Local estate agents Horton and Garton recently met with Anthony Duckworth, Owner of Dear Coco Street Coffee, to talk all things coffee, Strand on the Green and independent business.
Dear Coco is an independent, family-run street coffee business set along the River Thames at Strand on the Green. They serve speciality coffee, artisan bakes and a little sweet shop, all from a beautifully converted Piaggio Apé, which since opening have become the local and river walking street coffee destination for speciality coffee.
Having recently been named Global Top 5 Best Coffee Trucks by Barista Magazine, Dear Coco Street Coffee is getting industry recognition and inspiring others to follow their passion.
Since launching Dear Coco in May 2021, Anthony and his team have become embedded in the community, and have had nothing but positive reviews.
Dear Coco Street Coffee
Opposite 85 Strand on the Green, Chiswick W4 3NN
Hours: Wednesdays to Sundays, 8am – 3pm
ABOUT ANTHONY DUCKWORTH
Anthony Duckworth is the Founder and Owner of Dear Coco. He is also an International Marketing Director, a husband, and a father to three daughters. Before moving to London 6 years ago, and settling in Chiswick Anthony and his family lived in Australia.
The story of how Dear Coco began and the journey from inception to today is inspiring. It is a journey many West London locals have followed online with great interest.
Though Anthony Duckworth might now have originally planned to open a coffee van in W4, Dear Coco is now a Chiswick highlight.
HOW DEAR COCO STARTED
During the pandemic, alike many others, Anthony was in a pandemic-affected corporate role where the future of his role was uncertain, so to cope with this, he was looking for a purpose and creative outlook.
At this point, his retirement dream was to open a coffee van on an Australian beach, serve quality coffee to fellow surfers running in and out of the water, and balance that between surfing himself and living a happy retired life.
With this dream sitting on his mental shelf amid the pandemic, he decided that rather than waiting, he would chase this dream and bring it forward by 25+ years to give him that inspiration and purpose that he had been looking for.
In December 2020, he stood in the kitchen with his wife, Emma, and proposed that they empty their life savings to build his dream business, a business that Emma only learnt about at that moment because before this point Anthony had not shared his potential plans for their life.
Anthony mentioned that “there was no business plan, no statistics, no competitor analysis or even a napkin drawing of this dream, it was just in his mind, which he could see so clearly.”
Without a shadow of uncertainty, having seen the passion and belief in his eyes, Emma threw her full support behind him, resulting in them investing everything they had to create Anthony’s dream, despite it being amid the pandemic during uncertain and unprecedented times.
5 months later Dear Coco opened, a quarter of a century earlier than anticipated.
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME DEAR COCO
Dear Coco was built as a love letter to their six-year-old daughter, Coco. Her two older sisters were old enough to help with the business. However, given the age gap, they thought Coco could be left behind, so to balance it out, Coco got naming rights to the business.
Since opening, Anthony’s older daughters have worked as Assistant Baristas on some weekends alongside the help of Anthony and Anna, Dear Coco’s Barista. Meanwhile, Coco has also been helping out when she can by placing the stickers on the cups and handing them out when needed.
WHY STRAND ON THE GREEN
As a Chiswick local, Anthony walked along the Strand on the Green stretch of the River Thames, admiring the views and the area. However, it was only during the pandemic that Anthony sat on the wall of the footpath where Dear Coco is now placed and visualised it as a coffee spot.
Strand on the Green is a beautiful part of the River located near Kew Bridge, with a respectful and positive community, in which people are in a relaxed, calm manner enjoying what Chiswick and the River have to offer.
While visualising this spot, he noticed that when it came to a cafe perspective, there were no cafes along that stretch of the river therefore a coffee street business would add to the experience.
With this realisation, he calculated the numbers and thought, with such high footfall, a beautiful view and a positive community, that it be the ideal location to offer speciality coffee to passers-by, and add to their river experience.
Having decided on the location, he wondered if in reality it would work as the perfect pitch for the business. There were technical areas which had to be considered.
Width of the footpath
In order for Dear Coco to be located along the footpath, the footpath itself needs to be wide enough so that no one is blocked when there is a coffee queue. The requirements for this are 1.8 metres of unobstructed clearance.
Thankfully, Strand on the Green had a wide footpath and was not opposite any houses, but rather a pub called The Steam Packet, so Anthony did not feel like he would be disturbing anyone.
Street trading license
Street trading licenses are different across boroughs.
In Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond, there are dedicated pitches, which have already been established, from which you can trade. This means that you cannot apply for a new site and have to wait until one of those pitches becomes available to apply for a license.
Fortunately, in Hounslow, you can find a spot and apply to be a street trader in your chosen pitch. Which was perfect for Dear Coco as the spot Anthony had chosen opposite The Steam Packet was in the London Borough of Hounslow.
PLANNING PERMISSION AND LICENSE PROCESS
When Anthony opened conversations with the council, he had already invested money into the business and imported a Piaggio Apé from Italy, which he later transformed into the beautifully designed mobile coffee van you see today.
These conversations led to an uncertain period in which Anthony was waiting to hear from the council regarding planning permission, which took 8 – 9 weeks, and a street trading license, an additional 5 – 6 weeks.
He feared that he had created a business that would potentially have to be moved to a new area outside the Hounslow borough and further away from his home.
Thankfully, Anthony’s luck played out, and the Hounslow council were prepared to give planning permission and licenses.
He admitted the flaw in his approach was that he had “led with his heart and had invested all the money required in the business before having these council conversations”, and “did it the wrong way round, but had the belief in himself that he could get it done and a lot of good karma that had played its part”
His advice to others who might be embarking on a similar new business is to “write a business plan, speak to the council and get everything laid out before investing your money”.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE SUPPLIER FOR DEAR COCO
Partners are crucial to the success of Dear Coco, and as a coffee street business, the coffee supplier was the priority and essential to get right from the beginning.
With this in mind, Anthony thought about where his go-to coffee spot in Chiswick was, which at the time, was The Good Boy coffee shop, which has unfortunately closed down now, but served The Roasting Party coffee.
Prior to visiting The Good Boy, he had not heard of The Roasting Party, so to understand more about their business, the production process and the philosophy behind their business, he called their office number, where an Australian man named Kirby answered.
At first, Kirby mentioned that The Roasting Party did not usually work with coffee vans due to the belief that coffee vans do not typically remain open for a long period of time and the quality of the coffee can often be up and down, therefore preferred to support brick and mortar cafes. Despite this, Anthony and Kirby spoke at length, where they aligned on the Dear Coco vision and could detect each other’s passion for serving customers high-quality coffee.
It turned out that Kirby knew some of Anthony’s friends in the coffee industry, including Ben, who works for La Marzocco, the company they bought their La Marzocco Linea Mini from for use in the van.
Anthony mentioned that he loved that the relationship with The Roasting Party was made organically, before discovering they could have been introduced through Ben.
Since partnering, he mentioned that customers have said that it is “some of the finest coffee they have tasted”, which fills Anthony with absolute joy.
Treats and goodies supplier
When originally outlining the business and pitching to the local authorities for the license, Anthony mentioned that Dear Coco could be an expansion of Emma’s business, Emma Duckworth Bakes and she could provide his customers with the opportunity to purchase her baked goods.
Emma is a published cookbook author, recipe developer, and food photographer. Producing these bakes for Dear Coco would be the first time the public could taste and purchase her baked goods.
For the first month, amongst maintaining her family and other professional commitments, Emma was waking up at 3 am to bake 40 of her baked goods before opening. These became incredibly popular and when the 40 baked goods were gone, they were gone for that day.
With the popularity of baked goods increasing, and the early hours becoming too much, this quickly became unsustainable, and they looked for alternative bakeries, including Galeta Wholesale Bakery and Mahali & Co to provide freshly baked goods. Once in a while, Emma will now do a feature bake, which are always incredibly popular with customers.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Since launching, Dear Coco has grown its following rapidly and now has a large social following on Instagram.
Anthony mentioned that he wants to share the Dear Coco journey with his audience, and be transparent with them throughout, whether that is through sharing stories about his successes, exciting news, challenges, or any tips he has for current or future business owners.
By having this approach, he has found that people have really engaged with the Dear Coco journey, and have been able to relate with him, which is clear when you read the comments, many of which have mentioned how he has inspired them to pursue their own passions and start their street coffee business not just in the UK, but around the world.
We asked Anthony how he felt when reading these comments and seeing the impact he is having on their lives and said that
It is an unexpected privilege that people from all over the world would use them as potentially their inspiration to find that time to take a busy life and potentially make it busier to go and chase their dream. That has been the most incredible and most unexpected thing.
Financial report for Dear Coco
In December 2022, Anthony decided to share an intimate insight into Dear Coco and publish their business performance last year. The decision was made, due to Anthony recognising that “it is hard to google how to run a successful street coffee business, as street coffee is a unique business model, with unique financial considerations” and that he had two years’ worth of intel in which potential small business owners could benefit from reading.
He questioned why small businesses don’t have the same trends as large corporations, who publish their annual reports and accounts to the market for each financial year and compared this with his approach at Dear Coco.
As a result, he shared a full lookout of Dear Coco’s financials, including their revenue, net profit, costs, how much they pay on payroll, and how much he takes as net profit, creating essentially a blueprint as to what can be done by a street coffee business owner.
He mentioned that even if the results weren’t as successful, he would still have shared it, as his approach to business and life is to be transparent and open.
What happened next, he said, was “unexpected,” and “the impact it has on the global coffee community was outstanding”.
Having shared these reports, he received an incredible number of messages, comments and thanks, not just from those in the UK but from around the world, who had read his report and been inspired. Many of these comments revolved around the report being the tipping point for people to follow their passion and essentially validate the decision they had been thinking about for a while to start a business.
HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT
When discussing with Anthony what are the tactics and decisions he made to lighten his footprint in W4, he mentioned the following.
When deciding who to partner with as their coffee supplier, Anthony had certain expectations.
These details included how they treat their supply chain, what relationships they have with their employees, sustainable tactics they bring into their business, by way of what packaging they use, what’s happening with the waste products when coffee is roasted, what vehicles are used for transportation and what packaging is used to store the beans.
At the van
Done at the local level, Anthony and his team have tactics to lighten their footprint in Strand on the Green.
These tactics include:
- In a week, they might serve 1,200 cups of coffee, so to help limit wastage, they do not place the coffee lids on the counter. Instead, customers need to ask them for one to avoid people taking them when they don’t need one.
- Anthony orders supplies that have a long-standing shelf life in bulk, such as milk, a shelf life of one week, and coffee beans, a shelf life of 5 – 6 weeks, to avoid putting multiple vehicles on the roads for delivery.
- Anthony also orders exactly the amount they need per day as they would rather sell out than have any left over for waste.
- The team pour their run off water on the plants along the River path.
- The team give their used coffee grounds to a local lady who puts them in her compost.
- They are also noticing more people in the community are bringing their own reusable cups, which they encourage, further contributing to lightening their footprint.
PAY IT FORWARD
While paying it forward is not a new concept, in the middle of the pandemic, one of Anthony’s daughters had a school project in which they were asked to do a random act of kindness. To assist with her project, Anthony took his daughter to a local cafe, bought their coffee and pre-paid for six coffees for the following people to drink and enjoy.
What he did not expect to find the next day, was the barista saying that despite having pre-paid for the coffee, no one wanted to take a free coffee. Instead, everyone kept paying forward, resulting in an astonishing six pre-paid coffees lasting all day.
He said that it was a pleasure as “everyone felt the joy of having the coffee bought for them, and the joy of buying a coffee for someone else”.
With this in mind, when he opened Dear Coco, he wanted to be a spokesperson for that style of an initiative offering locals the opportunity to pay forward, where the team give it to someone who they feel might need it and they either pay for another one or take it with their thanks.
Since the launch of the scheme, Anthony has witnessed the pure kindness, and thoughtfulness of the community, and found them to have really engaged with the scheme.
In fact, the morning of our chat, he said that a regular Dear Coco customer came to the van before they had even opened and wanted to pre-pay for six coffees. He said “they started off the day before they had even opened with a kind gesture. It was so heartwarming.”
WHAT ANTHONY LOVES ABOUT LIVING AND WORKING IN CHISWICK
As a Chiswick local himself, we asked Anthony what are the benefits of the living in Chiswick, and what makes it so special.
His response was:
Chiswick has a village feel at a scale where people seem to have each other’s back and watch out for each other. It feels as though we are all in it for the same reason, which is to enjoy this beautiful part of London that we live in and maintain that idyllic, relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere.
He mentioned that since launching Dear Coco he has witnessed the very best in people.
One example he mentioned was that “if people over hear that someone is new to the area, they will ask what street do they live on, I know such and such or let me add you to a WhatsApp group so you can know what’s going on and feel part of that community or even invite them to a street party.”
He explained how people in the queue are affable, chatty and want to talk to a stranger, and that if you put those same people in a London Underground carriage they would completely different. “It all just happens at the van. It is like a little magic forcefield has formed in the community. And then they get on with their day, but for those five or ten minutes, they have a real community spirit and warm experience with each other. It brings out the best in human nature and is incredible to watch.”
CHALLENGING CONDITIONS AT DEAR COCO
When explaining the difficulties and strengths it requires for him and his team to trade during these conditions, he said, “imagine a hairstylist trying to cut hair in the wind or an artist sculpting on ice,” it is not an easy task, and it “takes a special person with mental and physical strength to stand out there for 8 hours and give people an incredible experience, with a beautiful end product while you’re uncomfortable.”
Despite the weather often bringing challenges, rain, snow or shine, Dear Coco trades five days a week, showing the community consistency and commitment. Anthony knows that if there is a question as to whether or not they are open, customers will go elsewhere, so it is important to maintain consistency.
He said that he is “so proud of the team because they are the ones that say they want to do that as it makes them feel good and enriched, even though it’s uncomfortable. It’s not for everyone, we go year-round, we never close, and we just learn to deal with it.”
He has found that even when it’s a cold winter day, Anthony and his team have experienced individuals offering the baristas a hot water bottle, or bring them hot soup, or even let them know where they live so that if it becomes too uncomfortable they are welcome to pop in.
Anthony has an international role, working for a large global corporation, leading teams all over the world, resulting in his diary having a lot of evening and morning calls outside of business hours. Based on these hours, he asked to change to a compressed four-day working week, meaning he could have Friday and the weekend initially, to open Dear Coco. It was a quick ‘yes’ answer and supported him in his venture to start Dear Coco.
He mentioned how grateful he is to work for a company that supports their employers having ‘side hustles’, a term his American company use for his business, “a lot of friends who want to run a business at the side have to do it in secret as their employer does not want their time to be taken away from the job”.
In fact, they use him as an internal case study to show others what their employers are doing with their passion.
When we asked how he copes with balancing it all, he said that his “dad passed on a natural work ethic, so the adjustment of having a corporate job and small business came a lot more naturally.”
He can compartmentalise both of his jobs so that one job does not impact the other. He said he never wants to compromise the quality or output that he does on the corporate side as that is the fastest way to lose the blessing of his small business and sustain Dear Coco.
Despite the balancing act coming naturally, he mentioned that it does take away time from other things, a main area being free time. However, he said that “when he is doing so many things that he loves, it’s easy to find that motivation.”
ADVICE FOR THOSE STARTING A BUSINESS SIMILAR TO DEAR COCO
“Be brave and back yourself. What drove it forward was an absolute belief and a moment of courage that made me feel like I can move any mountain to get it done. Obviously, it needs to be grounded in reality but belief and courage go a long way. So if you afford to give it go, give it go, because it might be the most special thing you have done in your life, or the biggest regret if you never give it a go, and it might just work. For me I am very lucky it has worked and I have got a sustainable thriving business that has made me extremely happy doesn’t work for everybody but if you are not brave and courageous right at the start and grounded in reality then you will never know. And do your homework before you start investing money!”
THINKING OF LIVING IN STRAND ON THE GREEN?
Alongside having a go-to coffee destination spot, Strand on the Green has stunning homes ranging from purpose-built flats to semi-detached terrace houses and Victorian family homes, charming local pubs and a beautiful riverside setting, making it an ideal location to call home.
To talk more about your plans to let, rent, sell or buy in West London, please do get in touch, without obligation.