This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Rosie Barnett, the owner of Seesaw Coffee Co. in Armidale. Rosie loves her business and it shows as she greets all customers with a beaming smile.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have always been a very talkative person and very interested in people’s lives. That’s partly a result of growing up in a 160-seat restaurant in Bathurst, a large regional city. It was a country upbringing with a difference. After school, I came to Armidale to study business at UNE and met my partner here. We’re building a home out of town and own a stock agency. I love Armidale and this is where I wanted to start my business.
What does Seesaw Coffee Co do?
Seesaw is primarily a coffee shop. The coffee is a blend my family created 30 years ago with Mars Dimiki. It’s a unique blend. We also serve basic whole foods and healthy home-cooked meals. Seesaw is about people socialising, with kids running about and everyone relaxing together.
When did you start your business?
Seesaw started in 2018. After three years of searching Armidale for a suitable location, Dad and I found a derelict building owned by the Anglican Church. At that time, it had no power or water, but it is near Central Park and has plenty of parking. The location is near to the town centre but not right in it. I had a vision for what my coffee shop would look like, so I leased it and did up the building to make it the place I wanted it to be. Now it has lovely gardens and paths inviting people into our indoor and outdoor eating areas. Customers enjoy the vegetable and herb gardens and love the idea that the fresh herbs are used in our food. The colours of the building and laid-back interior decor create a sense of freshness and relaxation.
Why did you choose to open a coffee shop?
From the age of four, I was in my parent’s restaurant and used to run around telling people I wanted my own. I loved the buzz of hospitality. It was my lifelong dream to open a coffee shop.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
Starting a business is more challenging than I could ever put in words. Mentally, it’s huge. If I had known what it involved, I might not have done it! But I pressed on and came out the other side. I never envisioned where I’d be today.
Last year, we closed for seven weeks during the lockdown. People were afraid and were social distancing. We could have served take-away but that isn’t what Seesaw is about.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I see myself as a people person, rather than a businessperson. I love my job, but not the business side. I like being in control of how my job works. It takes a lot of energy but I thrive on it. I hate not being at Seesaw. It’s my 100 per cent passion and focus.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Many younger people are moving back to Armidale and starting a business. My advice is ‘just do it!’ Work out your risks, don’t overcapitalise – but do it. Negative people are always around; people said I shouldn’t start a coffee shop and would fail. So I did it anyway! I wanted to do a job I loved. It takes passion, commitment and hard work. Before starting your business, talk to your local council. The Armidale Council couldn’t have been more supportive; they listened and helped me get my plans and applications through.
What inspires you?
I love the vibe of the morning rush. And at the end of the day, I enjoy bumping into customers at the supermarket. The culture of the town is amazing. I love the way people of all ages socialise together and everyone is kind and generous. I’ve become more than friends with my customers, I’ve become part of their families.
What is your secret for success?
There were 27 coffee shops in Armidale when I opened, so the town was well served. I didn’t try to emulate any of them; I held to my vision and created my own style. The customers responded to this and I found a niche in the market. I remained true to my original ideas. I love my business; it is the fulfilment of my dream, but I’m not doing it alone. My parents have been an active support, the staff is great and the customer support is fantastic.
My parents’ restaurant was fine dining. From those years I learnt what was and wasn’t feasible for me. It was my idea to do the cooking myself, rather than having a chef. This keeps me in control.
What’s next for Seesaw Coffee Co?
That will sort itself out. Seesaw gets bigger every year. It’s my joy and I want it to be better. I take every week as it comes. I love our location and I wouldn’t move. People have suggested a franchise but I imagine Seesaw would be a very different business if it were anywhere else but Armidale.