We caught up with Voice’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Jonathan Hill of Hi Coffee, to discover how he’s looking to grow the Newport-based company into a UK wide brand.

What three qualities do you think make for a good entrepreneur?

Passion, patience and perseverance.

It’s almost four years since you first opened Hi Coffee at Newport’s Train Station, what’s the best thing you’ve learnt during that time to offer as advice to other aspiring young entrepreneurs?

It’s so easy to get weighed down by the day-to-day running, tasks and problems you face. These can quite easily put you off achieving your goals and business vision. Keep an eye on the bigger picture. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Slow things down and deal with the day-to-day challenges you face, get you and your team on to a more structured start. Addressing the short-term problems will help alleviate them from being long-term issues and get you further, faster. Achieving your business goals can also take longer than you may want, but you’ll come out much stronger.

We hear you’re opening stores nationwide with a Hi Coffee in Newcastle next?

Yes, we have some ambitious plans to open further outlets outside of Newport and Wales, with a venture into Newcastle. We are currently in talks to open a Hi Coffee Express in the recently refurbished Central Metro Station in Newcastle. In January, we opened our first store in Plymouth Coach Station. A brand-new market for us, taking our brand into the affordable travel market.

And what are your plans when you finally take over the world?

We are working on making Hi Coffee a highly respectable coffee shop brand. I want our guests to be proud of our journey and feel part of our growth and success. Hi Coffee was a simple idea designed to give Newport Train Station a modern coffee shop facility. We’ve since been marking out an ambitious expansion plan to take Hi Coffee further afield. I’m very excited. More opportunity equals more jobs for people, oh and much better coffee for everyone.

You have a strong brand presence and stylish venues each with its own individual charm; do you think this polished look makes people forget that you’re really a local independent business?

This is something that gets me thinking. Back when I started independent coffee shops were just making their debut at locations outside of London. The four big brands were beginning to dominate most towns and cities with very clean and structured coffee shops. One of our strengths is our investment into identity and branding. Back then, it was hard to get taken seriously unless you had a strong, recognisable identity and brand. We made this our focus from the get go. I’m happy with the way Hi Coffee is unfolding. It has a local feel based on the strong relationships we have with our guests, backed by a growing brand identity, especially within the travel sector.

Cocktails have been a big hit at your Millennium Plaza venue in Newport, great for pre-drinks before a night on the town, which two cocktails would you recommend as part of your two-for-£10 Happy Hour offer?

Yes. Millennium Plaza is the perfect spot along the River Usk. Not only can our guests enjoy a great coffee at this store, they can now choose from our Cosmo Cocktail Collection. All our classic cocktails are £10 for two on weekdays between 5pm-8pm. My favourites? Oh, Apple Mojito and our Cosmo, most definitely.

This years’ V Awards celebrates creativity and diversity, what’s your opinion of Newport’s current attitude towards these two genres?

Newport is a diverse and creative city! I’m extremely proud to be born here and invest in people as well as business. We’ve got a long way to go to further embrace cultural awareness and diversity. It all starts at home and then should continue in both schools, colleges and the workplace.

Finally, which category are you going for in this years’ V Awards?

Hmmm, I always like to take a gamble with these kind of things... how about a lucky dip?