Pictured above: James Armitage – Founder and Director of Jericho Coffee Traders, a Business Investment Fund grant recipient
In March last year, OxLEP announced the launch of a new £2.3m capital investment fund set to play a key role in Oxfordshire’s COVID-19 recovery, by supporting Oxfordshire’s business community to move into an effective renewal phase.
Since then, the Business Investment Fund has awarded grants to a total of 38 businesses from across the county through matched grants, ranging from £25,000 through to £100,000 per scalable business.
The scheme – administered by the OxLEP Business team – has been funded by the Government’s Getting Building Fund, which aims to accelerate economic recovery following the Coronavirus outbreak.
Founded and run by James and Lizzie Armitage, Jericho Coffee Traders are just one of the businesses to benefit from the grant funding, as a small (yet, growing) Oxford-based roastery passionate about producing the very best quality coffee, but not at a cost to the environment – and subsequently their social enterprising principles.
With a roastery based at Oxford Eco Centre on Osney Mead and a flagship espresso bar based on the Oxford High Street, the business also supplies coffee to organisations and cafes across the city.
Jericho Coffee Traders are utilising their allocated funding to raise productivity and capacity to supply roasted and packaged coffee. This has enabled James, Lizzie and the team to spend more time on the research and development of new coffee-related products and explore new relationships directly with farm owners at the various coffee origins.
With the aspirations of Jericho Coffee Traders not just aligning with profit generation or high levels of business growth – but in operating as sustainably as possible – the business truly goes above and beyond to improve its green credentials.
This has seen the utilisation of the allocated grant funding to support a lift in productivity, and create the new jobs required for the development of more sustainable operations and materials, including the creation of recyclable coffee pods and biodegradable sachets.
By supporting a lift in capacity, funding has drastically lowered the organisation’s carbon footprint per kilogram of coffee produced, following on from an investment in recyclable packaging produced by a carbon-neutral facility.
A business with an environmental and social conscience, Jericho Coffee Traders are constantly striving to ‘do more’, looking into partnership working to develop their offer – alongside local businesses and social enterprises with similarly conscientious ambitions.
Aside from their social and environmental conscience, funding has also supported the business to grow and create scope for expansion – not just through their e-commerce platform – but feeding long-term ambitions to one day distribute to Europe.
Whilst for many the pandemic proved challenging for business survival – let alone business success or growth – the past two years have seen Jericho Coffee Traders thrive. In September last year, the organisation made it into the top-three e-commerce Growers in the UK over the 12 months previous (Brightpearl’s annual Lightning 50 – sponsored by Trustpilot).
James Armitage – Founder and Director of Jericho Coffee Traders – said: “Jericho Coffee Traders started off from the back of a Vespa, so to see how far we’ve come already on this adventure is really exciting.
“For us, the pandemic was a real turning point for the business – initially it was obviously difficult – as we weren’t able to operate and all but two members of staff were furloughed. However, when we were able to re-open, we adjusted our operations accordingly and just saw our e-commerce sales soar. Winning an award was obviously a real highlight.
“Prior to the pandemic we had 10 staff, which has since increased to 18 members of the team, due to increased sales and extended capacity, which has been furthered by the funding we received through the Business Investment Fund.
“Having the funding in place to increase our levels of capacity and productivity has also given us the confidence to pay our employees more – further multiplying productivity, so it’s a real cycle!
“Aside from providing top quality coffee, our intention has always been to operate as sustainably and close to carbon-neutrally as possible, so the funding has also enabled an opportunity for us here.
“We’ve been working on numerous ways in which we can innovate in order to operate more cleanly, working with peer groups and low carbon organisations locally – like the Low Carbon Hub. We now utilise cycling couriers, carbon-neutral packaging and are working with a major tea company on a project to create compostable coffee pods.
“Looking to the future, we now have the conditions in-place to allow the business to thrive and to grow. Our potential capacity exceeds our current demand, which feels like a good position to be in. We’ve also been taking up opportunities to share our knowledge and are currently working on our in-house ‘coffee school’ to offer wholesale training and extend our offer.
“We found the grant application process simple enough. Having initially made contact with OxLEP Business after attending a seminar at the end of 2019 and attending a couple of sessions with one of the ‘network navigators’ in post at the time.
“OxLEP Business have also really supported us and set us on our way in our journey to become a B-Corp, as well as helping us build our networks and ideas through the Peer Networks programme.
“For anyone looking to apply for available grant funding in future, I would say get to know OxLEP Business as they will want to support you where they can, share what you are trying to achieve, make initial contact and then be ready for impact. It’s also useful to look at the wider support OxLEP Business offers, as for us this has gone hand-in-hand with the financial support we have secured.”