Dionne, a former racing greyhound, inspired her adoptive owners to set up their own coffee business which donates the proceeds to animal rescue centres across the UK, writes Joshua Askew…
Self-described “animal lovers” and vegans Marcus Wood and Rhian Nholan, set up Sanctuary Coffee after a visit to Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, where they found Dionne their pet greyhound.
They hope to provide a steady stream of income for the greyhound rescue centre through the proceeds of their coffee enterprise, with a specialist line of ‘Sweet Dionne’ coffee generating £1 for every bag sold.
“After meeting her, we got to know the rescue centre better and spent a lot of time with the dogs,” said Marcus. “We were shocked when we realised how much it costs to run one of these places.”
“Our love of animals and wanting to help the sanctuary came together. We realised this is space that wasn’t occupied but should be,” he added.
It costs between £15,000 to £30,000 a month to maintain an animal sanctuary, with large sums required for food, vets bills and keeping the lights on.
By selling 50kg of coffee per day the couple thinks they can raise enough money in donations to cover half of the sanctuary’s costs.
So far they have raised £3,000.
“We always loved animals, but as soon as we met her [Dionne], we realised she was one of hundreds of thousands of greyhounds in need. It is a global issue,” said Marcus.
“There was no need to stop at greyhounds, so we reached out to lots of other animal sanctuaries.”
Now Marcus and Rhain are also raising funds for a farm animal sanctuary in Kent, a horse respite centre in Watford, a pig rescue in Wales and a seagull rehabilitation centre in Brighton.
“It was almost impossible to choose which one to start with,” said Marcus. “Animal charities are close to our hearts. We wanted to do more than just give the odd bit from our personal finances. Money is tight and you cannot donate as much as you want.”
“Why not raise money through a business we thought,” he added.
Living in Twickenham, the pair have partnered up with Old Spice, a coffee roasting establishment based in Peckham, making use of their swish facilities and equipment.
Their coffee beans are sourced directly from farmers in the developing world and they use carbon-neutral, plastic-free packaging.
“We wanted to make sure we were as responsible as possible and that none of our products would damage the environment,” explained Marcus.
Previously working as a coffee roaster, Marcus said that launching his own line of beans was always something he had wanted to do with his life, but never knew where to start.
More than raising simply money, Marcus and Rhian felt their work had a political point.
“Animal sanctuaries do not get any government funding,” said Marcus. “Whereas the dairy and meat industry does. This is the only way they can operate and still be profitable.”
“What we want to show is that to keep animals happy and healthy you only need a fraction of the money you need to fund these harmful industries.”
“If people just replace where they buy their coffee from, they can make a difference,” he added.
There are currently ten cafes across London stocking Sanctuary Coffee, although the business has only been operating for three months.
Yet Marcus and Rhain have said “they are not stopping there.”
They have plans to set up a mobile stool that they can take to festivals, create cafes throughout Britain and even bring out their own brand of vegan chocolate – although this last one is very much still in the pipeline.
“Hopefully one day we would like to be a household name.”
“But for now we are starting small,” Marcus added.