GENERATION AGELESS

Steve Ashman is turning 50 in February. He owns speciality coffee business, Mint Hobo, on Yarm High Street.
GENERATION AGELESS

I used to do this…

I was the ‘corporate man’. I ran Tesco stores, looking after hundreds of staff and thousands of customers. I had the big salary, the car and the long hours.

For a couple of years we spent time living and working between London and the North. While travelling to work in opposite directions on the M25 we would have the same conversation time and time again – how service and people were becoming less at the heart of what a business was about and how much we wanted to build a place where amazing people would have be able to enjoy a unique and amazing experience.

GENERATION AGELESSNow life is about…

Coffee! As a shopkeeper, I looked after my staff well so that they would look after customers well, too. But values became compromised, customers were taken for granted and it didn’t feel right. Now those values are the same, but it’s my business, my customers – my coffee! There came a point when I thought if things didn’t work out (they didn’t), then I would bring speciality coffee to Yarm. I could have stayed and retired at 55, but instead I see this as a new chapter in life.

How I made a change…

I am a keen sky-diver. Opening up Mint Hobo on day one was like sitting on the side of a plane for the first time and preparing to jump. Signing the lease was like the first jump, but opening up was a case of jumping, panicking for a minute, then coasting, looking down and thinking ‘yes!’. You’re doing everything that your body and mind say don’t do but you do it anyway – and it feels amazing.

Family is all about…

It’s everything as you get older. My wife Claire and I started the business and my daughter Bethan works here. I also feel closer to my parents now than I ever have.

 I’m lucky I can…

There endeth the sentence!

I’ve got time for…

Coffee! Once you set up something yourself, the challenge is to make sure you have a life too. We have events here – things like Lego-building nights, quizzes, wreath-making classes at Christmas and coffee masterclasses. I’ve always preferred being a host than a guest, so I love that I am doing a job that allows me to do that. What happens here is organic – customers can ask for something and I can say yes and get a date put in for it. We don’t want to ‘over-manage’ people.

Things are different because…

We can do good things. 1p from every coffee goes to a local alcohol support charity. We can just decide to do that because it feels right and because we want to. It sounds simple, but it feels good.

Day in the life of me…

It stars at 6.30am (my wife Claire still has a ‘proper’ job!) and the shop opens at 6am. Not always by me, but every day I’m getting our fresh coffee pouring blend ready. I’m always in for about 8am until whenever! Then we’re baking, serving, listening and making people happy – that’s my official job description! The cafe is called Mint (fresh) and Hobo (home). When people come in we hope we can make them feel better than they did when they walked in.

GENERATION AGELESSThe people who are important…

My family, customers and suppliers – we use produce from local people. People like Rounton Coffee, Parlour Made Cheese and Dropswell Farm. My customers really make this place and always it feels relaxed and lovely.

Work/life balance…

I don’t get to skydive as much as I did, or ride my motorbike, but I’m ok with that. I don’t like I’m being denied it because work is in the way. I love what I do now.

I thrive on…

A bit of chaos, I think. I like learning new stuff – like coffee (Steve is very proud of his state-of-the-art coffee machine). I like the challenge of people. I like pleasing -and surprising – difficult customers!

What mid life means to me…

Wearing shorts for work. That is a simple, but unreal thing. When we opened, someone on Trip Advisor said something about the place being run by a ‘middle-aged man’. I’m fine with that. If this is half way, that sees me to like 100.

You get here with confidence, with experience and with an honesty about yourself. You wear your shorts to work because you can!


minthobo.co.uk

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