Unless you have been living in solitude or have not yet fallen victim to the epidemic that is caffeine addiction, you may have taken notice of the deluge of coffee-fuelled startups appearing on the Gold Coast. But don’t be fooled by trend, these new entrepreneurs are tapping into an infinite pool of business people, university students and surfers all looking for that next perfect café latte.
So how do you survive as the newest kids on the block in a café mad city? According to Jermaine and Verity Elcham, the owners of newly established Parlour Coffee in Tallebudgera, the golden formula comes in the form of rich Old World designs, passionate staff and being a warm community hub conveniently located on the local ‘mum’s school run’.
Age when started: 29 Jermaine, 23 Verity
You were working in the cafe industry before, what made you take the leap to start your own cafe?
I have been working in cafes since leaving school in 2003, (12 years). I still remember my first job in a cafe was to squeeze oranges, empty the bins and dishes. When I got ‘promoted’ to making coffee was the start of a cafe dream which has now been realised.
The GC is very populated with coffee shops was that a consideration when choosing to start a coffee shop?
One thing that I am passionate about is educating our patrons about traceability of the coffee we offer in our bar, particularly drawing attention to the divide between rich and poor coffee producing countries. There is an amazing amount of labour and effort that goes into producing the coffee that we can take for granted in our privileged part of the world.
How will Parlour differ and stand out in the market place?
In the 1920s we used to have a room in our homes called the ‘Parlour Room’; it was a space where hosts would entertain their guests with their finest crockery, best furniture and maybe some art work. We have adopted this idea into our business philosophy to put up our best coffee and food in a space that is as welcome as it would be in someone’s Parlour Room.
What was your thought process around choosing the location?
We loved the colonial style, old world setting of Tallebudgera Creek Road. We knew it was a busy little business precinct with some iconic cafes. We chose this location to compliment the area rather than compete with it. We hope to add to community here rather than taking something away.
Do you think it is important to start a business in an industry that you’ve worked in before? What advantages does that give you?
I feel like I have done a 12-year apprenticeship to get to this point and so in some ways it has become my family craft. I have had the privilege of working in my family’s food businesses which has given me a realistic insight into the operational side of things. I didn’t start romanticising about “opening a cafe”, [but] rather had a realistic ground level insight for my desire to open a cafe.
What research did you do before opening?
We wanted to set up a cafe around an area where there is people who drink coffee. The backstreet location that is discreet suits Melbourne and Sydney well but not the Gold Coast. We knew this was business precinct and we knew we are on the mum’s school run and so we feel rightly positioned for a business that sells coffee and food.
You’re a married couple starting a business together? What’s the trick to work/life balance?
We met “on the job” dated and then married. I remember having to close the business we worked at early so we could have our wedding! It is a humbling experience when you work with your spouse; we remind ourselves often that we are on the same team!
Did you put your own funds into starting the business?
We took 5 months off work and moved into our parents-in-law place so that we could put everything into our business. We also borrowed some money!
Some coffee shops on the GC have opened doors without having finished the fit out and have kept it simple and basic but you guys opened doors with a beautiful full fit out. Did you feel confident that investing big money from the start would help your success?
We wanted to create a space that was clean, warm, and comfortable to enjoy our menu and service in. We feel we have achieved this by keeping our fit out in theme with the whole street. I did feel confident in our fit out mainly because it is a space that I would want to patron if I were a customer. I used that though process to help me make decisions about design and function. “How would I want to enjoy this space?”
What’s your motivation when you’re having a bad day?
I take bad day to mean: our patrons are ordering an unusual amount of decafe! My motivation is thinking of the ‘big picture’ of the freedom of owning a business can afford you.
What have you learnt from working for others that you’ll aim to make Parlour a great place to work and dine?
My biggest lesson which hindsight has taught is that everything in this industry is oriented around relationships! The quality of our business is reflected in the quality of our relationships, not just with patrons but with our suppliers and staff also.
What was the biggest risk factor for you guys when starting Parlour and how did you overcome and deal with the fear of that?
I had some great help when developing a business model that would work and function as a cafe and so I feel that I minimised risk by asking a lot of questions of the ‘right’ people. By right people I mean forerunners whom have done this before.
What are your top three tips for young people looking to take the leap with starting their own business?
- Ask questions, play ‘smart’ by playing dumb.
- If you are not passionate about your product or brand you are unlikely to get your customers excited about your business as it is reflected in who you are.
- Do everything by the book! There are no real shortcuts in business; your reputation and integrity are easily damaged.
You can find Parlour on Facebook or Instagram @parlour.coffee