As a non-coffee drinker, I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to find common ground with Andy Taylor but, after sitting down with him, I learned very quickly that his personality was far from a flat white (pun intended).
While I knew little about him, I knew enough to consider him to be successful, and was surprised to find it is not a description he would use for himself, seemingly uncomfortable with the notion of reflecting on his life story while it is still being written. As his story so far unfolded, it was clear that a particularly dark chapter played a part in shaping his outlook.
Pictured: Andy said that being self-employed has meant he can spend more time with his son, Teddy.
Owner of Taylor’s Coffee Shop, Andy openly acknowledges that “most people” know he is into coffee.
“Usually, about 20 seconds into a conversation about coffee the other person will switch off completely,” he said.
“The thing I like most about the topic is that the more you read and the more you think you know, the more there is to find out. Whether it’s sourcing, roasting or cupping, there’s suddenly a whole new world of reading to do.”
While Andy continued into the numerous variables which can affect the coffee, he surprisingly said that he would not consider himself “detail oriented”.
With various business ventures under his 30-something-year-old belt, including Tailored Catering and Tour Guernsey, Andy said he had “always been someone who wanted to be self-employed”.
“I often think back to conversations my teachers had with me at school when they would say that you can’t just do what you want all the time, that there are times when you have to be serious and do sensible work,” he said.
“I think, deep down, I was very motivated to prove that notion wrong and to only do things which interested me and, at least at the moment, I have managed to do that.
“It has been hard work, but I haven't seen it as hard work or thought that I’m working long hours. I will always be first to pick up the mucky jobs that other people don’t want to do, like the dishes or emptying the bins or cleaning the toilets. I am always happy to get involved.”
Pictured: Andy sold his Tour Guernsey business in January. He said he loves Land Rovers "in a geeky way". Credit: Tour Guernsey.
Andy said that he is equally comfortable “not doing anything”.
“On the flip side of all the hard work, if I can recognise a genuine gap in my diary and that there is nothing I need to be doing, I am really good at just pottering around,” he said.
“Sometimes I will create those gaps by prioritising. For example, if the weather is really good on a particular day, I’ll take the time to go and have a coffee on the beach or go for a swim, and then work through the evening to make sure I’ve caught back up by the end of the day.
“The biggest drive for being self-employed is that you have that freedom to dictate your own diary.”
Andy became a first-time father to his son, Teddy, last year.
“Being self-employed gives me the ability to be flexible with my schedule and I have suddenly felt very aware of how much time I get to spend with Teddy. If I had a nine to five lifestyle then I would miss out on a lot through the day,” he said.
“Fatherhood is really brilliant, but of course anyone wih children will know how tiring it can be.
“I feel it’s a bit like the situation with coffee. Just when I think I’ve got something down, like knowing what to do with a one-month-old, suddenly he’s onto the next stage and you have to learn what to do all over again.”
Andy’s wife, Jess, is a mental health nurse.
“On Liberation Day, I was reminiscing that it was the same day years ago that I first met Jess and I was smitten straight away,” he said.
“We met at a BBQ through friends, but she was with someone else at the time, so we only knew each other as acquaintances for a couple of years.
“There is definitely credit owed to Jess in helping me to be more open and she will often notice that I’m stressed, even when I don’t think that I am.”
Pictured: Andy said he has the freedom to manage his work schedule to allow time for a sea swim or coffee on the beach.
Andy lost a couple of his friends to suicide when he was in early twenties and said it had a profound impact on him.
“I think those experiences really did make me sharpen up because I never realised that they were struggling,” he said.
“For a long time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I spent months wondering if there had been any sign, however small, that I might have missed. Maybe they made a comment on the way in a taxi one night and I didn’t pick up on it.
“I have never been able to remember anything that might have been a sign and I have spoken with friends who have said the same thing. It makes you realise that people are capable of keeping phenomenal secrets that can have truly massive consequences.”
Andy said that it wasn’t until a year after the loss of his friends, in separate incidents, that he realised other friends were struggling with the same thoughts he was.
“I could not comprehend how there was anything wrong with either of them and, without being insensitive, it frustrated me that I couldn’t get it out of my head,” he said.
“I was reminiscing with some other friends over good memories and it was naturally followed by a conversation where it became clear that we were all thinking the same thing all that time later.
“It was kind of a lightbulb moment that we all see people that we think have a level of success but you’re only basing that on a few pieces of information. Equally, you might know that someone is having a hard time but you only see the surface stuff. You never know what is lying deeper.”
Andy said he believes the easiest way to deal with stress is to “be open about it”.
“I’m completely happy to say when I am finding something difficult or struggling to resolve something. It is so true that a problem shared is a problem halved,” he said.
“I’m willing to take a risk and I don’t mind getting things wrong. I’ve never had any shame in that. If I have a problem, I’ll face it.”
Pictured: Andy said he hopes his son, Teddy, will have an inquisitive outlook and take things apart to see how they work, as Andy enjoys doing.
It would be fair to say that Andy’s enthusiasm for life and pursuing “crazy ideas” is enviable and, in hearing more about his route to self-employment, it is difficult not to credit him for adaptability.
“I scraped through my A-levels and then spent a summer working for a company my dad worked at moving archive boxes around,” he said.
“Then one day I saw a vacancy for an apprentice architectural technologist, so I applied for that, went for the interview and just clicked really well with the boss.
“I have huge gratitude to him for that because I probably was not the best in interview. But it was a small company, he said we would be spending a lot of time together, so it was important to be able to get on and have a friendship.”
Andy went through his apprenticeship for five years but decided not to complete it which, by his own admission, he was advised against.
“I had this crazy idea that I wanted to become a helicopter pilot and I had the money saved up to fund the training, so I stopped studying for the apprenticeship and I went to the UK for lessons,” he said.
“It was absolutely brilliant and I was really set on wanting to be paid to get to do this really fun job.
“Unfortunately, that plan came crashing down when I found out that I wouldn’t pass the medical requirements because I was slightly boss-eyed. I was told I could get a private licence, but not a commercial one.
“It was quite deflating at the time and, against all advice, I had stopped the apprenticeship, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do next.”
I wondered whether Andy has ever regretted his decision not to complete his apprenticeship.
“I don’t really every regret anything. I’ll make a decision and I’ll stick with it. If it turns out I’ve done something wrong, then I can accept that, admit it and live with myself,” he said.
“Never to be knocked back, I went back to working at the architect firm, before I got my next big idea in my head.”
Pictured: Andy was born and raised in Guernsey, the youngest of four siblings and the only boy.
A trip to Covent Garden in London sparked a new business idea for Andy.
“I was in London with Jess visiting her family and I saw these cooks using the big pans to cook paella and I thought ‘I could do that’,” he said.
“When we got back home, I ordered some of the pans and I started cooking for friends and family. Word got around very quickly, and it got to a stage where I was taking holiday from my real job to do catering events.
“A couple approached me to cater their wedding and, as most entrepreneurs do, I said I could absolutely do that. That was quite early on in the venture but it went brilliantly. I catered for 150 people and I was really chuffed.”
After a year of operating, his catering venture was “becoming too much to handle with a full-time job”.
“I saw a suitable premises come up and I jumped at the chance and started working for myself full-time,” he said.
“It was horrifically hard work, but it was absolutely worth it. The downside to being self-employed is that there is a lot of weight on your shoulders, but you just have to be aware of that and put the work in.”
Andy recalls that he didn’t have much time for a social life.
“I was getting home at 18:00 or 19:00, having a shower and then just being absolutely exhausted and that went on for about two years,” he said.
“It was worth the sacrifice and I have more time for seeing my friends now, and they have all moved passed the drinking phase.”
Andy rarely drinks alcohol, but said he is still happy to be out with a soft drink.
“I wasn’t ever a really heavy drinker, but I would binge on the weekends like most other guys in their early twenties,” he said.
“Jess wasn’t a big drinker so we would do other things and my work was certainly at the point where a hangover didn't fit in well with needing to be at work washing salad at 06:00.
“Even when I did drink, I would happily go to Folies sober just to dance. I was a terrible dancer but it never bothered me.
“I have never been one to worry about what other people think of me too much. If it’s about something serious and is a valid point then I’ll take opinions on board, but general observations or whether people think I’m a bad dancer don’t bother me.
“I think that is partly down to confidence, but it’s also from a willingness to just throw a joke back at other people.”
Pictured: Andy says he will "reserve judgment" on whether his life has been successful.
Andy said that humour plays a big part in his life.
“I don’t think I could function without smiling and having a joke about most things,” he said.
“Both the friends who I sadly lost were very funny people so I still have all those good memories of them which will bring a happy tear to my eye.”
Andy said that he has always been inspired by one of his mum’s favourite sayings - “worse things happen at sea”.
“Although things like not passing the medical to become a helicopter pilot were disappointing, I might have been a terrible pilot and I don’t know that I would have even enjoyed that as much as what I’m doing now,” he said.
“I can acknowledge that I have done things which have been successful in themselves and have put me in a good position, but I think it would be very foolish of me to say that I’m a success.
“I hopefully still have more time left than I’ve had alive so far and I am very much reserving judgment until the end.”
In asking Andy what success meant to him, the answer came at the end of what can best be described as a dad-joke about a man in a bar and an ostrich, but did eventually reach a conclusion.
“I don’t want to be a millionaire. I think that would bring all kinds of problems. I just want to do what I enjoy doing. As long as I can keep doing that, then that for me is success,” he said.
“Being able to do what you enjoy opens up so many doors and takes the stress away from a lot of things.
“If I could give any advice to children, it would be to be honest and work really hard. That might be difficult through your teens and early twenties, but it pays off. Just get on with it.”
Pictured: Andy said that humour plays an important part in his life and he couldn't imagine a day without smiling.
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