How To Make A Small Business Thrive In A Small Town

17/11/2015 6:59 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Moto Bean

A jazz musician and an ancient history arts graduate build and open a cafe and coffee roasting business smack bang in the middle of nowhere in country Victoria.

With no hospitality experience.

And no coffee roasting experience.

In a town with a population of around 610.

That’s how unique and award winning small business Moto Bean Coffee Roasters, run by husband and wife team Lachy and Laura Evans, was born.

And it all happened a bit by accident.

“Originally, Dad was looking for a weekend getaway from Melbourne and we all liked the region -- we’ve been coming here on holidays since I was a baby,” Laura Evans told The Huffington Post Australia.

“We came across this block in Malmsbury, opposite the botanic gardens and it had a commercial overlay, so dad was like ‘oh, we’ll just put a coffee machine in the corner!’

“We were living in Wagga Wagga at the time -- Lachy was in the Australian Army Band and I was working at a museum, but we always wanted to run our own small business and we thought, ‘Why don’t we open a cafe in Malmsbury?!’ It was a bit of an accident how it came about.”

Accidental start or not, the Evans’, along with Laura’s parents George and Mandy, have worked tirelessly for 18 months to build Moto Bean into one of the most popular eateries in the region.

“It’s kind of a family venture -- we built the building that the cafe’s actually in, and it’s a bit of a fusion of all of us,” Evans said.

“Dad’s been in classic cars and motorcycles his whole life, and got Lachy into it as well so the cafe’s like a country, rustic, industrial barn with fireplaces and wooden beams -- but we have motorcycles on display within the actual restaurant and cafe.

“It sounds bizarre but it works really well and we attract a really wide audience of people -- foodies and motorcyclists, and people who want a good cup of coffee.

“We knew a lot of people came to the area on day trips, like car clubs and motorcycle clubs, so we brought that ‘on the road’ theme into it -- that was our marketing angle.”

moto bean

Moto Bean Coffee Roasters owners Laura and Lachy Evans, and their award-winning house blend.

Evans said one of the biggest challenges they faced was working out a business model that worked for them.

“We played around with opening hours and where our customers were coming from, and what they liked and what we wanted to do versus what people wanted from us,” she said.

“Finding that sweet spot took us 8 or 9 months -- the balance of staff versus turnover, versus opening hours and the flows of people; those boring business things were the hardest to tweak and get right.

“We tried working 7 days but it was just exhausting -- and we didn’t want to become bitter cafe owners, so we worked out the days and hours we’re busiest and only open then.”

The addition of the coffee roaster gave their business, and the region, an added attraction.

“Lachy didn’t know anything about roasting but he’s always been into coffee, and his uncle is quite a large wholesale coffee roaster so he mentored him about roasting and we took it further and started to do it ourselves onsite.

“He had a really good teacher which is so important because there’s nowhere to go and learn, there’s no coffee roasting school.

“It’s turned into a strong aspect of our business because we sell wholesale to a lot of cafes in the region too.”

moto bean

Moto Bean roasts and serves award-winning coffee.

Even though chief roaster Lachy knew nothing about roasting coffee 18 months ago, his house blend recently won a medal at the Australian International Coffee Awards.

Evans said the key to running a successful business in a small town was to fully embrace the community.

“We’re on the town hall committee and Malmsbury Village Fair committee because it’s not just about us, it’s about the whole town," she said.

“I love organising events which bring people together -- we organised a show’n’shine with the CFA which brought 3000 people into town.

“The whole town came out, as well as a lot of visitors and tourists and the CFA raised money for new truck. Without that community support, we wouldn’t be very successful.

“We rely a lot on our regular clientele -- and we’ve worked hard to have a really good local reputation. We even won a local business award through Bendigo Bank.

“There’s a real community spirit in a smaller town because if you don’t collaborate with other businesses or groups you won’t get anywhere.

“In a business like this, you need to work together.”

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