Ex-teacher started new Portstewart venture after he woke up and smelt the coffee
This week, we talk to the man behind a new coffee shop in Portstewart, three award-winning food producers, while Guinness is set to release new beers
A new coffee shop has opened in the seaside resort of Portstewart, marking an investment of £250,000 and creating 17 jobs.
3hree Kings Coffee Company opened its first premises on the busy promenade last week, with plans already under way to expand into Coleraine and south Belfast in the coming months.
Premises have been secured in Kingsgate Street and on the Lisburn Road respectively, and work has begun to fit them out.
Proprietor Colin McClean (37) said he would like to extend the brand throughout Northern Ireland in the coming years, and identified mid-Ulster and Ballymena as possible locations.
It is an ambitious plan - but Colin is confident the business venture will succeed.
The Portstewart native already has a proven track record in starting up and building a successful business - but it is a departure from his original career path.
"I was originally a geography teacher but gave it up to go into business," he explained.
"I was teaching in an independent boarding school, Ackworth School in West Yorkshire, and I was a boarding master and had days off in lieu of working 24/7.
"I would go into Leeds and I really got into men's fashion and decided to open a clothes shop, which I did alongside my teaching job.
"It did really well, we had a lot of corporate contracts and then it got to the stage where I realised that I was paying my employees more than I was earning as a teacher, so I stopped teaching to go into retail full-time. After that, someone wanted to buy the business and my wife, Emma, who is from Ballymena, and I saw it as an opportunity to come home to Northern Ireland."
So, what sets 3hree Kings Coffee Company apart from the countless other coffee shops on offer?
And how will the business lure customers away from rival, well-established global firms?
"We're different from other coffee shops for a number of reasons," explained Colin.
"Most high street coffee shops that you go in to only sell pre-packed food, but we make everything daily, on-site, and if a customer wants something that is off menu, then we can tailor for that as well. Where possible, we use local ingredients and we also use specialist ingredients, so things like sour dough.
"We have teamed up with a coffee company called UCC, which is one of the biggest coffee companies, which is important for us."
Open for just a matter of days now, 3hree Kings has already proved a hit with people in the popular Co Londonderry seaside town.
The eatery has been so successful, it is already recruiting additional staff.
"We started out with 10 people but we are in the process of employing more as we have been so busy," continued Colin.
"In total, we will have 16 or 17 barista positions.
"We're open from 8am to 10pm, so at the moment our staff are working pretty long shifts so the increase in employees will help that.
"There are about 70 seats in the shop and, in terms of customers, we had about 400 people through the doors on the first day and it has been pretty much constant since.
"The feedback we've had has been very, very positive."
However, recognising the fact that the client base in Portstewart is likely to drop outside the peak summer holiday months is one of the reasons behind the company's planned expansion, according to Colin.
"We believe the Coleraine shop will compensate for the drop in trade in Portstewart over the winter," he said.
"We're hoping to open in Coleraine towards the end of August.
"The fit-out has already started and there is a four-week turnaround for those guys.
"I think we are going to employ in the region of 20 people in Coleraine and the shop will represent an investment of around £200,000.
"We are hoping to open the shop on the Lisburn Road in October.
"The fit-out guys have been in there and ripped out all the old stuff, and are starting their work, but it will open slightly later than the Coleraine branch, possibly in the first week of October.
"We're planning to employ 30 people there and it is an investment of another £200,000.
"We feel confident about the business and we would like to open shops right across Northern Ireland, but we're concentrating on the first three for now," he added.