After sitting at a desk for 10 years, Amanda Lawrence has found running her cafe2U business hard work but incredibly rewarding
Despite the challenges faced during the last year, Cafe2U franchisees have come through it stronger. Amanda Lawrence, owner of Cafe2U Braintree since November 2020, previously worked as a bank manager and has two boys, and a husband, Steve, who was also a bank manager.
When Amanda wanted a change of pace and more time with her family she considered opening a coffee shop; so, when she accepted voluntary redundancy from NatWest Bank in 2020, she had her heart set on a high street coffee shop. However, when she and her husband, Steve, considered the level of competition and the risk of dropping footfall, they decided it was better to go mobile as it has fewer overheads. She also liked the idea of working on her own with no staff to manage and, theoretically, less stress!
Being a bank manager meant that she was fully aware that going into business with an established, franchised, brand was far more secure than trying to ‘go it alone’ and her research brought her to Cafe2U.
In November 2020 Amanda invested in the Cafe2U mobile coffee van and café franchise, serving the Braintree area. As this was a franchise resale it already had an eight-year-old diesel van equipped with a diesel generator to drive the café equipment, but in September 2021 the couple invested in a new all-electric van.
“Cafe2U’s franchise development manager, Mustafa, has been incredibly supportive and has even re-built the coffee round to suit me,” explains Amanda. “He has kept in touch with regular Zoom calls and has helped me liaise with the ‘Good Till Company’ (the company that supplies our tills), to ensure everything in my van is running smoothly. He has also been available to offer me advice whenever I’ve needed it and to help me figure out exactly what I want to get out of the business.”
Husband Steve left his bank career to join Amanda in the Cafe2U franchise in June 2021. He says: “We love it, and so do our customers. One battery drives the van and the other powers the coffee machine, refrigerator and freezer, heated oven and lights. There’s no noisy diesel generator and no fumes, and one overnight charge delivers more than enough power to get the van through our 45-mile round, delivering coffee and food to 25 to 30 local workplaces.”
The couple from Coggeshall has also found the electric van saves money as well as benefits the environment.
“It saves us about £350 a month in fuel costs compared to the old diesel van,” says Steve. “Even at current electricity prices, charging both batteries nightly costs about £180 a month. There’s also no road tax to pay, so that saves about £240 a year, and because the electric engine has no clutch, gearbox or exhaust, there’s a lot less to go wrong, so it saves us hundreds of pounds on repairs and replacements.”
The van livery highlights the fact that it’s all-electric, which customers like, and Steve adds: “The cost savings mean we have not had to put up our prices to cover the increase in fuel costs.”
After sitting at a desk for 10 years, Amanda has found running her cafe2U business hard work but incredibly rewarding. She loves the freedom of being self-employed and the support she receives from Karen (Cafe2U’s operations support manager) and Mustafa has been invaluable.
Laughing Amanda adds: “The main challenges for me are the aches and pains after a long day! But I know they’ll be worth it in the long run, and that helps keep me going.”