By Nicola Johnson
Opening a new business is a risk at any time. Some would say opening a business in the height of a pandemic and the middle of a lockdown is not just risky, it is crazy. Yet this is what three guys from South East London did. And over a year later, Marvellous Greens & Beans has become part of the fabric of Honor Oak Park.
Marvellous Greens & Beans are business partners Mat, Mattia and Berouz. Now in their early 30s, they are childhood friends. Mat and Mattia met as toddlers, then when Mat met Berouz at college, he introduced him to Mattia and the trio was formed.
They agree that growing up in South East London can be challenging for young men, but with their solid friendship and the values instilled in them by their families, they kept out of trouble. They fondly recollect hopping into their car for mini-adventures, driving for miles and parking up to embark on hikes through woods to find lakes and other landmarks they’d pinpointed on Google maps. Even back in those days, they would excitedly discuss going into business together, mulling over gaps in the market and Unique Selling Points, but their ideas never quite translated into actions and they each embarked on their separate careers.
Mat studied business, moving into hospitality and building a CV packed with managerial experience at London hotels. Meanwhile, Berouz worked his way up to managerial positions in the short-term rentals industry and Mattia worked for 10 years for an autism charity. Whilst on their individual career paths, Mat and Berouz started families and the trio remained firm friends. Then, in early 2020, Covid-19 struck and Mat and Berouz lost their jobs in the hard-hit hospitality sector. Although Mattia’s job was not affected, he was on hand to support his long-time friends, and the trio came together and reframed the pandemic challenges as an opportunity to finally fulfil their childhood dream of going into business together.
Passionate about great coffee, their aspiration was to open a coffee shop. But they realised the market was saturated and that it would be difficult to come up with a concept that stood out. They were attuned to the collective desire, resonant at the start of the first lockdown, to support communities and individuals facing restrictions and isolation, and the idea of a bespoke fruit and veg box delivery service was born. They then decided to open a shop too and invest in a top-notch coffee machine in a nod to their original intention.
When the unit on Brockley Rise came up, they jumped at the opportunity — they’d seen how Honor Oak had transformed over recent years and they instinctively felt it was a great community to invest in. It took just two weeks from getting the keys to open their doors, doing the entire fit-out themselves whilst being welcomed by locals passing on their daily lockdown walks, who’d heard about the shop via street WhatsApp groups and community Twitter accounts.
They quickly established themselves as a business selling good quality fruit and veg at competitive prices and, of course, great coffee. But it’s their congeniality and personal touch that makes them really stand out. When you visit Marvellous Greens & Beans, you feel amongst friends. The boys say it was important to them to place their personal values at the heart of the business, and they’ve done just this.
Touching stories abound of them surprising customers with impromptu deliveries or complementary coffees when they’ve heard that someone’s experiencing a challenging life event. Involvement in community initiatives has been a priority from the outset — they donate to FareShare, are in partnership with Lewisham Food Bank, fundraised to provide fruit to Stillness School pupils, and give out free fruit during the morning school run. Their creativity was showcased when they organised fun, interactive window displays and activities at Halloween and Christmas, to the delight of their younger customers.
Another Unique Selling Point is their fruit and veg box delivery service, which differentiates itself by its flexibility, again reflecting Marvellous Greens & Beans’ commitment to personalised customer service. They cater for weekly subscribers and one-off purchases and provide customers with as much freedom as possible — you can choose whatever you want, however you want it, with next day delivery for orders placed by 10pm.
Going into business with friends is undoubtedly challenging, but these guys have the most solid of friendships and an impressive ability to transmute challenges into growth opportunities. And growth is the name of the game for Marvellous Greens & Beans — with the opening of their second shop on Grove Vale in East Dulwich on 1 July, we ask them where they see Marvellous Greens & Beans in 5 years’ time. They say the dream would be to have at least a couple more shops, with a family of staff that embraces the trio’s ethos, whilst expanding their uniquely flexible delivery service beyond South East London and continuing to be involved in community projects.
Marvellous Greens & Beans is open weekdays from 8am to 7pm, and on weekends too. Next-day delivery is standard for all orders placed by 10pm.
72 Brockley Rise, SE23 1LN