Talking to First Sukpaiboon, HER Coffee
A Life Well Lived
As part of our journey to re-define Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share their stories and ask “what is my life well lived?” Here, First Sukpaiboon, the founder of HER Coffee talks to us about her businesses and what living well means to her.
On Founding HER Coffee
With roughly 2.3 billion cups being sold every year, the humble coffee shop is set to outnumber pubs in the UK by 2030. But whilst the likes of Costa and Starbucks might dominate the highstreet, more and more of us are turning to artisan baristas and roasters ahead of these leading chains. “The coffee industry in the UK has changed significantly in the past ten years, which is thanks to the Australians & New Zealanders!” says First. “We now appreciate good quality coffee and choose these independent cafés. We are far more aware of how coffee beans are sourced, if they were roasted locally, if it’s ethical and so on, which has been incredible to witness, especially when it’s something us ‘coffee people’ have been working really hard to establish”.
HER Coffee (Haggerston Espresso Room) was founded by First in 2011. “Having my own coffee shop has always been my little fantasy, but it was something that would come and go since it’s so hard to leave a profession to follow a dream. I imagined my life would be simpler making coffee, but I also wanted to create a space for people to come and hang out, curate shows or exhibitions for local artists” which is no surprise given First originally trained as an architect.
But with all of this growth across the industry comes competition, and a lot of it. In 2016 First tackled this head on and launched a new product, HER Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. “Personally, I believe that being progressive is the only way we be able to create a better version of ourselves. Whatever that might be. For me, I wanted to make specialty coffee simple and accessible. To lead the 4th wave [the scientific] movement, to prove you don’t need fancy equipment or to be a coffee connoisseur to achieve a good cup of coffee.”
Outside of brewing coffee, the company works closely with its communities to make a positive and lasting impact. “HER is built on really strong core values. I want my work to better people’s lives, to make sure my team is happy as well as my suppliers. We try to make sure we’re progressing all the time, both in terms of service and product.”
On Work Life Balance
When it comes to achieving personal work/life balance, First says that it really is everything to her. “Balance is key. As a business owner, sometimes it’s hard to switch off. I even enjoy working on my holidays weirdly – perhaps just because I enjoy what I do so much. But on a daily basis, I’ll make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep, and still have enough time to practice yoga and eat well.”
As for success for HER Coffee, First says that’s easy. “I just want to better peoples lives” and success for First is “knowing I can make a positive impact; a contribution to my community. I get a huge amount of fulfilment when I am able to give, and I would like to be able to do that more.”
As an entrepreneur, retirement is not something that First has even considered. “But..” she says “in 30 years’ time I’d like to imagine my self as older, wiser, and being yogi somewhere tropical.”