At Northern Soul, we continue to commit to sharing good news stories about businesses, people and communities coming together in the North of England and showing us the best of humanity during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve heard so many examples of Northerners showing great kindness and compassion and we think that these stories deserve to be shared far and wide.

Recently, the story of Manchester couple, David Thompson and his fiancée Jeroen Paap, was picked to launch a new global campaign called #MyCovidStory from the team at Aerotime Hub, an aviation digital hub. Thompson, former cabin crew, and former captain Paap were both grounded from their flying jobs during the pandemic. Nevertheless, they went on to start their own business, launching coffee brand Roastea.

Northern Soul: Can you tell us a little bit about Roastea? What prompted you to start a business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

David Thompson and Jeroen Paap: Some of our friends have been creative during lockdown and managed to generate extra income. We have been thinking about establishing an online business for a while, and started to look into tea and coffee as we are both passionate about a good coffee and fresh, healthy teas. 

During our research, we found that personalised coffee bags and local deliveries aren’t common, so we decided to do something slightly different. We also made sure we are working with one of the best coffee roasters in the UK so that we have premium quality products for our customers to enjoy.

NS: What has the response to the launch of Roastea been like?

DT and JP: The response we’ve had has been incredible, far better than we forecast in our first year of trading. Support from former colleagues in the airline industry and our neighbours has really helped us get off the ground. A lot of our business comes through our local community as we offer hand-delivered service to keep it personal. The feedback we’ve had from our products has also been great. We always welcome honest feedback, but everyone seems to love our blends of coffee, flavours of tea and the concept of the business. 

David Thompson and Jeroen PaapNS: What challenges have you faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

DT and JP: We’d love to expand Roastea and supply local businesses in the Greater Manchester area with our teas, coffee and hot chocolate. However, due to the many restrictions and the fact that the country is currently in and out of lockdown, it’s been tough on businesses. Some haven’t been able to stay open long enough for us to have enough time to negotiate supplying their business.

NS: How has the business/your community/industry been affected by the crisis?

DT and JP: Both of us come from many, many years of service within the airline industry which has obviously been hit incredibly hard by the COVID-19 crisis. This prompted Jeroen to be made redundant from his position as an airline captain and I have been grounded until further notice and a time when flying can resume.

But the various lockdowns have probably helped our business a little more, as people are working from home and have more flexibility to try our products to help them get through their working day. Although it’s been challenging in other areas, such as getting our products into local businesses, we’ve managed to capture the attention of those working from home.

RoseteaWe also think that people are a lot more aware of local businesses and the struggles they face and know that they want to support local, which is a fantastic thing to do in order to support your community.

NS: And how have they come together?

We’ve brought our love of tea, coffee and hot chocolate together with our former industry, aviation. We’ve named all our coffees after some of the beautiful cities we’ve visited through work and pleasure. We’ve also matched our coffee blend to fit these cities as well, so it takes customers on a journey with taste. We’ve also been brought together with neighbours and local community members who are now our customers. People we might not have met under normal circumstances, and the fact they love our products and keep ordering more, makes us incredibly thankful.

NS: What’s the most positive moment/thing you’ve experienced during the crisis?

DT and JP: Starting our own business has definitely been a highlight of the crisis. It’s something we’ve been able to do and work on together. With both of us stuck at home, having a project to work on has been fantastic.

RoseteaAt first, just like any business start-up, there’s so much work to do and time and effort which has to be put into getting everything ready for launch. Thanks to the lockdown we actually had more than enough time to do this. It kept us busy, working on our laptops both in the kitchen and out in our garden. We also decided to give each other specific roles and tasks to complete. When we did launch and orders started coming in, it was a great moment for as we knew our hard work was beginning to pay off.

NS: Jeroen is also retraining as a paramedic Urgent Care Assistant on ambulances which is a pretty impressive and commendable endeavour. Jeroen, can you tell me a bit about this decision? What prompted the change? And how is training going?

JP: During the first lockdown, just after I lost my job at my airline, I decided to join a volunteer project called Project Wingman. I was asked to be the team leader for our lounge at Wythenshawe Hospital where we were supporting NHS staff by giving them a first class airport lounge during their break.

I was able to meet a lot of new people in that time. One of them decided to join the Ambulance Service and has since been able to put a lot of us forward to join. As I didn’t see any recovery in aviation in the short-term, I decided it was time to do something different. It is a great challenge, and I am still learning every day. But it is rewarding, and it is nice to be able to make a difference.

RoseteaNS: What does the uncertainty of the current lockdown mean for business?

DT and JP: As it is an online and local business, lockdown doesn’t affect us that much. The local returning costumers still order their new favourite coffee or tea, and online sales are definitely more popular during the lockdown.

The only thing the uncertainty does change is how we might expand and work with local businesses to sell our products, which is what we want to do just as soon as we can.

NS: What does the ‘new normal’ mean to you/for Roastea?

DT and JP: We both want to get back to flying as soon as we can as aviation is our blood and we love nothing more than being up in the skies.

But we would also love to work more with local businesses and local coffee shops to have more people enjoying our products. The way we have set our business up means that we can work from anywhere and can process our orders from anywhere in the world.