This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Shirley Heffernan, the owner of Fusspots. Located in Ebor, Fusspots is a locally owned and family operated café open for breakfast and lunch. If you ever taken the Waterfall Way to or from the Coffs Coast, chances are you have stopped in at Fusspots.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My first husband wanted to move out of Sydney and 38 years ago we ended up buying a block of land just out of Ebor, where I raised my three daughters. All three went to school here.
We found the locals were all very friendly. I like to say that the stork got lazy and dropped me in the city when I was supposed to be a country kid. I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else. Ebor has always felt like home to me. Our children loved it here, finding far more freedom than the city even way back then.
I also met my second husband here and we’ve been together, happily in Ebor for 31 years.
When did you start your business?
Around 11 or 12 years ago, my husband and I were in a car accident and staying on the farm was not an option anymore. My youngest daughter used to work for the previous owners of Fusspots, and when it went up for sale, we thought it would be a good idea. That was about 10 years ago.
What does Fusspots do?
Apart from the obvious food and coffee, we support the local crafts people and display and sell their crafts. We have a gentleman who makes pewter ware; another makes jewellery; one works with horseshoes; and another one recycles gas bottles and makes fireplaces out of them. We are open for lunch and breakfast, normally six days a week but currently four days a week.
What have been some of your challenges in starting Fusspots?
The biggest challenges were staffing, working out menus, the hours we were going to work. We were new to the business, so we had to work through all the basic stuff. We decided we would work seven days a week and had to work out getting time off. Last year with the fires and changing circumstances it became six days and now because of COViD its four days. We are hoping to get back to six or seven days again soon.
How has the pandemic affected you?
Just prior to the lockdown supplies had been getting hard to get and my goal had been to keep going as long as I could. The worst of it was I had just stocked up and everything was sorted and then on the Monday, we were closing everything down. When the Premier said we had to stay home, they were advising us to prepare for six months. I sold all my stock off to the locals as best I could and then shut everything. In the end I was closed for three months.
What do you like most about running your own business?
Knowing that if anything goes right or wrong it’s on me. Having worked for other people not having a say in how things went. Sometimes you get a boss who doesn’t sit right. I’m not a control freak but you like having some say in what happens to me. That’s always been – not a problem – but now I’m in charge of my own destiny – within reason. If things go wrong, it’s down to me and if things go right it’s also on me.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Know your market and try to not be one of many of the same type of business in the area. Look at what is already around and try to do something that is complementary, especially in smaller areas. The whole picture works better that way.
In Ebor we only have one pub, one café, and one service station. The servo sells some groceries. They don’t sell meals. I do breakfast and lunch, while the pub does lunch and dinner. We are about to get a fishing tackle place. We are not competing for customers and we are open for business.
What inspires you?
Having a happy customer. Having people come in and say that the food was lovely, or the coffee was nice. It motivates me to do it again.
What is your secret for success?
My eldest daughter says we are still here because we are too stubborn to give up. That’s pretty much it. When I set my mind to doing something, I see it out to the end. Although I wouldn’t keep bashing my head against a brick wall, I know you sometimes need to change direction. While I’m doing my job, I will stick to it until I’m not able to do it anymore. I’m not ready to retire yet, I’m not old enough (at 65)!
What’s next for Fusspots?
The goal is to re-open for six or seven days a week. We are also hoping to renovate eventually. I just hope to keep doing what I’m doing and keep having happy customers.