Terrone Coffee Co. was established by Edy Piro (born in Salerno, southern Italy) in 2011. The former freelancer started sourcing and distributing his own coffee brand in his spare time and slowly turned it into a business that he loves. Edy named his company “Terrone”- which means”workers of the earth” in Italian, a heritage he is proud of. We met up with Edi to get some Italian inspiration and learn how he turned his passion into an independent business.
How did you get started on your business?
It was a hobby turned passion about 6 years ago after a long trip in America and today it takes all my time. My background is in web design, but currently, I dedicate all of my time to my coffee business. About 4 years ago it was still an evening job and then about two years ago, in 2015 I think, it kind of started to be more full-time.
How were you able to start your business?
Luckily for me, it didn’t require a huge investment and I had some savings from my previous job. It was a small amount of capital, which meant I had to make some sacrifices along the way. Just buying the basics, a couple of coffee machines and some equipment was probably in the range of 10 grand, so rather than buying a car I bought the equipment and started off at Netil Market with my savings. That was the whole investment really.
Later on, I was able to find a roasting partner, who was willing to get involved in my business without asking for a return at first. He wanted to learn and grow with me, so I invested time and he was able to help with financing. We had a mutual agreement based on trust that allowed me to get started. Eventually, we built what we do today, together.
This transition happened gradually. It was the first time I really had to give up something and it happened organically and consciously. I started putting more time into this and slowly getting out of the office. I worked for companies like BBC, Sky for a long time and I couldn’t really switch that off immediately. But then I started shorter freelance contracts that could give me more time into my business. Being a freelancer has given me the opportunity to dedicate more or less time to the business, so it’s been quite organic.
Why do you love what you do?
Just freedom of owning your own hours and your own time. Two years ago I had a daughter and I wanted to spend more time with her and that required flexibility. I had my own business back in Italy and I know the feeling of being your own boss. My story is not really the one in the office not enjoying his time and I never hated the office because I was always a freelancer.
I think there is a growing trend of making jobs more creative and more flexible, they like to be in a co-working space and do their own tax return rather than have a company doing it for you. So I think the timing for my change was perfect.
We are just moving into our first office as a business this week, just off Hackney Rd. Hopefully, from next week, we’re going to be there full time. The business is growing quickly so we needed a hub where we can have customers coming in to try the coffee.
How do you think independent businesses are important?
I definitely think they contribute to the whole creative side of food or new markets. They test new things on a smaller scale and when it turns into a success, the bigger businesses jump on the bandwagon. I think they help creativity somehow and they put the bar up because if you think about it all these big chains are based on what has been tested on a smaller scale, from the burgers even to more artistic/creative products. So yeah, supporting independent businesses is the best thing we can do and we see ourselves as part of such movement.
What do you think of the ELP? Why did you decide to work with us?
It reminds me of the Brixton pound, I used to use it when I had a cafe in Brixton market. I think it’s a little bit more flexible and its more mature than what the Brixton pound used to be. I think it’s good because that will keep the money in the local community and in the hands of local traders and Hackney is full of that, so it’s a very good ground to grow the app, definitely.
What’s unique about the East London community, do you draw inspiration from it?
I’ve been a West London resident since 2002 and I tried to start my business here back in 2011 and it was basically a no go, it was impossible for me to start my business. Literally, I packed everything up, I went to Netil market and once I was trading, people were very happy to have a coffee trader there, it was as simple as that. Hackney itself has got just a drive – the people, the customers, they just have a spark. In my case, it encourages me to just be more aware and switched on and open. In East London there’s re-innovation and it’s a lot more vibrant.
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