"When one door closes, another one opens"
Paul Kelly had it right when he said from little things big things grow, especially when it comes to Torquay locals Stephen and Mandana Baker. You may have heard of their gorgeous coffee caravan Little Things Big Things that has been popping up at farmers markets, festivals and weddings on the Surf Coast since 2018.
Having lost 70% of their income during the pandemic, the couple were inspired and opened up their first permanent doors back in August – a café in Torquay. Operating under the same apt title, Stephen and Mandana turned an empty shopfront they found out about through a customer into a bright, beachy café in just six weeks.
We spoke to Stephen and Mandana about their venture.
First up, congrats on your venture. What inspired you to open this business?
We just saw an opportunity. We had lost eight months of worth of work with our mobile coffee caravan within 48hrs and as the saying goes – when one door closes, another one opens 🙂 our community also inspired us, we wanted to create something unique and original for us all to enjoy.
What encouraged you to go for it? Did you look or go to anyone for advice?
No advice, just a paper napkin with a few scribbled notes and a couple of doodled lines on it plus regular visits at our hardware store which was of great help when we did get stuck with something.
At the end of the day it’s been tested true that fortune favours the brave. We had the choice to go for it (despite having next to no funds yet the resources and an unwavering tenacious self-belief to do it) or drown in self pity. We did have all of our suppliers lined up due to our caravan business which certainly made the transition into a brick and mortar business easier!
What were the challenges in opening a business during a pandemic?
Interestingly enough, the pandemic made it easier! Fees were being waved, we were supported with job keeper for the loss of the caravan business and therefore had time on our side to build the café. The community really rallied around us with kindness, excitement and plenty of encouragement. Communities do matter and we would encourage anyone considering to begin a new business venture in this period to focus on a community focus business model that supports other local businesses.
Did anything surprise you throughout the process?
If anything was surprising to us it was the ease of this all. Obviously we applied strong personal efforts to build it all yet the external aspects eg. permits etc are what we are referring to. We also were surprised about the apparent desire for a business like this. We get it every day that a customer is telling us “this is exactly what Torquay needed”. There is a large vegan\gluten free, vegetarian and health conscious community here that we are now catering for.
How has the reception from locals been so far?
It’s been splendid, just splendid. The amount of people expressing kind things to us and our efforts has been absolutely humbling to say the least.
What’s next for you and the business?
We are planning to grow our outdoor area. A pergola and a few more seats are in the pipeline, all whilst keeping the beach café flair alive.
Lastly, we’re all about supporting local businesses and each other – if you could recommend another local business who would it be?
Mikro Coffee (our coffee provider). They are a lovely local couple doing really great things and their coffee is amazing!!
We also are a huge fan of Samesyn Restaurant on Bells. Amazing food and the attention to details is exceptional!
Little Things Big Things can be found at 38 Bell Street, Torquay, or @ltbtspecialtycoffee