Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on the Central Coast and moved to Armidale in 2004. I held a few roles at the university (UNE) managing the security contract and then working in the Student Centre. I switched to working in the private sector in 2012 and my wife and I bought the Easy As Coffee business in 2014. I went on to buy the Ridgey Didge Pies franchise in 2016 and both businesses operate out of the same premises. We’ve been happily operating for seven years now.
I have five children ranging in age from 2 to 21. The older children regularly help out in the shop and are familiar faces to our regular customers. Alex, my eldest, works full time at Woolies, but still helps us out occasionally. William is 17 and is an apprentice chef with the Bowling Club. He also still helps us out on his day off. The big girls, Bianca and Claire, are still at school, while our little one, Bridie, has started at Galloway Children’s Centre. I am sure she will be making excellent coffee and gourmet pies by the age of five. Even Mum comes and helps out and makes our fresh muffins and croissants. We are very much a family enterprise, and we treat our staff as family as well.
What does Easy As Coffee and Ridgey Didge Pies do?
Firstly, we are a drive-through coffee shop. Along with the Ridgey Didge Pies, we offer coffee, cakes and slices, sandwiches, wraps and, in the wintertime, lovely fresh homemade soup. We also do outside catering, and we have a mobile coffee trailer.
What led you to Armidale?
I had a mate who worked in a courier business who’d begged me to come and help him out in his business. I didn’t want to bring up the kids in Sydney and that was a big incentive to take up an opportunity to live in a regional town. I’d spent 18 months in Armidale in 1993 managing a Tandy store and fell in love with the area then. So, the shift was an easy decision.
What made you want to start your own business?
I’d been in management positions for most of my working career – managing other people’s businesses, making them money – and I wanted the freedom of working for myself. I had no intention of going back into hospitality – my mum had owned a fish and chip shop when I was growing up. I started working there as a 10-year-old kid. So, although I had no intention, I saw the opportunity and the rest is history.
Before we bought the Ridgey Didge franchise we were using the Timbertown (the Ridgey Didge mother company) range of pies. I had a conversation with them one day and we started talking about the possibility of bringing Ridgey Didge back to Armidale.
What have been some of your challenges in starting your business?
The biggest challenge, then and now, is that people didn’t know we were here, and after 12 years some people still don’t know we exist.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I like the flexibility of being your own boss, being able to work around the family, attend family functions, school things, and not being tied to the 9 to 5. Of course, you also have to work much harder being your own boss, but it’s worth it.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
My advice to someone looking to start their own business would be to look for unique opportunities, to find a niche market. In our case, while there are lots of coffee options in town, we are the only drive-through coffee shop. And of course, we’re the go-to for the best pies in town!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by my customers. They give you feedback on what you need to improve and give you ideas for new products or ways to do things.
What is your secret for success?
Well, we are still in business after 7 years. I attribute it to continually adapting and being willing to change. You can’t keep doing the same thing every day and expecting a different result. We are always looking for opportunities to enhance our offerings – which is what led us to incorporate Ridgey Didge into our business – which has supported our growth.
Currently we employ 7 casual staff and we have had to adapt to the challenges COVID-19 has presented – adapting to what’s going on. We’ve kept trading throughout and, with the latest restrictions, as we were half expecting them, we were able to quickly put everything in place.
What’s next for Easy As Coffee and Ridgey Didge Pies?
The business will evolve as we keep listening to our customers and communities. And we will need to keep adapting to the challenges of the pandemic and the cultural shift that’s happening along with it. I think things like checking in will become second nature, and I believe that the current shift to supporting local businesses as a preference will continue.