Vantrepreneurs: James King, Whistle Coffee

This month’s Vantrepreneur, James King, has become a popular fixture at Brighton General Hospital, where he has been keeping grateful NHS staff and visitors fuelled with their daily caffeine fix. We spoke to him about how Covid has given his business, Whistle Coffee, a surprising boost and discussed his ambitious plans for expansion.

Tell us about yourself and your business?

Hello. I’m James, 28 years old and the man behind the wheel at Whistle Coffee. Literally.

What has been your experience of working through Covid?

Surprisingly it has been an incredible boost for my business.

I was only a few months into trading when the first lockdown hit. During that time, I took my little van around Sussex to supply free hot drinks and cakes to the hardworking NHS staff at various hospitals.

As a result, I was offered a pitch at Brighton General Hospital, where I have been since. Essential fuel for essential workers, I guess!

What are your biggest challenges?

English winters. Are they getting longer?

What do you find most rewarding?

People really appreciate Whistle being there at the hospital.

If it means people get five minutes to talk about their day while you make their coffee, or just that you’re their source of coffee in the first place.

What can you tell us about your van/how did you have to adapt it to suit your business needs?

The little Suzuki Carry was already set up as a coffee unit for the previous owner, but it was more their passion project than their main focus, so it hadn’t been looked after to the finest degree. It needed a fair amount of maintenance and all of the coffee equipment had to be replaced.

The van was originally only capable of running a coffee machine from mains power. But the whole point of a mobile unit is to have the ability to be well, mobile.

So, we converted it to a dual fuel machine which means it can now either run from a combination of gas/leisure battery, or just mains.

Plus, it desperately needed a fresh coat of paint and rebranding to Whistle Coffee.

What advice would you give to people considering launching a mobile business like yours?

One thing I learned during the past year is that mobile businesses have much more flexibility than that of a permanent site.

Take the leap!

Any plans to develop the business further?

I am currently working on a second unit which I aim to have up and running soon.

For more information head over to www.whistlecoffee.com or check out @whistle.coffee on Instagram.