Thursday, 09 December 2021

Let's Get Down to Business: Sarah Hart, owner of H'artisan

Let's Get Down to Business: Sarah Hart, owner of H'artisan

SARAH HART and her husband Nick own H’artisan, a speciality coffee shop in Wargrave high street. Sarah was born and raised in Truro and left school at 16. After a couple of other jobs, she joined the Co-operative Insurance Society, where she spent 15 years and worked her way up to become a district manager in Bath. Nick is a chartered surveyor and a Wargrave parish councillor. Since 2012, the couple have lived in Crazies Hill with their daughter, Izzy, nine, her hamster, Florence, and the family dog, Rosie. The Harts enjoy walking, running and paddle-boarding.

Describe your business

We are an independent speciality coffee shop providing high quality food. H’artisan is also a Rapha Cycling Club partner café with room for 40 bikes. Working in collaboration with Henley Cycles, we offer a cycle repair service. We are a community hub for families, walkers and home workers and we welcome dogs.

How many people does it employ?

Excluding me, we have seven employees.

What did you do before you started this business?

When I left the Co-operative Insurance Society, I joined a friend on a three-month camper van trip around Australia. Just before we left, I met Nick. On my return, I moved to Wimbledon and decided to charge career and completed a BSc in nutritional therapy at the University of Westminster. During this time Nick and I were married and we moved to Charvil. Izzy was born 10 days after my graduation. Once qualified, I put my degree to good use and set up my own nutrition business, offering private consultations, holding workshops and writing articles for local magazines.

When did you start your business?

We opened for takeaway only in January, two-and-a-half years after we had started on the project. Nick carried out a lot of work while continuing with his job in London. He worked closely with a designer, Laura Davis, and with the Wargrave Local History Society on the photographs which you can see inside the café.

What was your objective?

To replicate the friendly community coffee shops and cafés we had discovered on our travels, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. We wanted to create a hub for people to meet and relax in a happy environment.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

My dad instilled in me a strong “work hard” ethic. He often reminded me that if you want something, you must be prepared to work hard for it.

What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on your business?

In January we were only able to offer a takeaway service with no more than four people in the shop at any one time. Fortunately, we have two doors so were able to create a one-way system. When the restrictions were eased a little we were able to open our courtyard with outside seating. Finally, on May 17, we could open H’artisan fully and allow customers to sit inside with tables properly spaced apart. A three-stage opening has allowed us to evolve and learn gradually, which was a real benefit. We had a positive outcome from a negative situation.

How is your business doing?

We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had. We’re still evolving and we listen to our customers.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

The interaction with customers and seeing all my friends.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

It’s difficult to switch off. At the moment we eat, sleep, work and repeat.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Always treat people in the way you would want to be treated. My mum instilled this in me when I was growing up.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Start out with much more money than you think you’ll need and hire good people who are passionate and share your vision and goals.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Honesty, integrity and being prepared to work hard.

What’s the secret of your success?

Nick and I are not afraid of hard work and we work well together.

How organised are you?

Compared to Nick, I’m like Captain Chaos.

How do you dress for work?

Smart casual with comfortable footwear as we are often on our feet for more than 12 hours a day. Each member of the team wears a branded apron.

What can’t you do without every day?

Tom, our manager, our amazing team and coffee, of course.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

At my desk (normally the window seat at H’artisan).

What do you read?

I belong to a book club and read a variety of books from serious to humorous. Our latest was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which I’d highly recommend.

How are you planning for retirement?

Travel is our passion, particularly to Australia. We would hope to continue exploring new places.

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