Hi I’m Al, and in lockdown 2020, with my wife Kirsty, we launched Exhale. A coffee co with a difference.
But Exhale was really born years before that…
The most influential person in my life was my Uncle Harold. He first put boxing gloves on me at the age of 4 and now 35 years later my 1-on-1 boxing sessions are still one of the highlights of my week.
But he also gave me a poem called ‘It couldn’t be done’ by Edgar Guest and it helped shape me… and ultimately Exhale. This is how it starts:
Fortunately 20 years ago I met someone who believed the same and we’ve been proving that it can be done ever since!
Life’s for living and we wanted ours to be one long adventure and wouldn’t let anyone tell us otherwise.
We were both equal parts hippy travelers, and party-loving city kids. So we decided we could be both, and alternated our time working for a year, having fun in London, then travelling the world for a year.
After 3 years of travel across 3 trips we decided the next phase of our life was to have kids. But when you have kids the adventures stop, right? You have to settle down?
Determined to buck the trend we booked non-refundable flights to Bali before Lila was even born just incase ‘the realities of parenting changed our minds’. We spent 4 months of Kirsty’s mat leave in SE Asia and loved it!
Good job we did because it was in Bali that I fell in love with speciality coffee and decided to start a coffee business. But more on that in my older blog here.
Two years later baby number two came along. This time, when she was just 4 months old, we took Clea and Lila off for 6 months travelling around Central America. Again, great move for the family and great for Exhale as we visited plantations, roasteries and exporters there and our plans for Exhale solidified.
Interspersed with all of this was my own endurance sports ambitions. Beginning in 2017, after being scared of swimming in open water, I decided to challenge myself to a marathon swim. Then after that to complete an Ironman in 2019 proving that my auto-immunity couldn't hold me back. Then finally by rehabbing a long term knee injury to run 100 miles in 27 hours in 2022, free from knee pain.
Then it came to launching Exhale
There were hundreds of amazing coffee roasteries already and most people said was a saturated market. But we knew this was different and so Exhale came to breathe her first breath in 2020.
Despite launching amidst a global pandemic and being run initially from our kitchen, Exhale has already sold over 75,000 bags of coffee and over 1 million cups of our healthy coffee have been drunk worldwide!
Exhale was created to inspire others to lead active, healthy and outdoors lifestyles, and to believe that if you do you can do anything you want in life.
Our thriving community and team of ambassadors are the embodiment of that.
So it would be a bit hypocritical of us to do the opposite ourselves. To sit at home in our sitting rooms, riddled with stress, disconnected from nature, doing anything but live our dream life.
That's not what we're all about and that's not what Exhale is all about.
So on Sunday morning we packed up our campervan and we're currently driving 3 days to live and run Exhale from Portugal for 10 months until next summer! We spoke to so many inspiring people and had so many zoom meetings with British business owners doing exactly that so we thought, why not?
Portugal seems to have become the epicentre of entrepreneurial digital nomads and we felt inspired to be part of it.
With Kaspar running point on the operations, Laura smashing it on customers services and Kate on events, we spent all of our time writing emails, or in zoom meetings from home. So that home might as well be a 10-minute walk from the ocean and all the wonderful sports that come with it.
Who knows what the next year will hold, but all I know is that since making the decision to move, the stress has been manageable, my auto-immunity has softened, I’ve had the spring in my step again, and Exhale has over tripled in size after a long plateau.
The plan is still to build Exhale into the behemoth it has the potential to be. To be able to repay all of our loyal customers for their faith in us.
And to have a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible.
So I’ll end this blog as I ended my last one, by saying don’t let whatever you’ve got going on in your life hold you back. Physically, mentally or whatever it is, f*ck it, it’s your life and you can do whatever you want with it.
P.S. You can read more about my journey into coffee, endurance sports and healthy living here. Or more about what Exhale stands for as a business here.