Online chat led to cuppa success

A chance e-mail led Alison and Jonathan Aspden to shelve their emigration plans and open a community cafe and post office in Aberdeenshire.

The seasoned travellers, who spent three years traversing the globe, had already started the process to become Canadian residents when Jonathan’s sister e-mailed to say she’d found the perfect location for the coffee shop they’d dreamed of opening.

Not afraid of a challenge, the husband and wife duo, who have used advice from Business Gateway Aberdeen City & Shire, binned the paperwork and bought Udny’s Post Office; spending seven months turning the adjoining shop into The Coffee Apothecary.

Now, the husband and wife team, who have just hosted their first music evening, are about to celebrate a successful first year in business.

Ali, 33, said: “We’d always talked about what we’d do when we came home permanently and the idea for a cafe arose while we were in South America. We then went to Australia and rented a flat from an award winning cafe owner in Melbourne who we quizzed before heading back to Canada, finally returning home in 2013.

“Once we were back we decided to emigrate to Canada and had begun the paperwork when my sister-in-law e-mailed and put paid to those plans.

Ali and Johnathan

"The post office counter remained open during the whole renovation project, which involved stripping back the building to its bare bones and installing new electrics, pipework and insulation, with the cafe eventually opening last December.

“We didn’t have a clue how to start budgeting, taking on staff, setting up a limited company etc., so turned to Business Gateway. Working with an adviser and attending the workshops allowed us to take the time to think about what was important to us.

"Their contacts helped when applying for a bank loan, we received a Support for Aberdeenshire Business Grant to help with the cost of setting up our website and gained advice regarding other potential council funding whilst the market insight pack for our sector provided us with useful statistics.”

Debbie Moir, Business Gateway adviser, said: “Alison and Jonathan have managed to do what most of us can only dream of – shelve their careers, travel the world and open a business that they love.

"We are delighted that our guidance helped build their business acumen and confidence. The Coffee Apothecary has been a huge success, and as it continues to grow we will be on hand to offer additional support to Alison and Jonathan as and when they need it.”


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