Small Business Heroes

Entrepreneur Stories: Ian Le Bruce

27 Aug 2014

Ian LeBruce is a start-up entrepreneur on the brink of something huge! His company, Cappuccino Ads, cleverly uses take-away coffee cups to literally put businesses in the hands of potential clients.

Here is what happened when we interviewed him…

How did Cappuccino Ads  get started?

I was working on another company, ClickStudy, and I had the opportunity to join Entrepreneurial-Spark, an accelerator program in Edinburgh. They made me realise very quickly that the idea I had was great but I didn't have the experience or the team around me to make it a reality. I spent quite a lot of my time in coffee shops and I noticed that a lot of them were using cheap quality takeaway coffee cups, after doing some research and finding that the vast majority were shipping over from China, I decided to do something about it. So I went out on a mission to replace all the cheap quality cups with locally sourced environmentally friendly ones, and Cappuccino Ads was born! 

How long have you been in business now?

I started Cappuccino Ads in March 2013 and it's been a crazy ride ever since! 

You seem to have found a niche in the advertising market, do you have many competitors?

Our main competition comes from other forms of out-of-home advertising, like billboards, buses and taxis. We've got 300 of the best coffee shops across Scotland on board to use our cups, and therefore have made it extremely difficult for someone to copy the idea up here. 

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Tell us about any big contracts you have landed which have really shaped the business.

We've worked with a wide range of clients, from local charities to worldwide leaders like RBS. Our favourite campaigns have been the charities like Lothian Autistic Society and Scottish Association of Mental Health, creating awareness for them is rewarding and leaves us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

What is the most difficult thing about running an advertising business?

This has changed over the 18 months as different problems and challenges arise over time. Some of the problems are generic to running a business, like getting the first sale and having staff for the first time, but it is all a learning experience and contributes to my own personal development as a business leader. 

Obviously marketing is your business so how do you market Cappuccino Ads? How do you feel about digital marketing and its growth, is it bad or good for your business?

We have been very strategic with regards to marketing, as a start-up, cash flow is key and we haven't had much to play with so far. This has resulted in us advertising our own company on cups and distributing them in coffee shops around the big advertising agencies. 

As a young entrepreneur what did you find were the biggest challenges when it came to understanding tax and business planning?

I think I'm still trying to understand tax and business planning! Writing the business plan and doing the business model canvas has enabled me to understand the structure of the business a lot better and allowed me to prioritise what I'm actually doing. Like a lot of young entrepreneurs, focus is a very difficult thing, and planning has allowed myself to focus better. 

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What do your customers say about you?

"The Cappuccino Team should bottle their passion for making a real difference, the enthusiasm is on a whole other level." 

“Ian is one of the most enthusiastic people that I have ever met. He is so hard working and totally focussed. Having known Ian for the past year it has amazed me how far he has come with his business, demonstrating just how capable, hard working and committed that he is. He is very personable, extremely easy to get along with, and a very genuine person.”

“Ian is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. He's resourceful and he spots opportunities and seizes them before anyone else! He's got a real founders' work ethic that has him switched on all the time.”

Tell us one great Cappuccino Ads story…

Michelle Mone OBE taught me a very important lesson about assets. 

Let me explain… I met business supremo Michelle at an awards evening and asked her if we could “selfie”. After taking a good photo she decided it wasn’t right so requested another be taken. I was perplexed but that’s when it happened…

When taking the next self-portait, the bra boss moved my arm out of the way of her chest, she is ALWAYS thinking about her brand and promoting it at every single opportunity. A lesson was learned to always be switched on and always be selling!

What’s next for Cappuccino Ads?

We have some plans in the pipeline that are extremely exciting, especially after a few busy months doing work in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was also over in San Francisco speaking at the Global Start-Up Summit which was a great experience. Life is fabulous! 

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Keir Wright-Whyte


Managing Director

0207 043 4000

About the author

Originally graduating with a degree in geography from Edinburgh University, Keir claims that he was then tricked into becoming an accountant by one of the UK's top 5 accountancy practices.The deception extended to the usual training in audit and associated activities.

Keir subsequently worked in a number of advisory roles with clients including in the energy trading, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors.

He loves working at Accounts & Legal because of the variety of work and clients, the excellent team ethos and morale, the importance placed on genuinely helping and being useful for clients and because he believes what he does matters to clients and helps the firm.

Keir's primary role is to ensure that new clients with complex businesses or needs are on-boarded in the best way and he is a "trouble shooter" both for clients and where complex issues arise internally. He also helps the accounting teams strive to improve what we do for clients, whether processes or services.

When not debiting or crediting, Keir has a penchant for fixing old buildings, skiing, surfing and cycling.


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