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One year on...

Posted by Zarah Lawless on
One year on...
And what a rollercoaster it’s been!
I once read that nine out of ten new businesses fail within their first year, and although this turned out to be far from the truth (it’s more like three out of ten), this so-called “statistic” always haunted me… and yet, here we are, one year on, we made it! This feels like the perfect time to introduce our new blog, where we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest news and information, share our thoughts and ideas, and bring you along as we continue the exciting adventure of starting and growing a business!
For our very first blog post, we wanted to reflect on the past sixteen months. When you’re running a new business, it’s really easy to forget to take a minute, step back, and look at how far you’ve come. Long before Calendar existed, I was always curious about how people start businesses - especially how the hell they can afford to make it happen! I since learned the business speak for this was “financing” and one thing’s for sure, our money had to go far and work hard. Between us, we had some small savings. Dan was able to put money aside while working full-time in Cardiff before he moved to London, and I sold every last synthesiser and instrument I owned after being in a band for over ten years. During our last year in London, we scrimped, saved, and lived as frugally as possible, and by the time we left our jobs, we had signed a lease on a small space in Barna, just outside of Galway City, and we had €18,000 to make our dream a reality.
We moved to the west coast of Ireland in November 2017, armed with a business plan, a positive attitude and a hefty dose of naivety. In hindsight, it might have been sensible to sort out our financing before signing leases and knocking walls, but to quote my Dad: “Don’t wait for all your ducks to be in a row, because you’ll be waiting forever”. We moved in with my parents, and although it’s almost an hour’s drive to the roastery, it meant we were able to put every last penny into getting Calendar off the ground. With the help of our family, friends and countless YouTube tutorials (thanks Tommy’s Trade Secrets!), we did all the renovations ourselves: we demolished walls, raised ceilings, installed insulation, dismantled toilets, built tables and workbenches, plastered, cemented, painted… you name it, we found a way to do it!
It took us six months to transform a former computer repair shop into a roastery. During this time, we were still working on the financing and deciding between a 5kg or 12kg roaster. Since Dan already had experience working with a Probat, it didn’t make sense for us to consider any other roasting system. The plan was to lease the roaster from the bank and the 12kg roaster was an extra €300 per month in repayments. Thankfully, we went for the bigger size which would cost us €35,000 in monthly instalments over 3 years. This was one of the best decisions we made! It meant we could condense our weekly orders into a single roast day and focus on other aspects of the business, while leaving plenty of room to grow.
We also applied for a business loan of €25,000 through Microfinance Ireland. Neither the bank nor the loan company would lend us money without the guarantee of the other, so we were a bit stuck! Luckily, because we’re located in the Gaeltacht, we were eligible for funding from Udaras, a government agency that supports businesses in Irish speaking regions across Ireland. This turned out to be one of the most important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and once we had the backing of Udaras, the lease for our roaster and business loan were finally signed off! Hurray!
Fast forward to May 2018 and we're ready to rock! We launched the website on 7th May with four coffees in our range, and after a few technical glitches, orders began dripping through from our families and friends (thanks guys!). We set up the Instagram account a few months earlier and shared everything from our renovations to our inspirations. We hoped that someone, somewhere had followed our journey and would give us a go! It took us a little while to get to grips with Instagram and it’s been more time consuming than we ever would have thought. Although it can be challenging to plan new and engaging content all the time, we like to think of it as our shop front, and the extra effort has been totally worthwhile, as it’s helped connect us with coffee lovers all over the world! 
Our priority for year one was to establish a reputation for quality coffee. For us, this meant buying the freshest seasonal harvests, and never roasting coffee past its best. We maintain strict quality control standards, and never send coffee out the door that we can’t stand behind 100%. We quickly learned that no one wanted to be sold coffee, so we poured all our energy into making our business look attractive from the inside out, not only communicating what we do but more importantly why we do it. This year, we’re really proud of our Teamwork Seasonal Espresso, where we’re donating €1 per kilo sold to World Coffee Research, helping support farmers adapting to climate change. Our carbon neutral shipping initiative is also in full swing - we’re offsetting all shipping emissions through a reforestation project in County Clare. For us, it was important to implement these responsible practices as early as possible, so we could grow Calendar without compromising our values.
With one year under our belt, our growth has been slow but steady - there’s been quiet  months and busy ones too, but we’ve always been able to buy the coffee we’re passionate about and maintain a level of quality we’re really proud of. Thankfully, our overheads are relatively low, and we still live with the folks which has made a massive difference. We only pay ourselves one minimum wage between us, to try to keep things as lean as possible. For all our sacrifice, it’s been the toughest but most rewarding year for both of us. From leaky roofs to featuring in Caffeine magazine, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs! We’re so, so grateful for everyone’s support, and we can’t tell you how happy it makes us to see our coffee enjoyed around the world. So thank you to everyone who has ordered a bag from us over the past year and spread the love - you’ve helped make dreams come true, for real!
So, what can you expect from year two? Plenty more delicious coffee, a killer subscription service coming soon, and much more. Our mission is to get more people enjoying fresh, seasonal coffee in the most responsible way possible, and we’re only getting started!
Zarah x