A Perthshire woman was inspired to start her own coffee roasting business after a trip to the other side of the world.
Cornelia MacWilliam said watching locals roasting coffee beans on a visit to Papua New Guinea inspired her to set up her own business back home.
She launched Alyth-based Little Birdie Coffee.
From having the idea to selling her first pack of coffee took Cornelia about two years, but now she has big plans for the business.
We found out more about Cornelia’s business journey so far, and her plans for the future of Birdie Coffee.
1. How and why did you start in business?
With a background in food production, starting a business has always been my dream.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to where there was access to a lot of amazing coffee beans which were perfect for roasting on the stovetop.
I was fascinated by the process. Coffee of that quality is not easily available in Scotland, so Little Birdie Coffee was born.
I source the best coffee from around the world and hand roast them in small batches, paying close attention to all aspects of the roasting process, highlighting the uniqueness of each bean, and thereby ensuring the highest quality and flavour.
I also have a range of fine loose-leaf teas and luxury hot chocolate flakes.
2. How did you get to where you are today?
From having the idea to start a coffee roasting business to selling my first pack of coffee took about two years.
In those months I set up the business, worked on my product range, branding, packaging, my website, social media and most importantly, I perfected the art of commercial coffee roasting.
In July 2022 I sold my first bag of coffee and I now have a range of eight freshly roasted coffees, a selection of eight fine loose-leaf teas and seven different flavours of luxury hot chocolate flakes.
My products are available through a range of local delis and farm shops and my website.
I am also a regular stall holder at the Forfar Farmers’ Market.
3. Who has helped you along the way?
Very early on I contacted both GrowBiz and Business Gateway for business advice and both these organisations have been essential in getting me set up.
They gave me advice on a wide range of issues from what type of company I should set up to VAT registration, and legislation for running a food production business and trading standards for food labelling.
I am also very fortunate to have a group of fantastic retail customers who promote my products in their stores.
4. What was your biggest mistake?
Not having the courage to start my business sooner.
5. What is your greatest achievement to date?
I am so proud of where Little Birdie Coffee has come in such a short time.
I always strive to give my customers the best quality products that I possibly can, and it always brings me great joy when a customer makes a repeat purchase – they have tried my product and they love it!
6. How has the cost-of-living crisis impacted your business?
The rise in energy costs and inflation has certainly had an impact on my business.
My input costs like electricity, packaging, raw products and delivery charges are continuously increasing. At the same time, I try to keep the prices to my customers constant.
7. What do you hope to achieve in the future?
My business is continuously growing and this year I hope to secure more retail outlets and expand my online sales.
At the moment I am in the planning phase of expanding my roastery’s capacity. Once I’ve increased my production capacity, I will need to think of getting extra help.
8. What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Time management and prioritising tasks. There are so many aspects of running a small business on your own.
With my business, apart from roasting and packaging my products, there are planning, bookkeeping, communication with customers, social media, deliveries and attending markets, to name a few.
I always prioritise production and fulfilling customer orders, but fitting all the other tasks in can sometimes be tricky.
9. Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Start. Do your planning and if your idea makes financial sense and you have the passion to make it work, do it.
Everything does not have to be absolutely perfect from day one, but nothing will happen unless you make a start.