Case Study: From Crunching Tackles to Grinding Beans

We take a coffee break with Pot Kettle Black’s Mark Flanagan. 

The Pot Kettle Black Journey

Last week, Slater Heelis caught up over coffee with pro-rugby league player turned business owner, Mark Flanagan. Mark opened Manchester’s speciality coffeehouse Pot Kettle Black (PKB) back in 2014 with co-founder and former teammate Jon Wilkin, and the business has gone from strength to strength ever since – including expanding to new premises.

Slater Heelis has been a part of PKB’s journey since the very beginning, though the firm’s relationship with the Flanagan family dates back even further. We asked Mark why he chose Slater Heelis as his legal partner of choice, and how we’ve supported him and his business ever since – from helping navigate both the transition from athlete to entrepreneur and more recently, the Covid-19 crisis.

Pot Kettle Black x Slater Heelis

From sport to signature blend:

A veteran of rugby league, Mark’s career highlights span across 14 years and include playing the Super League Grand Final with St Helens in 2014, and competing with Australia’s Wests Tigers in Sydney. Conscious of “the short shelf life of a career in rugby league” and inspired by the great café culture of Australia and New Zealand, Mark pursued his business ambition to open a hospitality venue – that is, Pot Kettle Black.

To smoothly handle this major transition, there was no more obvious candidate than Slater Heelis, Mark explained: “Slater Heelis’ holistic approach to legal advice adds a lot of a value to Jon and mine’s business. Their insight into the sport industry married with their knowledge of business issues is a perfect match for us, and we’ve benefitted from their expertise across a range of issues: from IP and new leases to even my own personal affairs with conveyancing.”

Mark’s self-confessed lack of “experience with legal jargon” was never an issue, he shared, as Slater Heelis had a “down-to-earth approach” and would explain things in layman terms. “I also have a real bee in my bonnet about it taking ages to get a reply, but Slater Heelis have always got back within 24 hours or less.” Since running a business often puts demands on time, “that’s been a major reason why I’ve kept working with them – long may it continue,” he explained.

Since Covid-19:

It’s widely felt that the hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit throughout he pandemic, with venues having to shut down for months at a time, adapt to rapidly changing restrictions, and become custodians of reams of customer data.

Mark explained how in the face of this upheaval, his relationship with Slater Heelis actually strengthened: “They were always on hand, checking in regularly, and for the several times during the pandemic when we had some difficulties, they provided us with great relief.

“For example, at one point we had to acquire their services but our income was being tightly squeezed by all the restrictions. So, we sat down with them and worked together to sort out a payment plan that suited us both. It’s in tough times like that when you know who genuinely cares about you.”

Mark Flanagan talks to us about Pot Kettle Black, and how the relationship with Slater Heelis has been instrumental to the coffee shop’s success and expansion since 2014.

Why Slater Heelis?

“There’s been many reasons to work with Slater Heelis, and they’ve been great on every occasion. As far as PKB is concerned, we’ve been working together since 2014 – though it’s been even longer on a personal basis after Simon Wallwork and Will Henson were recommended to our family.

“They’ve helped us out in both positive and negative legal situations, from completing new leases to contract disputes, and are always professional but never unfriendly – they genuinely feel like part of the family.”

An eye to the future:

“I’d actively encourage people to pick up the phone to Slater Heelis and use them as your legal partner for your business and personal matters. Their level of attentiveness and the quality of their service is something I value highly.

“As for someone looking to make the transition from the sporting to the hospitality or business world, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Sporting professionals will know that “retirement” for us happens in our 30s, if not earlier, and so it’s crucial you have other passions – something to get you up and out of bed in the morning.

“I’ve not once regretted making the transition to business owner with Jon. Our PKB journey is only just beginning, and I imagine Slater Heelis will be joining us every step of the way.”

Meet the Specialists

If you are considering setting up a similar venture in preparation for the next stage of life beyond professional sport, reach out to our team.

Talk to one of our team
members on 0161 969 3131