Percy’s Corner, co-owned by Sarah Eagles, Liam Howe and Brett Barefoot, is located in the Gold Coast’s original ambulance station in Southport - a somewhat unlikely spot for a buzzing coffee shop. StartUp Creative quizzed Sarah and Liam about their business venture.
Why did you start Percy’s?
In mid-2013 we were moving home from Sydney. We were excited to be around family and friends, but sad to leave one of the most inspiring cities we've spent time in. One of the things we loved about Sydney was the way people just did what they wanted - there is enough population density that no matter who or what you want to be, you can. The opportunities are endless if you’re willing to give it a go. Also, with a lot of young businesses down there, they have a relentless quest for quality. As business people, that’s really inspiring. We wanted to bring that here to the GC, and contribute to the movement of young business people who are giving it a go and expanding our culture. Percy’s Corner was our contribution towards specialty coffee, in an area that didn’t really have it before. We also wanted to be part of the current revitalization of the streetscape.
What were you doing before Percy’s?
We’re all from different backgrounds work-wise. Brett, one of our business partners, is from Melbourne and was in advertising. He moved to the coast about 6 years ago for a change of scenery and to join the specialty coffee movement. Liam still runs an engineering project management group, which specialise in major events, and Sarah was working in mental health research on depression. She’s now doing her PhD in the same field!
What is the passion behind Percy’s?
The quest for quality. We have a passion for specialty coffee. We love the technical details and the constant drive towards quality through process, taste, service and atmosphere. We honestly love every aspect of what Percy’s is, and getting to share that with our customers is what it’s all about.
A few reasons… Liam’s brother Ben runs a co-working space in Southport in the same building, and there was this little space crying out for something great. So we had easy access to space! Secondly, there was no specialty coffee in Southport at that stage. Thirdly, we really like Southport and we weren’t afraid to be first to market in an area that was undergoing a major rebrand. Southport is the oldest village on the Gold Coast. The building we are in was the first ambulance station, opened in 1922. We love that there is still some real history in Southport, some amazing early Gold Coast architecture around the retail strips. We’re hopeful that we’re helping to lead people with the revitalisation and show how to view these old spaces in new ways. It’s going to take some time but we have confidence in the area!
Why start your own business? Why not just work for someone else?
Why not start your own? Firstly, it allows you to have creative control over your product. Secondly, you direct every step of the process and that in turn gives you an incredible amount of drive, passion and pride in what you do. Yes, it’s daunting at first – weighing up the risks and stepping into new territory, but that’s what also makes it so much fun! You’re constantly learning and making mistakes and growing with your business. It’s incredibly rewarding.
Where did the name come from?
Percy’s Corner is named after Percy Raby – the first superintendent to run the ambulance station. Percy had a pretty stand-up reputation and he lived in the station with his family during the 20s, 30s and 40s. The space we occupy was his office. During the stations restoration his memorabilia and legacy popped up everywhere – so we thought it fitting to name it after him.
What’ are your top tips for starting a business?
1. Get great people. Selection of the team is the most important part of any business.
2. Have passion and belief in your product.
3. Have a vision. It’s ok if that vision evolves but it should always be clear enough to guide your decisions.
4. Research, budget, talk to people and listen to their advice. Don’t be afraid to reach out and contact someone who has done similar things before. You will be surprised how often they love sharing their knowledge and helping people start something. Know your market, product and costs.
5. Have a conscience! Do good for people, product and environment.