Lockdown spurs Grace to launch new venture

LAUNCHING a new business can be daunting, even more so in the middle of a pandemic. But a Horsell family saw an opportunity to branch out into something new.

Kiwi & Scot serves artisan coffee, snacks and ice-creams every day on the canal in front of the WWF centre from a vintage van, which is also available to brighten up private events.

Woking Mayor Cllr Beryl Hunwicks enjoys a cup of coffee with Grace

“We specialise in creating bespoke boozy drink packages and artisan coffee. People can hire us either as a mobile bar serving alcohol, or an artisan coffee van,” said Grace Fraser, owner of the new business.

“We pride ourselves on being able to offer exceptional coffee, which is ethically grown on La Verona farm in Nicaragua and roasted just outside of Milan in Italy,” she said. “Our blend of coffee is perfectly sweet and indulgent, with the right balance of acidity.”

It got the mayoral seal of approval last week, when Cllr Beryl Hunwicks paid a visit.

“It felt really special that she made the effort to come down and see us, as a new business. She was very complimentary.”

The business is a new venture for Grace, 28, who had been head of marketing for a restaurant group in central London until the coronavirus pandemic saw her furloughed from the end of March.

“I was sitting around and it was driving me mad, as I’m not good at doing nothing. But it gave me plenty of time to think about new opportunities and what would work in this current climate.”

Having always wanted to work for herself, she researched some options and obtained the necessary licences. By the time she was made redundant in June, she had already brought the vintage van that would launch the Kiwi & Scot brand.

Grace Fraser with the Kiwi & Scot van, by the canal

The name and logo – a Kiwi bird with a tartan pattern – emphasise the family link, with Grace’s mum coming from New Zealand and her dad from Scotland.

“We decided to snap up our little van and completely refurbish it while we were all stuck at home,” she said.

Maintaining the family-run theme, since opening on 1 July, Grace has been assisted by one of her younger sisters, Astrid. “She’s just gone back to university, where she’s studying marketing. So this has been a real-life lesson, helping to learn how to market a new business, how to build a brand, that sort of stuff.”

Lockdown has been a tough time to get new ventures started, but Grace said the van’s launch seemed to come just at the right time.

“It was just as lockdown was loosening and people were going outside more. Because we’re an outdoors outlet and I’ve been very aware of things like maintaining social distancing measures, the feedback from customers has been good. People have said they feel safe sitting here and enjoying being next to the canal with a coffee.”

Living just a five-minute walk from where the vintage van is now based, she would often walk her dog Duke along the canal and – having seen similar ventures in Amsterdam and along the River Avon – became convinced it was an ideal pitch.

“I’ve been really happy with the response we’ve had,” she said. “People have said we’re a lovely addition to the canal, bringing the community together.”

For private functions, whether serving coffee, craft gin or Prosecco, Grace offers various packages and says her previous experience of designing cocktail and wine lists and working with bar tenders gives her the knowledge to make events a success.

The corporate responsibility side of a business hasn’t been ignored either. In June, Grace and Astrid visited three different doctor’s surgeries, staying for more than an hour at each and serving free coffees, cakes and biscuits.

“It was great for us to be able to practice and see how we worked together, but really great to give something back to the hard-working NHS.”

Environmental and ethical concerns are important too.

“It was very important that the coffee is ethically sourced, all our cups are compostable and that we use recyclable products. We’re based at a beautiful site by the canal, and we want it to stay that way.”

Recommended For You

About the Author: Editorial Team