Entrepreneur stories start in all manner of ways. In David Abrahamovitch’s case, it was taking over his late father’s mobile phone shop in Shoreditch.
A long-term lease and an interest in coffee led him to open up Grind, one of the early entrants in London’s then nascent flat white scene.
That single store has evolved rapidly over the past 12 years to now include three major pillars: high street shops, direct-to-consumer services, and now a ready-to-drink expansion.
Abrahamovitch says it’s been no straightforward task, but it quickly became clear to him that he wanted the brand to be “much bigger” after seeing its first year’s success.
Eventually committing his full-time focus to building the brand over the next few years, Abrahamovitch established Grind’s direct-to-consumer model in 2019 — right before the pandemic came in full swing.
It felt like quite a big bet at the time, actually, one of the bigger bets that we’ve made.David Abrahamovitch
However, unknown to Abrahamovitch, that bet would pay off big time when the pandemic came to town and in-person footfall fell off a cliff.
Coffee pods, roast beans and even coffee machines suddenly became the must-have home accessory. It hasn’t just been a lockdown trend, though.
“Our direct-to-consumer business is now bigger than our high street business combined, and growing as well,” he said. That growth was supercharged by a £20m-plus investment round in 2021, led by LEK founder and venture capitalist Richard Koch.
Abrahamovitch says growth on the high street is no longer his top priority – nor is he worried about competitors both old and new.
He added: “We don’t worry too much about the competition on the high street and we think as long as we keep doing a great job to keep quality and customer service and everything really, really high… the stores will be fine.
“Most of our growth these days is coming from our direct-to-consumer and grocery channels.”
Indeed revenues almost doubled in the year to March 2022, the last filed on Companies House, to more than £16m.
In March, Grind made its first major acquisition, of pre-made, ready-to-drink caffeine purveyor Bottleshot Coffee.
Now being stocked in many well-known grocers, like Waitrose, Selfridges and Wholefoods, grocery sales are the next “big thing.”
“If you look at the numbers, we have a huge number of people buying coffee from our website, more than we could ever imagine,” he said.
The London native says “if you want to bring your coffee brand to people really truly nationally and really at scale, you have to play in grocery as well.”
Leading the business
Abrahamovitch is an entrepreneur who is still involved in everyday decision-making.
But growth of this scale has changed his job, he tells City A.M. as he makes his way to the firm’s roastery in Shoreditch.
He added: “I’m very much leading the business all day, every day. I think as you get bigger, you’re able to employ better and better people and that is amazing.”
But as one must “build out a structure and build out a team” as the business grows, some things begin to change.
“Really your job becomes about coaching and leading a senior leadership team in the right direction and then making the big strategic decisions when they come along,” he said.
He looks back fondly but not with a rose-tinted view on the early days of Grind.
“I had to be the entire senior leadership team and the person who had to solve everyone’s problems all the time, but until you get a bit of scale, you can’t afford to hire all these people,” he said.
But now, with the business growing, his role is being “reinvented” every six to twelve months.
“The constant expansion and reinvention allows your role to be constantly reinvented,” he says.
With Britain’s love affair with coffee showing little sign of abating, there may be some more reinventions on the way yet.