While there are already online businesses based in Northern Ireland accepting Bitcoin, we have only recently had our first brick and mortar based company announce that it accepts the digital currency for its products. This will hopefully be like the stone that’s thrown into the sea and will cause a ripple effect throughout the province.
Boden Park Coffee Company based on the corner of the Ormeau bakery building on the Ormeau Road has a remarkably forward thinking owner. They saw Bitcoin and the potential it has for businesses in reducing credit card fees, eliminating fraud, chargebacks and double spending, all of which has a direct financial impact on a business’s profits.
With twenty five per cent of their customer base using a credit card to pay for their goods at a charge of between 2% and 4% to the merchant I find it fascinating that more small businesses aren’t jumping at the chance to sign up and accept Bitcoin.
Then with banks now charging for businesses to lodge cash deposits the costs in dealing with traditional currencies is becoming more and more expensive.
The owner Orla McKeating seems to have been well aware of the digital era we have zoomed into at the speed of light from the beginning with her business, and has the coffee shop adapted accordingly.
There is free Wi-Fi available and all seating areas have USB docks fitted to keep your smart phone or tablet fully charged, so you can work away online while drinking from their delicious selection of coffee and indulging in one of the freshly baked food products, all of which have a first class rating on sites such as Tripadviser.
They are not only the first brick and mortar business to accept Bitcoin, but are also the owners of the first exchange terminal in Northern Ireland that lets those wanting to purchase some Bitcoin able to do so in as simple a manner as sending a text message.
Orla has all her staff fully trained on how the digital currency works, accepting it for purchases and how to use the exchange terminal to sell Bitcoin, so anyone looking to try this future mainstream currency out for the first time have knowledgeable staff to answer any questions they may have.
An interesting point the owner brought up during my conversation on the topic of were any customers spending Bitcoin with them since their launch last week was that although they had local customers doing this from day one, the majority of consumers paying in Bitcoin are holiday makers.
This makes a lot of sense from the perspective of foreign exchange fees and should be an eye opener for other businesses around the province as holiday makers can travel from any part of the world with some Bitcoin in their wallet and not have to worry about exchange rates at all, just like the businesses serving them that accept the digital currency.
Ireland both North and South is a global tourist hot spot and the advantages Bitcoin brings to the tourist industry here is a big plus and just can’t be overlooked.
Fascinated by the fact they are the first in the province to accept and sell Bitcoin I reached out to the owner Orla and asked her some questions about this.
CTUK: How did you first hear about Bitcoin and what was it that enticed you into accepting it as a form of payment?
OMcK: We use social media and the internet extensively and I was aware that some coffee shops in London and in Europe were accepting Bitcoin. Being a forward thinking business person and always looking for opportunities to enhance my business, I decided to investigate further. Essentially, the prime factor in deciding to implement the use of Bitcoin was COST. We currently pay fees for all Credit/Debit card charges in addition to paying the bank to process our cash which is significant when my business is operating on tight margins. So, this seemed like a no-brainer to help reduce costs which is essential for all businesses regardless of size.
CTUK: It was a very brave move to take the leap forward and become the first brick and mortar business in the province to accept Bitcoin, how do compare accepting it to traditional payment methods?
OMcK: We have a handheld Coinkite Bitcoin exchange terminal and accepting Bitcoin is as straightforward as a normal credit/debit card process. We have had a number of purchases in the shop from Swedish and French customers and our use of Bitcoin is much cheaper for the customer – Bitcoin is a world currency!
CTUK: I know you have only recently started accepting the digital currency as a payment, but can you tell me what type of cliental are using this form of payment in your coffee shop?
OMcK: Surprisingly, customers who want to pay in Bitcoin are from the broad spectrum of the community and not just IT gurus. We have had students, young professionals, new parents and an ongoing interest from our regular customers who all come from different paths of life.
CTUK: Can you see an upsurge in the amount of businesses accepting Bitcoin as a payment method in the future in the North of Ireland as it moves further into the mainstream?
OMcK: Certainly. Business people in the North are very savvy and any opportunity to improve business and reduce costs will be adapted quickly. I compare it to the stage the internet was at in the early 1990s where there was a relatively slow start-up and but then it took off exponentially. We are extremely excited to be the first to get on board to accept BITCOIN.
CTUK: You are also the first and only place in Northern Ireland were people can come in with cash and purchase Bitcoin, what made you decide to provide this much needed service?
OMcK: As previously stated, I am always looking for new opportunities to enhance my business, and since we have invested in a Coinkite Exchange terminal, this allows us to sell Bitcoins in a controlled, safe and legal environment. We also took professional advice from experts in the Bitcoin arena and our accountants. Our business is coffee and we can attract new customers and new Bitcoin users with this facility.
CTUK: Finally I’m very excited to hear of this development and would like to congratulate you on being the first in the province to take these brave steps forward. What advice would you give to other businesses in the North thinking of accepting digital currencies as a form of payment?
OMcK: Get professional help from day one! There is so much information available that it can be confusing how you go about using Bitcoin in your business.
If you are a Bitcoin user in N.Ireland looking to spend some of your digital currency or just interested in purchasing some more or for the first time.
Or if you’re a holiday maker to the province with some Bitcoin in your wallet to spend make sure to make Boden Park Coffee Company in Belfast your first port of call, I can promise you won’t be disappointed!