From running clubs, brand collaborations, and donating to mental health charities, Hard Lines Coffee is cultivating a coffee centric community in Cardiff, Wales. Matt and Sophie have grown a fun, exciting, and instagramable brand since their early days of running an Aeropress bar six years ago. Their ability to harness social media to captivate their audience, and continually provide value to their customers is part of what makes Hard Lines Coffee a unique brand to follow. I was able to sit down with the owner, Matt, and learn more about his company’s journey, brand ethos, and future goals.
Matt and Sophie made a West Coast trip to the US in 2019 and felt inspired by the San Francisco and Sacramento American diner scene. They knew they wanted to create something similar in their hometown, Cardiff, but add their own twist that represented their upbringing. “In Wales, there are a lot of old school Italian Welsh cafes, so it’s kind of a cross between diner meets Welsh culture in sort of a modern twist. We wanted to do something interesting.” Matt says. They were able to crowd fund to open the first Hard Lines cafe in late 2020.
Launching a business during the pandemic proved to be extremely challenging, but Matt and Sophie managed to harness the lockdown to grow their business further, as well as continue to uplift their community. They adapted to sending weekly newsletters and making sure they were interactive, visually appealing, and full of value to keep their customers excited and more likely to engage. Matt’s goal with the newsletter was not to oversell, but to provide value to the customer. “We started a newsletter through one of those lockdowns and that’s been really huge for growing the brand and speaking to our audience. We started that on one of the Fridays in the pandemic and we’ve literally sent a newsletter every Friday since, and we’ve seen some real direct impact of that.” Matt states. Hard Line’s limited-edition Christmas and Valentines orders come with a collectible postcard branded with a QR Code to the Spotify playlist associated with the coffee. This creative gesture is a nice touch on their orders for customers to enjoy.
As Cardiff started opening after the lockdowns, the Hard Lines team wanted to get active and inspire their friends and community to get outside as well. In late 2020, the Hard Lines Run Club was born. “We wanted to run for ourselves and for our community and friends. If you can be the leader of one of those communities and be what people are looking for, that’s great long-term for the brand and it’s great to be community driven, whether it’s bake sales or fundraisers. The run club felt like a natural progression to explore the city and give people an excuse to get out.” The idea of the Run Club wasn’t just a marketing plan to get folks to purchase more coffee. The goal was to help people connect, give them a safe space at night to run and hopefully lift people’s spirits after the grueling lockdowns during the pandemic. Matt states, “It wasn’t for any monetary gain, we just felt like it sat well for the brand ethos. We’ve done a lot of stuff with mental health awareness, and we wanted to get people outside and enjoying the outdoors.”
On top of run clubs and social media efforts, Hard Lines has taken huge strides in doing brand collaborations with other companies unrelated to coffee. Recently in February, they teamed up with the chocolate Company Tony’s Chocolonley. They sent out 150 free Hard Line’s branded Tony’s Chocolate bars to customers who ordered their coffee during their Valentine’s Day special. Pretty soon they will be collaborating with a Danish based athletic clothing company, which will expose Hard Lines to a new market and hopefully attract new customers to the brand. Matt and Steve have also collaborated with other cafes and frequently do weekend cafe takeovers. Matt described it as kind of a “Hard Lines on tour” adventure for folks who can’t make it to out Cardiff. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Hard Lines Coffee was nominated for Best Design packaging for the Sprudgie Awards in 2022, and they continue to grow their social media presence as they roll out their collaborations and community events. As the brand moves forward, Matt wants to continue to have the Hard Lines feel accessible to people who aren’t super familiar with the specialty coffee space, and they plan on continuing to provide value, entertainment, and high-quality coffee to their cherished customers.