Interview: Idle Hands

22 May 2015

Dave Wolinski had a dream of someday running his own coffee shop. Having finally found the perfect spot for it, he pulled all his savings, quit his job and went all in to launch ‘Idle Hands’ in Manchester’s Gateway House. We caught up with Dave to learn what it takes to take that leap to make your dreams happen.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

Could you tell us a bit about your background, what were you doing before you started ‘Idle Hands’?

Before ‘Idle Hands’ I was pretty much dreaming about Idle Hands. Everything has been slowly moving towards this. Having spent over eleven years in the coffee industry, I have been managing coffee shops for as long as I can remember. Born and bred in Manchester, I lived in Sheffield and London for several years, cutting my teeth in a busy Students Union coffee shop then moving into the speciality coffee scene down in London. I returned to Manchester four years ago, always knowing I’d be back one day. Once back, I was hired in the award winning speciality coffee shop North Tea Power in the Northern Quarter, the owners Wayne and Jane knowing from the start that the ambition was to run my own. After several years there I moved on to do just that.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

When did you realise that you wanted to run your own business and what was it that appealed to you about it?

I think I always knew I wanted to do this, but the moment I knew I had to make the move was late last year. Myself and my fiancé, Lucy, had saved up for a month-long road trip down the west coast of America. Starting in Seattle and working our way down to LA, we visited some amazing coffee spots. This holiday was the one where I turned 31 and got engaged to Lucy, so sitting in Heart Coffee Roasters in Portland I think I said I need to do this now or never. The dream has always been to own a coffee shop. I’m not some entrepreneur wanting to do anything to make my money and retire. I wanted to do the thing I love and be able to make my own decisions (be they wrong or right) along the way.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

What makes Idle Hands different from everyone else?

Idle Hands is a place for coffee experimentation and discussion. Manchester has a brilliant contemporary coffee scene at the minute, that seems to be growing every month. I’d like to think we’re a part of that family, offering speciality coffee and intense flavours which you won’t find in any chains or regular cafe. I guess our unique attribute is where we’re positioned. There’s a cluster of brilliant coffee shops within Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which has a great cafe culture and people head there to hang out, meet and relax. We’re instead trying to overthrow public perception of the busy commuter areas. Right outside the busiest train station in the UK (outside of London), we’re very much in the lions den. I’d say there’s six or seven coffee chains a stone’s throw from here. We’re trying to show you can have a little bubble of independent competing if they’re just given the chance.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

How are you funding the business?

Completely by ourselves, myself, Lucy and our close friend Tom have put all our life savings into this. We were initially looking for a permanent spot before we found this and we’d resigned ourselves to having to loan a lot from the bank. Then the idea of a 6 month pop-up showed up and we meticulously planned our budget out to see if we could stretch our savings to make this work. And we just about did.

How did you design and fit out the space?

The design and fit out was mainly done by ourselves. We’ve had a lot of help from a lot of great friends though. Fred Aldous is probably the best Arts, Craft and Design shop in the country and they’ve helped us with pretty much every inch of design along the way. My friend Joseph William Design helped with all the illustration work, whilst most of our furniture was donated by our good friends at Common bar after their refurb. It turns out there’s a lot of nice people out there.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

What were the biggest challenges in launching a new coffee shop?

I’d say the initial planning and searching for the chance to open the shop at all was a challenge though. I saved up money then quit my job in order to scare myself into making this work. It takes a lot of unanswered emails and phonecalls, a lot of patience and a lot of belief in yourself and your product to leave the safety of a job and attempt to become your own entity. This pop-up is just the first step. We had to alter our initial vision and plans for the shop. A (fairly long) pop-up needed its own budget and it’s own identity. Sometimes you have to just take the best road that’s available and make it work for you.

Idle Hands Coffee Shop

What’s the reaction been like so far?

The reaction has been amazing. No matter how much you believe in your own idea, not until a stranger tells you how they feel about it do you know whether you’re out of your depth or not. Fortunately for us we have managed to create the space we wanted in such a short amount of time. We’re very proud of Idle Hands, and very grateful for the response we’ve received.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone looking to quit their job and launch their own business, what would it be?

Make sure you believe in your product. That comes before everything else.

What’s the end goal for Idle Hands?

Well, like we’d always planned, we want a permanent spot. We consider the pop-up as us introducing ourselves. We’re only showing a fraction of what Idle Hands will be. We’ve so much in the pipeline, and so many ideas for our own space. We’re just hoping that in time we can find the right space and the right landlord for us. That’s when the real journey begins. And it’s extremely exciting!

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