Sahar Hashemi OBE

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Co-founder, Coffee Republic

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With her brother Bobby, Sahar pioneered the modern coffee shop in the UK. Building the business from pipe dream to countrywide chain, she learned valuable lessons in developing ideas, growing a business, and the pitfalls of forgetting your original goals. She also looks at the lessons for those companies seeking to innovate and engage staff in order to grow and add purpose to their business.


Sahar Hashemi founded Coffee Republic with her brother Bobby, introducing the modern coffee shop to the UK. She has since gone on to start and be involved in a number of businesses, as well as advising government, and writing extensively on entrepreneurship and business growth. She explains at the lessons on customer service, developing new ideas and building a brand that she learned the hard way.

Before the coffee shop was a familiar sight on every high street, Sahar returned from a trip to New York frustrated but inspired. Why couldn’t she find the same variety of coffees, and the same modern, informal style of café in London that she’d found there? Giving up a career in law, she and Bobby risked everything to start Coffee Republic. The pair built the company from one shop in central London to over 100 branches all over the country, becoming pioneers in the sector before selling the business.

Sahar has gone on to write two books about her entrepreneurial experiences, including the bestselling Anyone Can Do It – Building Coffee Republic from Our Kitchen Table. She also started another company, Skinny Candy, a sugar-free sweet business. She has returned to the coffee world with Change Please, a social enterprise focused on recruiting from homeless shelters, training and supporting people to run their own coffee carts. She is the Co-Chair of the Government Scale-Up Taskforce, part of the government’s industrial strategy to help small businesses grow. She is also part of the Bristol University Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, which seeks to establish degree courses combining entrepreneurship and innovation with traditional subjects.

Examining both her own experiences as well as lessons from companies from Dyson to Amazon, Sahar looks at how businesses start, grow, struggle and succeed. From inspiring people to take that first, scary step to what to expect from rapid growth and the pitfalls of becoming too detached from your original goals. She encourages people to overcome that initial doubt and inexperience (including the value of being clueless) and understand that entrepreneurship is something available to anyone.

Sahar highlights the important lessons for big, established organisations as well as those seeking to strike out on their own. She emphasises the importance of fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in battling against the silo mentality that holds many companies back. She considers the dangers of being in a business for too long, in forgetting to put yourself in the customers shoes, and the pressure to manage rather than to innovate. She also looks at the opportunities that technology affords, where new ideas come from, how to make them reality, and how to engage staff.

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