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Creating a Cafe: Opportunity arises

By Sophia Carlini - 30 January 2016 14

I have always admired and strived to be a successful person. I believe success is measured in many ways and each individual has their own idea of what successful looks like. For me, I always saw being a business owner as one of the many ways to measure my success.

I’m fairly certain that at some point in everyone’s life, you have tried to think of that million dollar idea. Since I can remember, my parents instilled in me the value of money;  I was told from a very young age that I would go to Uni and become a wealthy doctor or lawyer; when I was a kid, these were two very successful industries and in the eyes of middle class families, it was the dream. Now as an adult, I realise that being a doctor or a lawyer isn’t necessarily all glamour and it certainly isn’t all about the money. Did you know that quite a large number of qualified lawyers don’t even practice law? And that’s how I became one of those people in search of a million dollar idea.

A couple of years ago I discovered that I can cook, so I began practicing and refining my skills. Before I knew it friends and family were ordering cakes and cupcakes from me. I wanted to turn this little hobby into a business, but at the time I just wasn’t really motivated enough to take it anywhere so I left the idea alone. Over time, I was getting more and more orders and this hobby begun consuming my life. I remember sitting on the floor of my kitchen one night, balling my eyes out because my friend’s wedding cake was disastrous; I had been baking all day and had hours to go, exhaustion had definitely kicked in. It was at this point that I realised that baking as a business was not for me. Any baker out there will agree that you never get back what you put in, there are so many people who just don’t understand or appreciate the time and energy a baker puts into their cakes. I decided to put the idea on hold.

In case you were wondering, the wedding cake made it to the reception and it was a hit! It was one of those moments in life where you just have to pull up your big girl panties and get on with it.

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When I met Mike, I was totally in awe of him; Mike is what I would consider to be successful. From an early age Mike had strived towards greatness; buying his first house when he was 19 and then going on to be a partner in various business ventures over the years. Mike and I knew when we met that we were going to spend our lives together. There were so many reasons we knew, but the biggest reason is because we drive each other to be the best (we drive each other crazy as well).

In August 2015, Mike had an idea (he always has ideas); he had heard about a tiny little lolly shop in Bailey’s Arcade that was for sale, and thought that we could start a small project together. I can’t even remember if I actually said yes, but before I knew it Mike had begun engaging all the right people to make this happen. I was definitely excited, it was certainly something I had considered doing previously, but I did not know what I was in for, so much so, that I didn’t even know where to start.

And so, the journey of becoming a Canberra small business owner began.

Over the next weeks and months, Sophia will take us on her journey to becoming a business owner and building her cafe.

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Creating a Cafe: Opportunity arises
pajs 11:32 am 24 Feb 16

Best of luck with the business. It’s hard graft.

A suggestion: you have a street-facing display cabinet and sales counter. The pastries in that display are for sale over that front counter, but have no prices displayed. Have a look at how Croissant d’Or displays their pastries and you’ll see the pricing information is clear. If a customer’s first encounter with your business is the awkward of having to either ask a price, or order and then find they don’t have enough money for the item, you are not starting off on a good foot.

Not having prices on display also can give people the impression you might charge different people different prices for the same thing, going straight to whether they can trust you or not. Easy enough to avoid this by being transparent with your pricing on display.

Jordania 9:24 am 24 Feb 16

Have come to this article late but wanted to congratulate Sophia on a brave but probably great decision. And to say to Jay from Kaleen: what a great post! Supportive, helpful and just plain nice. Would that all Riotous posters were such.

Janos 4:39 pm 04 Feb 16

Opening a cafe is a truly difficult enterprise, from my experience. It will test your resilience riding the rollercoaster. Don’t count the customers each day early on, get established first. Location is important, but not the be all and end all. My cafe is in a difficult to see location, yet we are improving week by week in our customer base 7 months in. My advice: Good staff are fundamentally important. One lazy one can undermine all the others. Keep em casual as the incentive to work is there and it is easier to remove a poor performer. The staff who want to work will lap up the hours and better pay. Finding weekday workers is the tough one. But it’s worthwhile. A great manager who you can trust to run the joint when you aren’t there. You WILL need a break, being here 7 days a week leads to moodiness. Don’t buy second hand, sub standard equipment. It doesn’t work out cheaper. Having a dishwasher blow up on a Saturday wasn’t much fun, unless you like hand washing in a flat out cafe. Keep your menu relatively simple. Remember as flash as some ingredients are, they do go off if they aren’t used. If you are a cook you will probably know this, but when you have a bunch of food you thought sounded great, but nobody bought it, it’s a hell of a waste. Linking with this is your demographic. Who is buying your food? Are commuters going to have time for a sit down meal? Or do they want something quick? Having cakes and other sweets is great, caramel slice has been a huge hit for us. Signage and advertising are extremely important. Believe it or not, A-frame signs made a huge difference between people finding us and not knowing we were there. Make the script large and simple, people who are walking quickly don’t read fine print. Try sending emails to fitness and cycling groups letting em know you are there, if you can squeeze em in. If you can jump on the fitness route that’s great.
in any case, rioters should jump on the bandwagon and support you. So enjoy it, don’t expect big bucks. A lot of people who don’t own a business, and will never have the guts to, will naysay and tell how it should be done. Ultimately it’s up to you how you run it and it’s far easier for people who have no investment to give you well meaning, but bad advice.
Don’t sweat a few complaints early on. A new cafe will have teething problems. We had a couple of poor reviews and they really hurt. But we learn, we adapt and now we are just under 5 stars on the Facebook anyways.
Above all, good luck.
Jay

Eat Me Drink Me
Kaleen.

rubaiyat 5:45 pm 01 Feb 16

Alexandra Craig said :

It’s funny, I have said to my partner a bunch of times that I can’t believe there’s not a hole in the wall cafe or even a regular cafe along the bus interchange. I think there’s a big market for one there – I said I would open one myself if I was business-minded. Best of luck, Sophia. I walk past that spot at least once a day so I’m keen to see how it all turns out 🙂

Here is a golden business idea that I am willing to donate to the forum:

A mobile coffee business next to the Commonwealth Bank lunchtime queues. 🙂

On a good day may even get repeat orders!

Sophia Carlini 3:45 pm 01 Feb 16

Ezy said :

Good luck with it all.

What made you choose that space? From what I have seen, that arcade gets very little foot traffic and the outlook isn’t out onto a nice outdoor space.

I guess you will touch on it in your ongoing articles, but I am keen to hear about the things that your cafe will have that will set it apart from other cafes in the area.

Thank you for your comment and well wishes! There are a couple of reasons why we chose that space .. which I will touch on later. As well as what will set us apart. It’s something that we have put a lot of thought into 🙂

Sophia Carlini 3:43 pm 01 Feb 16

Masquara said :

What brand of coffee are you getting in? : )

We are using Gabriel coffee but I will touch on all of that in due course 🙂

Alexandra Craig 1:30 pm 01 Feb 16

It’s funny, I have said to my partner a bunch of times that I can’t believe there’s not a hole in the wall cafe or even a regular cafe along the bus interchange. I think there’s a big market for one there – I said I would open one myself if I was business-minded. Best of luck, Sophia. I walk past that spot at least once a day so I’m keen to see how it all turns out 🙂

Ezy 11:29 am 01 Feb 16

Ahh roger that. Good foot traffic then.

The closest competing will be Tupelo, so the coffee will need to be A+.

pink little birdie 11:10 am 01 Feb 16

Ezy said :

Good luck with it all.

What made you choose that space? From what I have seen, that arcade gets very little foot traffic and the outlook isn’t out onto a nice outdoor space.

I guess you will touch on it in your ongoing articles, but I am keen to hear about the things that your cafe will have that will set it apart from other cafes in the area.

Ezy said :

If it replaced the lolly shop (which I think it is) it’s a hole in the wall take away coffee shop fronting the bus interchange near the woden bound interchange express stop. From memory there isn’t an easy take-a-way coffee shop along there. Macca’s and some cafes on the other side of the street. I’d say that’s the market – waiting for a bus/just got off the bus market.

Alexandra Craig 9:32 am 01 Feb 16

Ezy said :

Good luck with it all.

What made you choose that space? From what I have seen, that arcade gets very little foot traffic and the outlook isn’t out onto a nice outdoor space.

I guess you will touch on it in your ongoing articles, but I am keen to hear about the things that your cafe will have that will set it apart from other cafes in the area.

It’s right next to the bus interchange though – I think Sophia will make a killing in takeaway coffee 🙂

Ezy 8:35 am 01 Feb 16

Good luck with it all.

What made you choose that space? From what I have seen, that arcade gets very little foot traffic and the outlook isn’t out onto a nice outdoor space.

I guess you will touch on it in your ongoing articles, but I am keen to hear about the things that your cafe will have that will set it apart from other cafes in the area.

rubaiyat 12:30 pm 31 Jan 16

“It was one of those moments in life where you just have to pull up your big girl panties and get on with it.’

That pretty well sums up small business, particularly the hospitality game.

Congratulations on giving this a shot, and I hope all goes well for you. Keep up the determination and the pride in what you do. It is an exciting time in Canberra, we have discovered that we can do things, and even excel despite some of the old school Canberrans who put a huge dampner on the place for so long.

Canberra can hold its head up high now and so many people are making their mark in food because there is finally an audience that both recognises and patronises those who aim high. Helped by the increasing density of Inner Canberra who create the market.

I’ll look for you next time I am in town. Always willing to support those who give it their best. Don’t expect to coast in, but if you are good I’ll say so to your face and recommend you to all and sundry. Make sure you nail the coffee! 🙂

Masquara 10:30 am 31 Jan 16

What brand of coffee are you getting in? : )

justin heywood 7:54 am 31 Jan 16

Excellent article, looking forward to seeing how this goes.

The only people who think starting and running a business is an easy way to easy money are people who’ve never done it. And a hospitality business in Canberra would add an extra degree of difficulty, cause we’re a picky and fickle bunch!

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