From the moment we met Ollie Sears, at the opening night of North Star's first ever Roastery in Meanwood on a rainy evening back in 2013, we knew he was the one for us. Our eyes met across a crowded room full of coffee enthusiasts. At the tender age of just 19, he strode towards us like a king in his camel trench coat, confidently introducing himself and expressing his delight at being there. Over the course of the evening, we watched him slowly own the room, leaving everyone he spoke with basking in the warmth of his sunny demeanour.
We were sold.
Fast forward 2 years and we had got the business off the ground with a network of wholesale partners and valued supporters visiting our (often) freezing cold industrial unit to pick up a bag of beans. But we knew we needed help to take us to the next level.
We needed someone to help us grow. A positive force (with a phenomenal head of hair) to spread the North Star mission far and wide. And we knew just the man to help us do it.
We reached out to Ol who was still in the process of completing his degree in Spanish and French to gently enquire if he might be interested in kickstarting a career in coffee. Happily, he jumped at the chance and joined us, embarking on a 7 year journey that has brought many twists and turns, and ups and downs. We have been through so much with each other which makes it an unbelievably hard task to announce that, at the end of August, Ol will be departing these shores (quite literally) for pastures new, setting up his own coffee bar in Alicante, Spain!
We are obviously delighted for Ol and for his family and are super excited to watch what he does next. But we can't understate how huge Ol's impact has been on our business. His dedication to our cause and to our customers has absolutely helped to cement the foundations we now have in place, building up the reputation we have for being a committed supply partner for our 120+ customers across the UK. He became the face of North Star and is the BEST person to have a day/night out with. Everyone knows him, everyone loves him, everyone slings him complimentary items to express that love. And we get it, we love him too.
Ol. Krag and I are never going to be able to express the gratitude we have that you showed up on that rainy night back in 2013. You are a big part of why we are still here at the helm of North Star, feeling excited about the future even if that is a future that you are not going to be a direct part of. We know you know the role you have played in our story so far, supporting us through the good times and the bad both in and out of work. Your approach to your role, the way you made the most of the opportunity in front of you and most importantly, your friendship has meant the world to us. North Star shines brightly because you contributed hugely to its glow. You pushed us to be better all the time, bearing the burden of being our first employee - witnessing Krag and I figure out how to work with each other as husband and wife (!), putting in the hours and being right there with us as we figured it all out. From the bottom of our hearts and on behalf of the whole team and our entire customer base, we love you and we thank you.
Thanks to the amazing relationship we have with Ol, we have known this time has been coming for quite a while and we have had the chance to really think about the team we are wanting to build to support the business we have become moving forwards.
Never before have we been so keenly aware of the importance of each and every one of our treasured wholesale partners and also of the challenges being faced by many. When it came to recruiting a replacement for Ol, we wanted to approach this mammoth task with a slightly different perspective: 'What support are our wholesale partners going to need moving forwards as we navigate the economic landscape and associated challenges over the coming years?'
After a lengthy process, we are SO excited to introduce you to our new team:
Matt Andrews - Head of Sales
Matt joined North Star in September 2022 as the Operations Manager for our own coffee shop spaces (at Leeds Dock and the newly established Kiosk). Prior to working with us, he had carried out the same role for Marmadukes in Sheffield and, before that had set up his own business, refurbing and running a pub. What's more, he managed to successfully sell that business at a time when it was illegal to serve a pint (in 2020!) - a real testimony to his skills at making sure the numbers work, a skillset we have already benefited massively from in our own retail spaces and something we are wanting to bring into our approach when working with fellow business owners across our wholesale customer base. We are so excited for what Matt is going to add to our offering moving forwards, if you have met him already you will know he is a 'Tigger' of a person bringing boundless energy and enthusiasm into any interaction.
Kirri Palmer - Account Manager
We are so delighted to be welcoming Kirri into the North Star team as our new Account Manager. Many of you will be working directly with Kirri in the future so will have plenty of opportunities to get to know more about her but here are some of the highlights:
- She has a degree in International Hospitality Management
- She has spent the last 10 years working at management level in hospitality businesses and primarily, in fine dining establishments such as for the Simon Rogan Group and The Fat Duck.
- Her coffee experience so far has seen her be trained by the Head Barista for Proud Mary's (revered coffee roastery in Australia) to prep her to open a roastery for The Fat Duck, sourcing and roasting coffee for an elevated table side coffee service for the restaurant.
- She has completed the SCA Barista Skills curriculum to professional level and has worked closely with La Marzocco and other machine partners too.
John Smethurst - Trainer and Customer Relations Adminstrator
Finally, we are so happy to have been able to move John (who has worked for North Star since January 2020) into a full time Training and Customer Services role to help support the sales team going forwards. Up until this point, this has been a part and parcel of the account manager role which has meant, at times, we have been challenged when trying to ensure our entire approach is as optimised as possible to fully provide the support we want to. By separating this responsibility out, we are able to offer more consistency/availability when it comes to training and also ensure that Kirri and Matt are able to focus on the other aspects of account management. John started out as a barista in our coffee shop before moving into the Roastery. The past two years he has spent shadowing Ollie and Liam and has also been running our coffee courses for home enthusiasts too so he has a really great handle on this role and will be initially focusing on how we can make it even better.
And that's it! Our lineup is complete and we feel more confident than ever that we will be able to continue offering support and service that we can be proud of. We'd love to hear from you if you want to set up a meeting with our new team or put forward ideas and suggestions we can consider for how we can improve your experience of working with North Star. We want to take this opportunity to reiterate that a key goal for us is to optimise our customer experience so, in short, it really is all about you! Rest assured that whilst we are losing a pretty instrumental part of the North Star team so far, nothing is changing in terms of our commitment to quality coffee sourced with impact. If anything, we are drilling into how we get better and what opportunities we have to improve our approach.
If you want to get in touch to share any memories you might have of Ol during his time at North Star - we'd love to hear from you! We're going to be spending the next couple of weeks reflecting on his time here remembering the good times so do send over anything you'd like to share with us!