For the co-owners of Intra cafe, Sean Baker and Nick Wood, starting a business two years ago when they were 21, and “literally jumping headfirst into a huge unknown”, was more of a blessing than a curse.
Mr Baker says despite being “constantly looked down upon for their young age”, they were both actually more willing to take risks because if anything was to go wrong, they knew they had family and friends to fall back on.
It is to this support that both credit the success of the first few months. Mr Baker says it was simply the knowledge that “if we needed anything, they would be there at the drop of a hat”.
What the two were hoping to create in Intra was a space totally different from anything else in the region. They thought most cafes in Canberra were simply a “copy and paste of one another, lacking both the desire and the imagination to create spaces which challenge preconceived ideas of what cafes should be”.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing initially. Both say the administrative side of running a business was not something they had previously known much about. Many new business owners would probably be inclined to agree.
But this was made especially difficult, says Mr Baker, when dealing with organisations such as the body corporate, strata management, various builders and ACT Health among others, who would often question every decision the pair were making.
They say it was “difficult to try and get them to see eye-to-eye with us” as many were more interested in impressing their own opinions on the pair.
But they remained resolute in following their own vision.
Mr Baker also says they were unprepared for how crucial the food aspect of the business would be, given they had initially wanted to create a cafe more focused on coffee. They quickly learned, he says, that Canberra simply does not have the population density in the inner suburbs for such a venture.
However, “once this became clear, we changed up our menu to make it more approachable and had to renovate the kitchen area to keep up with the pace of the cafe and the kitchen’s output”. Now, all runs smoothly.
They also say they got “really lucky during COVID” and Intra’s location had much to do with this. It sits in Campbell, under blocks of apartments, and so, when COVID-19 hit, people who would normally dash in for a morning coffee were now at home all day, and so would visit two or three times.
Sean and Nick also used the opportunity to acquire their takeaway liquor licence, and have since launched a second venture – Waxtop Wine and Liquor.
It is an online bottle shop, focusing on what they call “minimal intervention wines, both local and international, as well as beers and spirits”.
They’ve also started pop-ups with other venues in Canberra – where the kitchen is taken over for an evening by the likes of Kiosk (Louis Couttoupes), UNDER Bakery (Lach Cutting) and FK Spiders (Lucas Wood and Caitlin Baker).
Intra is open for speciality coffee, casual breakfast and lunch seven days a week, from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm Monday to Fridays, and from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Saturday and Sunday at 30/12 Provan Street, Campbell.