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The Secret Of My Success: Scott Svenson

AMERICAN expatriate Scott Svenson started the Seattle Coffee Company with his wife Ally in 1995, because they missed the coffee shops back home. In March they sold the chain to US company Starbucks for pounds 49 million.

"I came to England to work with the US Investment Bank. Setting the business up was a lifestyle thing. It wasn't something we did, thinking, 'Here's a great business opportunity, we're going to make a lot of money.' It was more, 'Here's something we miss in our daily lives.' That's probably why it was so successful - it was a labour of love.

"Setting up the first shop was bloody hard work and it was mostly down to Ally. She quit her publishing job to do the groundwork. There were times when we thought 'Is it worth it?' We were driving into Covent Garden at half past five in the morning to open the shop. I was deputy chief executive of a public company during the day, then at ten o'clock at night I'm mopping the floor. But you look at the response you get from customers and think, 'Yeah, it is'.

"The market for this kind of coffee is robust. It's not saturated - there are more ventures now, but they also educate the consumer which increases the market.

"The passion with which people hold the Seattle name is much stronger than we'd expected - it's weird because we invented it, and it's become part of the social scenery in the UK.

"Ally and I have always said that our greatest strength was our naivety, the stuff we didn't know. There were times when we didn't drive the business, it drove us. We wanted to set up one shop and have some fun with it. It was a small idea that developed a life of its own, and we just tried to hold on."