In March we visited café All Things Nice on their 9th Birthday to chat to owners Nicci and Sara about how they made their café dream a reality, the challenges of running a small business in a cost-of-living crisis and why supporting local charities is so important to them.
“Running a café isn’t glamorous you know – I don’t actually love having my hand in a sink full of gunk or cleaning the toilets. What I love is the community,” says co-owner, Nicci.
When you walk into the café you really do get a sense of community. People chatting over pots of tea and cake, friends meeting for lunch accompanied by their dogs and others working on their laptop in a quiet corner. By the sweet counter there’s the Foodbank Donation Box and an Easter Egg collection for children in Surrey who have had to flee their homes due to Domestic Violence. Leaflets advertising local children’s groups sit near local honey and handmade crafts for sale.
Nine years since opening, All Things Nice is described by Nicci and Sara as a bit of a labour of love. They’ve invested a lot in the business; it’s never been a big money maker, but they’ve been able work near their kids as well as actively contributing to the local community. Asked what the highlights have been, Nicci mentions the charity night fundraisers as being great fun and raising loads of money. Sara remembers the pandemic as being a special time, she says:
“We were allowed to do takeaway afternoon teas and we’ve never taken as many orders as we did that Mother’s Day! Everyone was so desperate for contact and to give a gift. We were getting phone calls from people who lived up North but their parents lived locally and they were asking if we could deliver afternoon tea to them – whenever we could we’d personalise it.”
Nicci talks about a group they created called Coffee & Cuddles which is still running now. She recalls: “Mums used to come in and order a latte and then burst into tears and you’d understand they were so isolated and they’d been up all night with the baby.”
Nicci and Sara have supported Epsom & Ewell Foodbank (now part of Good Company) for a long time, acting as a donation point and finding creative ways to raise money in support of our work in the community.
Nicci says: “I support the Foodbank because I think it’s a sad state of affairs that we’ve got people struggling in such an affluent area. I grew up on a council estate and we certainly didn’t have money growing up – it’s the disparity that is wrong.”
Sara adds: “I don’t think in this day and age there should be people in poverty. Given how hard most people work..so much of people’s energies go into just staying afloat.”
As a small business, they’re also finding the cost-of-living crisis a challenge. “We used to be very generous on vouchers for charity events; we’ve cut back on that a little bit and now there’s a budget each month – we can only give away so much. Customers are still coming through the door, but habits are changing. People who used to buy lunch might now only buy a teacake.”
Despite this, they still do what they can. They offer work experience to students from NESCOT who have special needs and help them into employment. They’ve tried a ‘pay it forward’ scheme where people can buy a coffee for someone in need, but find that people don’t claim those coffees…”There is a lot of pride and because everybody knows each other, people don’t tend to ask. We tend to just say ‘that one’s on us’ if we think someone is struggling.”
All Things Nice have taken the End Poverty Pledge because they’re already doing what they can to tackle poverty in the community. Why is it important to them?
“We just want to be part of the solution and not the problem. If you stand by and just spectate, you’re almost complicit. If you want to live in a community that is as equal as possible, we have to do something ourselves and keep the ball rolling.”