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Truths behind running a small business.

Daniela sent me a post she had read that hit home with her, and when I read it, I completely agreed. So, I wanted to share it with you all. I know that amongst those of you reading this there are other small business owners who may also agree, but perhaps the post may also offer a little insight to those who don’t own a business but use some small businesses.

The post is by Gillian Fautley of Courts of Rayleigh, a beautiful florist in Essex.

“The unfortunate truth of owning and running a business.

Running a business is really hard.

What they don’t tell you is that it can cause severe stress and anxiety and drains you mentally to the point of depression in even the most laid-back people.

People will talk about you, compare you to others, use you, they will view you as a service and not a person anymore.

Friends and family will expect discounts and people will value you and your hard work less than a big chain store or company.

You have to worry about if you forget to email/message someone back, are they going to think it was on purpose? Did you disappoint them? Will they hold that against you? When in reality you just can’t get to everyone’s messages and emails.

Starting up or taking over and running a successful business puts incredible strain on personal lives and relationships, many of which fail because there is just often no work-life balance.

You need to be the director, the worker, the admin, the marketing team, the accountant, the cleaner..... All whilst being a parent, a husband or a wife, grandparent, family support, friend...

There’s a reason you don’t see many people succeed in small businesses after 5-10 years.  If they are successful, they are overwhelmed. 

It takes a toll. It’s freaking exhausting. Especially the past couple of years when so much has been out of our control.

Here’s a small reminder that we are just normal people with hectic lives.

Please support small and local businesses’ cos we do it because we actually love it despite the stress etc, it can also be very rewarding at times ❤️”

What is important to note is the last part, we love it, and yes, it can be very rewarding. Daniela and I love the hardwork and when we get all the orders out or manage to serve all the customers and everyone has their coffee and has left happy – then we are happy. And some days we can have a lot of fun along the way. But there are some days/weeks/months that are really testing.

There are a lot of factors affecting small businesses now, apart from the cost of living. We are all competing with the bigger companies, the supermarkets, Amazon! You seem to be able to buy everything with them nowadays, and yes, the smaller companies may have more speciality items, but the big shops will have something that is quite similar but at a cheaper price point. They may even have the same product! I was in a supermarket and saw an item that we sold at the time on sale at the cost price to us! I have had people in our shop looking up items on Amazon in front of me and going with them as they are cheaper. Again, the machines were being sold near enough the cost price to us. We don’t blame people for wanting to save money, but we can’t compete.

Many of these large companies have warehouses full of stock and a dedicated team working 24 hours a day to pick and pack orders. We don’t, we have a small team who do a 9–10-hour shift, in that time they process and pack your orders alongside serving the customers, and all the other jobs that need doing. The pace at which orders are placed and the delivery time expected has been set by these companies and we work very hard to keep up.

Another current issue affecting so many businesses is the inability to find staff. The staff we have are amazing, some have been with us for years, but we need more. But what we, and many other businesses we have spoken to, are finding is that there is a real struggle to find staff. So many businesses may be short staffed - adding further stress. Our "To Do" List stays "To Do", never done! 😊


People view you as a service. And yes, we are providing a service, but we are also human. Please consider that we, and others, may be under pressure and that we are trying our best. Be kind and speak to people as you would like to be spoken to. For the most part we are blessed with kind people. But there are sometimes those that are just not feeling the love, shall we say.

There is a whole list of issues and complexities at play that may not be clear to the customer. We have always been fully transparent so if you wanted to speak to us about anything feel free to email us.

There are many facades to running a business, it can be filled with many highs and many lows. Many laughs and many tears. You can make many friends, and many enemies. It can be all consuming and very rewarding. On the plus side, we get free coffee to keep us going! (And may be some of the chocolates too…sssshhhh!)


When people ask, “what should I see in London”? There’s no need to list the big ones, British Museum, river trip on the Thames, Buckingham palace etc. etc. Of course, but, the real gems are – The Sir John Soane museum, The Dulwich Picture Gallery (a bit of a shlep but so well worth it) And a trip to the Algerian Coffee Store, the staff are almost as good as the stock…. and the stock is always fantastic.

My father shopped at your store and used to take me in as a whippersnapper. The aroma of your store is incomparable and takes me back (gulp) fifty years. There was a period when I forgot just how good the store was and working in Covent Garden I got seduced by Monmouth but i am back now and loving the coffee. As others have said your store represents a time in Soho that is all too rapidly disappearing. Long may you run.

My very first job in Soho was at number 42 Dean Street, right round the corner from your wonderful shop. That was nearly 20 years ago now and I’ve been buying my coffee from you ever since, either in person or recently mostly online. I will continue to buy my coffee from you until one of us conks it! THANK YOU for keeping some soul in Soho!

Your blog this month struck a chord with me too.

I run a tiny firm with no employees! I am a piano tuner and for 33 years, amongst my customers was Phantom of the Opera. Sadly since the lockdown due to health and Anno Domini I have retired from working in London.

I can remember my father warning me, he said “The hardest Person to work for is yourself; you will work hours and demand standards of yourself that no employer would dare ask, you will get no holiday pay or sick pay, you will never get the sack and you stand or fall by your own efforts”

I’m sure that is also true of people that work from home, you don’t switch off.

One of the things I miss now is my weekly trip to your shop, the wonderful aroma, the friendly service, the sights and sounds of Soho. I am now an online customer but I still get my favourite coffee (Velluto Nero) and I appreciate so much that you are sill there working so hard for us all.

Thanks and best wishes,

Robert Wilson.

One of the greatest shops in London. (Sadly also one of the last of the ‘proper’ old Soho establishments.) For me, it’s been a total delight to walk through the door and inhale deeply over the past 35 years! A very special place, run by fine people. Bravo, merci, forza!

Wonderful shop – I first bought your coffee in 1980 and now wouldn’t think of going anywhere else…

Dear ACS,
Thank you for sharing Gillian Fautley’s comments. For 20 years I have been running my bookshop – the last ten with my wife Sarah. During that time we have had many ups and downs, but In general I have only rarely regretted my decision to start my own company. In the end it is always better if you make your own bad decisions, rather than have other people’s bad decisions imposed upon you, and it is truly the case that being able to set your own hours – even if you end up working far more than is healthy – is a great plus. When I began Aardvark Books I started to grow my hair as a sign of my independence. Now it has quite a lot of grey in it, but strangely it has become the thing people know me for. When you are small and independent you can make quick decisions and change direction easily. The list of large companies in the book trade who have disappeared or been reorganised over the last two decades is very long, yet somehow we are still trading. I know it is hard but when you sell good products as you do, at fair prices, you will always find customers. I hv tried other Lapsangs but your Osprey Lapsang remains the best, which is why I continue to order from you several times a year. Courage mes braves, I foresee many more years of the Algerian Coffee Store.

I love your coffee shop and although I am currently living in Canada, I always make a sure to visit your shop and buy beans to take home. Anyone I know living in London knows about your shop and anyone visiting is told to make visit you. I love everything about your shop and I’m so pleased that you renewed your blind the same way and didn’t changed the style. Can’t wait until next month to buy some beans.

I love your shop and like many others, having been visiting & buying for decades. I’m so impressed I can buy Cuban and Vietnamese beans so easily. Keep up the good work.

Been drinking your Algerian special for 50 years! As I haven’t lived in London for 40 of those, I mail order and freeze beans. They do freeze very well and I have become addicted to that blend. When I visit London I make a point of coming to your lovely, aromatic shop. And when my son, who works on Oxford St, asked what I wanted last Christmas, I just asked for anything (and everything!) from the Algerian coffee Store. Thanks for still being there!

I love your coffee, I keep an eye on my stock levels and as soon as I can see that I’m on the last bag I hurry to order more. I wish I could get it in person but mail order has to be the way for me. Maybe one day we shall have a day in London so I’ll make sure to visit.

I was feeling particularly stressed by work today (I run my own accountancy practice) and reading this blog and other people’s comments has made me feel less alone. I’m not just imagining it, working for yourself and trying to do right by everyone you come into contact with is really hard work!

I became a customer/fan of the Algerian Coffee Store in the 1990’s when I worked for Brebners up the road. I now make a point of visiting every time I am in London and it makes me happy every time I walk through the door. You’re such a fantastic enterprise – keep up the good work forever. And thank you.

Love your shop and am continually recommending both Coffee and Tea to friends in the Isle of Wight where I now live. Like so many others, the distance I now find myself from you makes me nostalgic for dropping in to buy coffee and chatting

I found Marisa’s blog really moving. You have kept me supplied with wonderful coffee for nearly forty years now. Initially it was via mail order when I lived in Northern Ireland, and I recall the pleasure of receiving your string-tied brown paper parcels. When I moved to London and was working in the West End, popping in to the quirky and entertaining store was always a thrill. And now retired, including yourselves in the itinerary of my visits to town continues to be a cheerful treat.

Algerian Coffee Stores is amongst the handful of small businesses I treasure. The commitment of the always friendly and charming staff, their enthusiasm for the coffee, and their clearly-evident hard work to make it all happen in that tiny space are as much what you are treating your customers to as the goods on the shelves. Many small businesses do stumble and fall over – but the fact that Algerian Coffee Store is still going strong after 136 years is something you should be very proud of. I know you weren’t there for all those years (!) but you have clung to the values of truly dedicated customer service and made them exceptional and distinctive in today’s often brutal trading conditions. Above all, you have kept it human-scale and anchored in love.

But keeping a business thriving relies on customer commitment as well as staff dedication and good business sense. Generally we don’t say “thank you” often enough, which means that we don’t remind ourselves often enough what we value, let alone encourage those who have done a fine job. The bottom line is if we don’t actively cherish what we value, it may not be there next time we look.

So message to self – stop buying supermarket tea and explore the range at 52 Old Compton Street. And the jam. And the chocolate …

I am such a dinosaur that I normally resent shopping online altogether, and believe that it is important to support ‘real’ humans with ‘real’ shops. But I am happy to make an exception of your business, which is not only efficient, with fine products, but is unquestionably run with charm and enthusiasm by ‘real’ humans who have a ‘real’ shop – I just wish I could visit it and smell the coffee while buying! But it wouldn’t help your sanity to open a branch in the wilds of Wales.

A point made by florist Gillian Fautley in her blog struck a cord with me. As a general piece of advice, if a friend or relative starts a business, you show your friendship by patronising their business and expecting to pay the full price. New businesses struggle in their initial months, and you are not a good friend if you expect freebies or huge discounts.

On another matter, I first started buying my coffee from you when I was a student at London University in the mid 1970s, and throughout my time living in London during the subsequent two decades. I then lived abroad for 20 years and was delighted to find, during a trip back, that you are still here. I am now back in the UK based in Liverpool so I continue to order my coffee from you online. And still as good as ever.

I’ve been a customer of, and vocal advocate for, Algerian Coffee Stores for eleven years now! And yes, once or twice (just out out of curiosity) have tried coffee that sounded interesting, from Amazon. Pathetic. All marketing and no flavor. Whereas I’ve never been disappointed with you; surprised by some coffees – I didn’t know they could do that! – but never disappointed. I really held my breath until it was fairly clear you’d make it through the lockdowns.

Summary: A very happy customer, well-caffeinated regularly! Thanks.

I love your shop – visit it every time I’m in the area and order online as well. Your staff are always friendly and I think your prices are very reasonable. Keep doing what you are doing!

I discovered your shop while living in London, and since then have not bought my coffee anywhere else. Now I am living in Europe so I stock up when I am back in the UK, and my bag on the return flight is always a couple of kilos heavier with coffee. (Since Brexit, deliveries from the UK have been fraught, as I’m sure you’re aware.) It’s always a pleasure to visit your store, to savour the smells, to buy new blends on a whim, and to chat to your staff who are always friendly, no matter how busy. So this is just to say how much you are appreciated. Hopefully, a good business will always keep its customers.

Quite agree. I have been buying your coffee in person and online for almost fifty years. I remember having a brief discussion about coffee with Auberon Waugh once, who was in front of me in the queue. The Algerian is a truly great Soho institution, and you are all hugely appreciated by your customers. The fact that the Vietnamese lam Dong was sold out in just a few hours a couple of weeks ago is testament to the strength of your coffee drinking community.

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