The Value of Specialty Coffee Training with Stacey and Akiine from our Account Management Team

The Value of Specialty Coffee Training with Stacey and Akiine from our Account Management Team

Climpson & Sons 10 mins Read

By Rebecca Wooden

I sat down on a Spring afternoon for a big old catch up with Account Management pro’s Stacey and Akiine of Climpson & Sons to find out a little more about the job of looking after our valuable wholesale accounts and chat about why specialty coffee training is oh so important. A varied job, their role involves being able to share our unending enthusiasm for coffee with hospitality owners, managers and employees at a wide range of venues across the country and educate our customers on just how to get the most out of our coffees. Here, they chat about their introductions and experiences within the specialty coffee industry, the value of training and career development and what it takes to set up a coffee business. Read on for their valuable insights.

Welcome! Stacey, let’s start off with how you got started in specialty coffee?

S: I started in coffee back in 2012 at Harris and Hoole. I started the barista training but it was super intense, and I actually stopped half way through. I worked as a team member for a few months and then went to my first LCF in 2013 and I realised how big coffee was, how amazing the industry is. I thought, I really like this and I want to do this properly. So I went back to the shop and I begged to do the training again. From there I worked my way up to coffee operations manager after a few years.

You said your first training was a bit intense, how could that have been approached differently?

S: Now I understand it, they were just extremely passionate specialty barista trainers. So it felt very intense. At that time my understanding of coffee was just something in a cup. I can appreciate the approach now, because I get it and I’m just as passionate as they were. That experience was something that moulded how I trained people going forward. Training has been core to all my roles in coffee and I always wanted to make sure that anyone I was training never felt intimidated like that - that they know it was important, but it was just coffee and if something goes wrong it’s not the end of the world. It wasn’t necessarily the trainers fault, it’s just that specialty was so new then, it was a totally new concept for so many of us.

A: I also feel like just a few years ago, a lot of baristas had this image of being not very approachable or friendly. I don’t think it’s like that anymore.

S: We were trying to make it more accessible and educate our customers. But sadly at that time it could feel pretentious, gatekeeper-y. So trying to break down those barriers has been something that I’ve always been very keen to do. Everyone should know about good coffee!

How do you think that has affected your approach now at Climpsons, in terms of making coffee more inclusive?

S: Our training is really accessible. It’s available to every wholesale customer that we have. Everyone can come on board and we’re constantly asking people to use the resources and the wealth of knowledge that we have here. Ultimately, if your team is trained well they’re hopefully going to stick around longer. The quality of your product will be better, which hopefully will be better for your sales. Good training can help your business in such a big way. It seems like a small thing, but it can make such a big difference. It’s hard to make decent coffee without that training.

Same question to you Akiine, how did you first get into specialty?

My first specialty experience was in Sweden. I worked in a small boutique in the Old Town and they had a coffee machine. The shop owner wanted all of us to be trained even though we probably only made one coffee a month. I just loved the milk steaming. I didn’t even drink coffee back then.

When I came to London my first specialty experience was with Climpson & Sons when I worked for a cafe that served it. We had a training session and I still have an old note somewhere in my room with the espresso recipe on it. My next experience was with Workshop, when I had a pop-up cafe. We had a great account manager called Stuart Ritson. Whenever I think about good account management, I think of him. He was someone we were always excited and happy to see.

I love that you mention the milk was your favourite bit, because your milk to this day is so good, the best!

A: In my first training at Climpsons we talked quite a lot about the espresso and in my head I was just thinking, when are we going to get to the milk. Obviously now I feel very happy with both sides, but in the beginning, the milk was the interesting part for me. After the training I started slowly trying the coffee. I wanted to be able to taste how good it was. I was living so close to Broadway Market at the time, so I’d come to Climpsons, try the coffee and stroll down the market.

S: I think milk is one of the things that really gets people inspired. It’s creative and it can be a real gateway for people to get into it. Plus, as a customer, you notice really good latte art, and instantly your brain goes, this is going to be good.

Let’s chat more about your job now. Tell us about your role? What does your work day look like?

S: I’m the National Account Manager, but I also manage the training and the tech team. In terms of the day-to-day the key word is variety. No two days are the same, and I love that. I love being able to go out and see the variety of accounts that we have and meet our customers. No account visit is the same.

Expect the unexpected?

S: You’ve got to be resilient in an account management role because you’re going to have every challenge thrown at you. Our whole mission this year is trying to make sure that all account management is really impactful, meaningful. That we’re supporting customers as best we can.

What sorts of problems can come up that you have to deal with?

S: We try to make sure that every account is supported and that we’re helping them grow and develop their businesses as well. It’s great for an account to be stable but what I always do is try and work out what’s the next step for them. Every account we have is a brand ambassador so having the right coffee going out every time is so important. We do that through training, equipment upgrades, or just being a helping hand for advice.

Same to you Akiine, what does your job look like?

A: I work as an Account Executive. Everyday is slightly similar, but also slightly different. It can be unpredictable. The biggest challenge would be an unhappy customer. You have to be quite sensitive to people. The best times are when things go really well, you have a good chat and you get to know people.

What’s the best part of your job?

S: For me it’s getting to know our customers. Everyone is unique and brings new experiences and challenges. No account is the same and we don’t want a carbon copy, no one wants that. It’s nice to be able to experience working with new businesses and to see how we can help them.

A: I think the same. My favourite parts are meeting people, and feeling like I’m helpful. I was thinking, it’s the perfect job for a people pleaser. I get to travel, even if it’s just in London. I go to places that I wouldn’t go to otherwise.

S: It’s nice to feel like you’ve left someone and know that you’ve made a difference. Obviously, it’s great to sell more coffee, but it’s more important that they’re happy and they see Climpson & Sons as a good brand.

Have you noticed the way that our accounts talk about coffee? Have you spotted people taking on the passion that you share with them?

A: After training, people get really excited about the coffee. They tell us about how they dialled in perfectly, poured their first latte art.

S: Training can be someone’s first step into coffee. And maybe it can scare them a little bit, but it can also ignite their passion. I know that’s something we try to do with every person that walks through the door, to leave them wanting to make more coffee.

Sadly a lot of people who come into the industry leave because they don’t think they can have a career in it. But there are so many things you can do in the coffee industry. If you’re a people person, you could be an account manager. If you’re into the science and physics of coffee, you could work at a roastery. There’s endless things you can do. If you’re passionate hospitality can be very fruitful.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own cafe or coffee shop?

S: Try and figure out what you are most passionate about in the industry, and how you want that to feature in your business. Consider a USP.  How will it be progressive? How can you keep moving forward? Ultimately, make your business a true reflection of you and why you love coffee. You have to love what you’re doing or there’s no point doing it.

A: My advice would be to make sure you have a lot of money. Save up. And be ready to work hard. Make sure it’s your number one dream, because you’ll be spending most of your days there. It will be your priority for the next few years so it’s got to be something you really want. You need to be dedicated, because it’s not easy. 

Are there any accounts you work with where you can see that passion driving them?

S: An account that does it really well and is a great representation of Climpson & Sons is Victor Victoria. They’re in Newmarket, Suffolk. They started out in the pandemic and it’s just gorgeous. They have a bespoke customised La Marzocco machine. It’s lovely. The owner is great, she really gets it, and the team gets it too. We’re going to go down there and do a cupping event with them really soon.

A: Another one of our customer’s that’s doing really well is Old Bank. They’ve made something great in a location where specialty coffee was needed. Their customers are all people who live nearby and just love it! The team wants to know everything about coffee. Any training we can offer, they do. They’re going to host their own cupping. They’re really passionate and their marketing is really good, they’ve got the instagram presence. They’re thinking about the extra things that make it special like events and how it all comes together.

S: Another great account is Pudding Stop. They’ve got 3 locations now and they’ve been a customer for a really long time. A really great example of an account outside of London that is really making it work. Obviously the incredible puddings and cakes are their main thing, but keeping coffee standards high is really important and crucial to their offering.

Have you noticed any change in what sort of coffees people are ordering? Are there any trends that you can see?

S: Asian coffees have been a new one for us. We had the first coffee from Thailand last year and the first Indian coffee this year too. They’ve flown out of the roastery. The Thai, Sirinya was so popular, stand-out and so different. We’ve had some really good feedback from accounts on those coffees. People love the Decaf as well. I do think our Decaf is incredible, it’s palatable across all different platforms and very easy to work with.

A: Even when we cup it people have no idea it’s the decaf!

S: It’s so important! Your Decaf customer is, in some ways, your most important customer because they’re coming in simply for the taste of that coffee and the atmosphere, not just for the caffeine hit. For a long time it was pushed to the side, but it shouldn’t be.

What have you learnt in your role so far?

A: I’ve learnt that you can combine your personality with an office job. I always thought in an office, you have to be a certain way, but that’s not true, you just have to find the right job for you.

S: I’ve learnt more about how a coffee roastery operates, seeing a little bit more of the inner workings, and how that works in terms of wholesale. I’ve also learnt about Espresso Martini’s - I didn’t know much about that before and it’s so fascinating! Not every roastery has that sort of offering, so it’s something really cool that we can offer to our customers.

A: The most fascinating thing I've found is learning about single origin coffees. When I first started at Climpson & Sons we tried a natural Myanmar that tasted just like strawberries. I remember having my first Kenyan coffee and thinking, this is amazing. It’s quite complex. They can be so different. It opens a flavour world, just like you would find with chocolate or wine.

It switches your palate on to everything doesn’t it!

And what a lovely, flavourful note to end our catch up.

Wholesale customers, get in touch with our Account Management team to organise your next training and ignite your team’s passion.

Interested in using Climpson & Sons for your business? Find out more here.

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