Vanessa at oasis

Orange is the New Black: Kapiti Coast Coffee

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28 August 2017

Vanessa Richmond used to work long hours in HR at a London finance house. That life must feel a long way away from her small business on the Kapiti Coast, where she now trades in coffee and conversation.

We caught up with Vanessa and asked what she likes about operating Oasis, her popular and distinctly orange-imbued coffee cart in the Coastlands shopping centre.

Your new life must feel like an oasis from what you did in the UK. Tell us how you made the switch …
Relocating back to New Zealand was an opportunity to take time out to spend with my family and re-evaluate what I wanted to do when I grew up! I love coffee, on some days it’s my saviour, and I’ve always been intrigued watching baristas at work.

Just eighteen months ago, with no previous experience, I got to learn the art of coffee making, working part-time for someone else. Earlier this year,  I took the plunge and bought an existing coffee cart that I’ve since rebranded and made my own.

How is it being a sole-operator?
I love that I get to meet people from all walks of life. I enjoy chatting with customers and having a good laugh together is the highlight of my day. I am always captivated by my customers’ stories.

Being self-employed, I get to make my own decisions; I’m always assessing how things are going and making changes.   I’m passionate about supporting locally produced goods, and find researching meeting with local businesses is really rewarding.

There are daily challenges but they vary hugely in scale; from running out of marshmallows to being forced to close due to extreme weather! My friend Michelle at Café No 6 is a support and my back-up for stock, and Emporio’s Simon and Eric are always there for technical advice. The other café owners and coffee roasters I’ve met so far are have all been happy to share their experience and pass on business advice, which has been refreshing to a novice like me.

What’s the key to a great coffee?
Getting the coffee shot right.  The consistency and temperature of the milk and any added extras result in the perfect coffee.  

How do you take your own coffee?
A small flat white (the most popular coffee I sell!).  Occasionally, I've been known to mix it up and have a long black or add a splash of hazelnut.

Tell us why you chose to work with Emporio?
I really like the coffee! The blend is by far my favourite. When I was buying my business, I wanted to change the coffee supplier. It was the easiest and best decision I made to go with Emporio. Feedback from my customers backs this up.

The team at Emporio is fantastic, very supportive, offering advice and answering all my questions (as silly as some were).  Nothing is too much to ask. The beautiful custom-painted orange Wega machine Emporio supplied and installed is my favourite thing in the cart.

I also loved the Crown Lynn orange flowers cup – it matched my own branding perfectly.

Any advice for other newbies starting out in the business?  
Location, location, location. Also, be consistent in everything you do – particularly the coffee you produce and the service. Meet all your suppliers and business contacts in person and continue to build solid relationships. Be prepared to operate the business with little or no personal income for the first 6–12 months.