Brookmill Roastery is an independent, small batch, speciality coffee roastery in South East London. We were so impressed by the coffee, design and customer service we got in touch with the owner and founder, Ian Underhill to ask him a few questions about his passion for coffee and his approach to marketing.
We can see you’re passionate about great coffee. How do you convey that in your marketing?
My obsession with coffee was certainly the first catalyst when I came up with the idea for Brookmill Roastery. Almost all coffee roasters follow the same route into the industry, namely becoming a barista first and developing technical knowledge of coffee within the setting of a coffee shop before moving into roasting. I skipped that step!
My initial forays into the technical world of speciality coffee were purely off the back of being a bit of a geek and wanting to explore what it was that made a good cup of speciality coffee so different to the homogeneous bitterness of commodity coffee. When I got to the stage of planning the business, any notion of marketing was always a consequence of my excitement about learning new and interesting things about coffee from the point of view of a coffee drinker rather than a barista. This led to a semi-conscious decision to keep the marketing quite informal and personal. I do not pretend to be a big team of seasoned, embittered coffee professionals – I’m just me; a coffee fan who has taught himself as much as possible about every aspect of coffee and is passionately chasing every scrap of knowledge, partly to produce the best product possible in the best way possible, but also because it’s really fun!
We think your customer service is great! Was that a conscious decision?
I began Brookmill Roastery late last year and joined an expanding ocean of small coffee roasteries. The choice of coffee roasters and the momentum of speciality coffee has grown exponentially in the last few years and as a result, finding a USP is more crucial than ever. There’s no shortage of superb roasters who’ll deliver great coffee to any door in the UK so I decided to focus on my local area and do it as well as possible: personally delivered, on the same day wherever possible. It’s gone down a storm and it’s really nice to get to meet and interact with my customers. Coffee lovers who’ve made a decision to support a relatively unknown, very small local startup. Without exception it’s been fantastic and given that the vast majority of my customers are ordering more than once suggests that they’re pretty happy too!
What else do you do to market yourself?
I’m good at roasting coffee and I love talking to like minded people and learning as much as I can about the coffee world, however salesmanship is not something that I’d rate myself very highly on! Marketing is a broad and nuanced topic and I do have a tendency to approach it with the grace and consistency of a toddler with a hammer. Social media has probably been the most effective tool at communicating directly with customers, both retail and wholesale, especially since Covid-19 put an end to regular face to face cuppings and networking opportunities. While the pandemic has been a horrible time for a lot of people, it’s definitely an interesting phase as far as small businesses are concerned. There is a rush to adapt and react to changes that are happening at breakneck speed, but the fact that nobody knows what next year will look like, suggests that this flurry of activity is set to continue. I certainly hope that from a marketing perspective we can return to a situation where real human interaction is the norm but also that it is valued more than ever: it’s just better than being stuck behind a screen.