Soul Economy had the great pleasure of speaking to Roger O’Halloran recently and learn more about the Fair Trade Coffee Company. They offer coffee and tea free from exploitation, so you can be sure that every bean of the coffee and tea leaf is certified fair trade. The cafe offers a comfortable, relaxing environment in which to enjoy specialty Fairtrade coffee and delicious meals and snacks. Located close to Glebe markets, University of Sydney and Broadway shopping complex they offer a great meeting place with a real sense of community. To find out more from Roger…..
1. What gave you the idea to start the business? How long did you have the idea for?
Palms Australia has done similar work since 1961 i.e. recruit, prepare send and support volunteers who work for two to three years at the request of communities seeking to sustainably reduce poverty through skill exchange. When we were looking at raising greater awareness and income for our work we decided that a cafe would be a good way of putting our ethic and values on the street.
Of course any income must not be produced off the back of exploited labour so The Fair Trade Coffee Company was a natural. We have previously of course had a fair trade artefacts business (New Guinea Arts 1971-2001) so the concept is not new to us. The specific idea of The Fair Trade Coffee Company was in development since 2004.
2. Did you receive much support from family and friends and other people in the community in the beginning?
Yes, Palms Australia has a great little network of volunteers right around Australia including committees and a board and full-time volunteers in our office. Many of the Palms community in Sydney gave great assistance at all levels of activity and still do.
3. How long has the business been running?
The cafe has been open for just 12 months.
4. What were you doing before you started the business?
I am the Executive Director of Palms Australia. A brief outline of Palms work is mentioned above and you can look at www.palms.org.au to get an idea of all I and my colleagues have been doing and still do.
5. What have been your greatest challenges? Your greatest successes?
The early months of any small business I think can be scary while money is being poured in. From what I can gather when employing new staff we are probably the only cafe where employees receive award wage and conditions, including penalty rates on Saturdays and Public Holidays, and superannuation. I can understand business giving into the temptation of paying cash wages to avoid tax and lower labour costs. Not going that way was a challenge, especially when there were no profits.
6. What is your core product? Do you have other products as well?
Certified Fair Trade Coffee and Tea and anything else imported. We also have great meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
7. Are there other people out there doing similar things?
Yes, partially. I am not sure any are as exclusively fair trade as we are. Also I do not know of any other cafe that is set up to give all profits to overseas aid and development.
8. Is it difficult or easier to attract the right people to work for you?
The ethic makes it easier.
9. How have you gone about promoting the business? Of these, which have been the most effective?
Providing great service and a great product is self promoting. Word of mouth can be slow, but is the best sales driver.
10. What keeps you going?
The ethic and values, vision and mission of Palms Australia. Go to our web site. I think you will see all you need there, but feel free to ask for more if you need it.