Fancy a mushroom with your coffee?

Espresso Mushroom Company is a fledgling business started my brother Robbie and I in January 2012 after discovering you could upcycle used coffee grounds by growing delicious oyster mushrooms with it.

As coffee drinking food lovers ourselves who care about the world we live in, we found this concept compelling and, as Robbie had just finished university and I’d just left a marketing role at a Fairtrade coffee company, we thought we’d have a stab at growing mushrooms for ourselves and see where it took us. After months of Trial and Error, we successfully grew (and ate) our first coffee fuelled oyster mushrooms!

This was very exciting for us and we set about trying to find a way to do this on a larger scale, to enable us to grow more mushrooms, upcycle more of Brighton’s coffee and divert it from landfill as well as creating high grade compost as a by product – since April 2012 we’ve been supplying a handful of top local restaurants. In summer 2012 I attended Brighton’s first Good For Nothing -working with HiSbe, Price Pie and Gig Buddies – all very inspirational initiatives. We were also really inspired by the energy of the Good For Nothing team, and the simple, no nonsense ‘do’ approach of everyone attending.

The small and semi professional team at Espresso Mushroom Company continued to beaver away (and do our weekend jobs to pay the bills!), launching our Pearl Oyster Kitchen Garden later that summer which proved to be a big hit as a Christmas Gift. We kept in touch with the Good For Nothing team, and after several rounds of coffee (of course) and a couple of beers at GFN socials, we were lucky to find ourselves the ‘subject’ of a Good For Nothing weekend – the #WinterWarmer.

Ahead of the weekend, we’d had some really helpful conversations with Mark who brought to life what GFN is all about, how it would work, and got us thinking about what we’d like to achieve from the weekend – our ‘brief’ was around; The gift of Mushrooms all year round, Word of Mouth, and Community. This process was invaluable and got us excited for the GFN winter warmer and also meant we were able to get the most out of the time.

Our first evening at GFN was a bit of a landmark for us – for the first time Robbie and I presented our project Espresso Mushroom Company to a bunch of passionate doers, thinkers, makers and tinkers from our community in Brighton. The other initiatives sharing our weekend with us The Bevy and Little Green Pig were pretty inspirational, so it was quite humbling for us to be part of the same event.

Our Good For Nothing team was ace, a really cool bunch of people who set to work and used their skills to make a big difference, we had a lot of fun along the way too. By the end of the weekend we had an excellent Mushroom Lovers Valentine’s Day campaign (and some terrible mushroom love poetry that Mark should be ashamed of- read more here!), some great banner images, a hitlist of online retailers to target (including Firebox who we now sell through), some PR plans, a whole new idea around mushroom compost and a bunch of new friends – including Lisle who helped us develop the Hot Pink packaging after the weekend!

These outputs themselves made a big difference for us – things we’d not have done ourselves – but the bigger impact, I think, was the sense confidence and momentum that came from being part of a Good For Nothing weekend. When working in a small enterprise, especially in early days, it’s easy to get immersed in the detail, elbow deep in coffee,not be able to take a step back, or know for sure that you’re on the right tracks. The moral support, sociability, encouragement and sense of positivity we felt from that weekend has helped Robbie and I to have the confidence and energy to push on and overcome the challenges that inevitably come up when two amateurs try to start an innovative business upcycling coffee into mushrooms!

We’d like to thank the whole Good ForNothing team for helping this to happen, and a special thanks to Mark and Zoe who’s energy, wisdom and encouragement were invaluable.

More warblings