when running your own business? When are you most productive?
Em: I like to cross all the boring bits off my list on a Monday morning. Weekday mornings have roughly the same routine but come the afternoon I get on with all the creative bits and bobs. If I'm not feeling anything I stop and pick it up when it feels right, even if that's at midnight. I'm a big believer in working when suits you and not forcing hours in the day because you feel that's what you have to do. Mornings are the most productive - even though I hate waking up. Coffee helps :) Anything done after 3 pm is dangerous. But sometimes you have those amazing zones where you just plough and plough and don't realise the time.
GC: How would you describe your creative process?
Em: I often think of words, weird combinations that I pop into notes on my phone. Sometimes they're left for months with no purpose. Or I screenshot images, patterns, colours (for some reason I do this over saving them). Those words might become something later or I'll find something to match them. That's how the coffee bag names came about. THIS ONE, THAT ONE and THE OTHER ONE are ridiculous names for coffee but worked really well in developing coffee's that aren't meant to sell themselves.
GC: What part of the process do you enjoy the most and why? What do you enjoy the least and why?
Em: Creating is the most fun. When you have a small idea and another part comes along and you find a way for the two maybe three maybe 24 parts to work together.
GC: How do you deal with a creative block?
Em: Do something else. Do nothing. I don't fight it or feel weird about it. More often than not it comes back in full force the next day.
GC: How important is having a strict budget for your business? Is it necessary to have lots of money when starting out?
Em: Knowing your profits and losses is up there. You can quickly spend money you don't have coming in if you're not careful. Not factoring all of the bits and pieces might make you run at a loss without realising. I'd say it's easier to hit the ground running the smaller your costs or the bigger your financial cushion you have to make the first 6 months to a year a little less intense!
GC: What would be your top tip for anyone starting their own business?
Em: Figure out if your product/brand/company solves a problem. Do some numbers. Get friends to fill in questionnaires anonymously so that they can give honest opinions. There's a lot of competition and people are pretty loyal to their local coffee shops. Give them a clear reason to make the switch.
GC: How important is social media to your brand? Do you have any and what is your preferred one and why?
Em: It's up there! The minimal neon bags are pretty unusual for the coffee industry, really visual so Instagram and Facebook are important tools for me to introduce and intrigue customers. As I won't have a cafe to promote the product, for people to taste, smell, and see for themselves, there's a lot I have to make up for online with pictures and copy.
GC: What brands, designers, businesses do you admire and why?
Em: GoodHood - love that they mix big brands with little ones - a great consistent style. Patagonia, well y'know, planet love. And coffee wise, Supreme Coffee in NZ. They have a similar light-hearted mind towards the brown stuff.
GC: If you could collaborate with anyone who and why?
Em: Haeckels. The team there is truly dreamy. They turn everything on its head and really do crazy things to try and minimise the impact on the planet, seed bomb packaging, exfoliators in pills so you don't waste water putting it into the product, using local resources (seaweed and plants) for each shop only, etc. If our coffee could be used for something unusual with them that would be really neat.
GC: Who would be your dream store/cafe/restaurant to be stocked in and why?
Em: Rosslyn in London. Beautiful cafe always with the greatest selection of amazing coffee. It's a good sign if you make it in there.
GC: What’s next for We Are Here? Any sneak peeks you can share?
Em: Yes! Funny you should mention...after a lot of love for our Don't Be A Dick T-Shirts, we've made some Do Something Good - Socks. Embroidered locally and ready real soon.
GC: The Gift Cartel is all about good gifting so with that in mind let’s talk about gifts! What's the best gift you have ever received and why?
Em: To be honest, I'm pretty easy to buy for coffee, gin, books, and plants. Although my brother got me a Where's Wally puzzle for lockdown and that's up there.
GC: And the worst gift?
Em: A taser...from my Dad. Worried about my safety. I didn't use it for 2 years (obviously) I put it under my bed until I got him to take it back.
GC: Do you have any 'Go-To' shops for gift buying?
GC: Do you enjoy buying gifts for other people? What do you enjoy/hate about it?
Em: Definitely. Love it. The hardest part is not getting carried away spending and then realising I can eat spaghetti hoops for the rest of the month.
GC: Who in your life is the easiest person to buy for and who is the hardest?
Em: Easy - Cheesy but true. My partner Claire. We have similar tastes in some stuff so selfishly I like to see her get as excited about things as I do. Hardest: My Dad, poor guys been getting the same variation of gifts for at least 6 years.
GC: How important are gifts to you? (honestly)
Em: I love planning gifts for others, thinking about all the bits and parts. Trying to make sure it won't be a flop.
GC: If you could only have Christmas Presents or Birthday presents what would you choose? Why?
Em: Christmas - spread that attention around. More holidays. More booze and food.
GC: What's the best gift you have ever bought yourself?
Em: A fancy coffee machine, obvs :)
GC: Do you prefer surprise gifts or do you like to know what you are getting?
Em: definitely surprises but I personally can't keep them for others and always want to give them away early.
GC: If I was to give you a gift right now, anything at all, what would you want it to be? (it cant be world peace)
GC: Is it better to give or to receive?
Em: Give! You can't the gift receive attention.
GC: Finally how do you make the perfect cup of coffee?
Em: Hate the stuff MEGA LOLZ. In the morning I make myself an oat flat white then around 2 I'll make a black V60. I try not to have more than 2 cups a day or I just get silly. Top tips, ok. Grind your own coffee, get some digital scales for following recipes (I know this seems a bit much but honestly, do it), and used filtered water - Brita, etc. Those three things will make a big big difference to the flavour.
We Are Here Coffee is available direct from their website.
Not only do We Are Here make delicious coffee 10p from every bag purchased will be donated to the Missing People Charity. And to celebrate Pride month they are also launching a brand new sticker The Queer One so you can customers can customise their caffeine of choice. 10p of every purchase will be donated to Gendered Intelligence. #itsbettertogivethantoreceive