Kakapo Chat 001: Hui & Connie. Purchasers of Melba Hillsborough

Welcome to the very first edition of Kakapo Chat, a monthly catch up with a host of business owners who share their journey. In Kakapo Chat 001 we check in with Hui & Connie, friends of Kakapo for many years who recently became the proud new owners of Melba Cafe in Hillsborough.

You've taken a slightly different path to most first-time business owners, tell us about your journey so far.

We had always wanted to own a Melba Cafe. We made an offer on an existing Melba cafe with James Ashwin a few years back but unfortunately it did't work out at that time due to our lack of hospitality experience. We we're determined and we decided to purchase a franchised cafe where we gained valuable hospitality experience, for the 2 years we owned the franchise cafe we learned a lot and improved the sales and profitability considerably but it was time to sell that business so we could pursue our Melba dream.

I think Melba were a bit surprised we came back but they were really impressed with what we had achieved, the stars aligned and a new Melba cafe had become available to purchase. After 3 months of training and on the job evaluation we received approval to became Melba Licensees which brings us up to now, the proud owners of Melba Hillsborough.

You're 6 months into owning Melba Hillsborough, how's it all going?

Melba is a very strong brand, it gives you a great stage to perform and we're really happy with how everything is going.

You've been a franchisee and you're now a licensee, what is the difference between the two?

As a franchisee you will get a lot of support from head office for the day to day running and operations of your store (which was great when we had little experience) but at the same time you're also restricted on what you can do. As a Melba licensee you're treated as an experienced operator, the focus of head office is more about fine tuning your business and helping to promote your business within the local community.

A lot of franchise cafes have a very similar look and feel whereas every Melba Cafe is unique, they have their own signature dishes and every Melba has its own look and feel to make them unique.

What did you find the hardest when transitioning from employee to employer?

When you become a business owner you take on a whole lot more responsibility, one time we had a staff member became sick and it delayed our family holiday as nobody could cover the shift. There are great things about owning a business but every so often things go wrong and you're the one that needs to fix it.

What is the most rewarding part about being a business owner?

When you improve the sales your hard work is recognised, the harder you work the bigger the reward.

In hospitality business sales there is a fear that you might lose your barista, a chef or a key staff member and that the world is going to end, what would you say to potential business purchasers who are worried about this?

It's completely normal for people to move around in the hospitality industry, there are a lot of talented people in New Zealand so the next barista or chef who turns up might be a lot better than your current one.

Knowing what you know now, what are 3 pieces of advice you would offer to someone who is looking to become a business owner for the first time?

  1. You've got to be prepared to work hard and not every day will be a great day, some days might be a nightmare but overall business ownership is awesome.
  2. Get suggestions from experts, don't be afraid to ask others for advice and do your homework before investing into a business.
  3. Owning a business is hard work and so you need to enjoy being there, try to purchase a business that you truly love.
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