When Arthur Kay’s business bio-bean was announced as the winner of the Grow category at this year’s Virgin Media Business VOOM competition, he wasn’t thinking about celebrating, but instead what he needed to get done at the office that afternoon.
“I actually had to go back to work and keep on running the business,” he admits. “I had to interview someone that afternoon and I had a few calls so it was all very operational.”
That’s not to say that he wasn’t pleased to have won. “It took a while to sink in. It was a huge shock and we were very proud of ourselves because there had been some really good companies throughout the process.”
Once the work was done, though, Kay says that he celebrated with the team before they really got down to business to work out what winning would mean for them.
“It’s been fantastic,” he says. “There’s been a lot of attention towards our newest product, these coffee logs. It’s been really fantastic for them particularly because they’ve had a really high profile throughout this whole campaign. We’ve had hundreds of people placing orders, stockist wanting to supply the product, and we’re getting fantastic feedback on the performance of the product as well. For the coffee logs in particular it’s been a major boost, which I think is really fantastic.”
But that’s not the only impact that they’ve seen on business since the competition. “Lots of coffee shops and even some big coffee companies have been getting in touch with regards to our coffee waste collection scheme as well - people wanting to sign up and provide all their coffee waste, which has been really great.”
This is particularly a boost for Kay’s business as bio-bean is fairly unique in that where most businesses buy at one end of their supply chain and sell at the other, he’s actually trying to sell a service, and then sell products as a result of that. And he’s got big ambitions.
“In the social enterprise sector when you look at impact versus scale, they are often seen as opposite ends of the spectrum,” he explains. “You can either have very scale small but very deep impact, almost like a social worker - they work very closely with a handful of people and make a huge difference to people's lives but they're not impacting thousands of people - and at the other end you have software packages where it's huge scale but very little impact, even if the thoughts behind the company are very good, the impact is very low.
“What we're looking to do now is find the middle ground between those two. One could recycle coffee grounds on a tiny local scale and work with a handful of little local coffee shops and turn it into artisan products or even compost it, but what we're doing is looking to find a solution that works as well when you're processing a million tonnes of waste coffee grounds as it is when you're processing 50,000 tonnes, which is what we do today.”