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Punchline – Gloucester interview

Former Mercedes F1 team member at the wheel of coffee company

By Andrew Merrell | 17th September 2018

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A former member of the world-conquering Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 motor racing car team has been revealed at the man behind a coffee company bubbling away nicely in Gloucestershire.

While some baristas – and a whole host of others too – might dream of a career in the glamorous world of top-class motorsport, for Michael Rickatson it is the other way around.

While rubbing shoulders with the likes of world champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as part of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team, producing what is widely regarded as the best racing car of its type, Mr Rickatson was dreaming of another life.

“My background is motorsport. I worked in motorsport for 30 years, on Formula 3 cars, Formula 1, Indy Cars,” said Mr Rickatson, who was a composite technician for the Mercedes team (think carbon fibre bodywork and chassis) who now lives in Stroud.

“But I have wanted to open a coffee a coffee shop since I was 20. I headed my father’s advice instead. He reminded me I had a good job, why leave it?”

Lewis Hamilton and Michael Rickatson

But as Mercedes started to climb the podium again, Mr Rickatson, then in his early 40s – began to edge closer to his dream. Even if he didn’t know it.

“About six years ago I would have a go at roasting my own beans and making some coffee.”

Testing his creations on himself first, then family and friends, feedback was good and it was all the encouragement he needed.

“I thought, ‘let’s go for it’. I started Golden Sheep Coffee in June,” he said, and with the help and support of his partner, Sherri Austin, who also built his website he did just that.

Golden sheep being a reference to the trade in fleeces which helped bring the Five Valley’s and the rest of the Cotswolds its wealth, once upon a time.

Nico Rosberg and Michael Rickatson

Coffee is sold via Haberdashery Twist in the High Street, Stroud and with appearances at farmers markets – like Dursley and Nailsworth – helping grow his reputation and business, plus trade also coming through his website, it is already time to expand.

Like many niche food and drink suppliers the provenance of his product was paramount. His beans are sourced through a buyer direct from farms at deals “higher than the Fair Trade price”.

All farms he buys from are certified by the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard.

Like many other businesses before him, he has now outgrown the kitchen table and converted garage and is due to head into his first premises proper.

“I was expecting to be in the garage at home for a year, but it is now September and in a few weeks I will be in the new premises, at Bridge End Works, Stonehouse. It will be our new international headquarters,” he joked.

There is an aim to get his coffee into more shops and continuing to grow his mail order customer base too.

“At the moment I am roasting on average six or seven kilos. But I could double that in the next couple of months.”

“I am used to working long hours in motor sport. But I usually got paid for those. I think when you first go into business you think ‘great, I will work when I want and for how long I want’. But you still need to put in the long hours. The difference is, this is for yourself.”

“I don’t plan to take a proper salary from the business until well into next year.”

And would he have it any other way? I think you know the answer to that.