From a small coffee shop in Wellingborough to building Northamptonshire's favourite independent coffee chain

Bewiched is celebrating ten years in business today

Saturday, 31st October 2020, 7:00 am
The Bewiched family outside the Rushden Lakes outlet

When Matt Fountain ploughed his redundancy payment into starting a little coffee shop in Wellingborough a decade ago, he could only dream of what his business empire has grown to today.

Bewiched opened its doors in Church Street ten years ago today. It has expanded to eleven sites across the county and into Cambridgeshire, with two more and a drive-thru planned for next year.

From February, the group will start roasting its own coffee from a former engine shed in Peterborough.

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The group will open a new druve-thru outlet at Moulton Park next year

But Matt, who runs the chain alongside wife Vicky and Richard Wragg, said the journey has sometimes been a difficult one.

"It looks like we have had and are having a smooth journey, but as with many of these things the reality has been very much different for me, Richard and Vicky having young families and balancing the needs of a multi-site business with over 90 team members and thousands of customers a week.

"The pressure at times can become intolerable, from a personal perspective at times I have felt like either an inadequate father, husband, leader or businessman, or just all of the above at once.

"I think anybody who runs their own business and equally anyone who has a job and a family can relate to trying to keep those plates spinning in the air. Sometimes even your best is just not quite good enough.

"The difference when it is your own business is you can simply never switch off in this connected world we now live in."

Matt says that the tricky times have tested his emotional resilience.

"A couple of examples I always use," he said, "One was responding to a complaint on Facebook a few years ago 7pm at night, when I had my one-year-old in one arm and my phone in the other and the net result was a very disengaged customer and a crying child.

"Another example I often refer to was getting up in the middle of the night as one of the kids was up, then checking my phone for the time and sitting on my home screen is a one star Google review for one of the stores (at 3am!)

"Or we have a blip day as a business where sales are just really poor, but with bills that need to be paid.

"Any one of these factors has and does have a real impact on your, mental health and confidence.

"My emotional resilience has certainly been tested in the ten years of running my own business but I would not swap it for going back into the corporate world.

"When it does go right there is a huge sense of achievement and pride, for me getting it ‘right’ is having fully engaged teams, all energised, producing great service and products.

"I know we have not always nailed it, particularly engaging and energising every team member., but the opportunity on that front to improve and grow as a business is where our ambition shines brightest.

"Who knows what the future holds, but we can promise our team and our customers that we will always strive to improve and can only thank them for all their support over the last ten years."

The group is planning to launch a franchise programme in the coming months to sit alongside its existing coffee shops including in Corby, Kettering, Rushden Lakes and Northampton.

“We closed all sites for 12 weeks from March 23, said Matt, "then started to reopen towards the end June on takeaway-only service.

"Our trading was down 35 per cent compared to the end of last year and we were witnessing erratic trading patterns as something like a rainy day could really have an affect on business."

Gradually, the business slowly moved to socially distanced indoor seating and trading, boosting sales slightly to 50 per cent compared to last year.

As business continues to pick-up for Bewiched Coffee, Matt reveals the exciting plans that are in the pipeline.

“We’ve got big plans. We’ve got no debt in the business and we’re equipped to navigate a rainy day so we’ve taken the decision to roll out a franchise agreement," he said.

“Unfortunately, we believe there’s set to be a plethora of redundancies in hospitality but what it will bring is high calibre people in the franchise market, and we are well positioned to support these people on their journey.”

Additionally, Bewiched will be launching its own roastery next year, and off the back of that will be looking to launch subscription service for the cafe and pub industry.

“We’re expanding into a converted railway shed in Peterborough." said Matt, "and very excited to bring another unique venue and new experiences to locals.”