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Campos: The coffee brand turned entrepreneurial gold

Will Young’s love affair with coffee began at age 23, when he sipped the flat white at a Randwick café he refers to as his “epiphany.”

It was the coffee that would shape the course of his life.

Fast forward through a few painful years characterised by a failed business, financial hardship and health problems, Young made his comeback by purchasing Campos’ Newtown café – which has gone from selling just 50 coffees a day, to over 1500 under his direction. Thanks to Young’s vision, the Campos brand is enjoying something of a cult status and is sold in over 60 top restaurants around the country.

So, how did this entrepreneur turn a relatively unknown coffee brand into one the New York Times says is worth “a twenty-two hour flight?”

Q. What was the Campos business idea borne out of?

I lived next door to one of the first Boost Juice stores in Adelaide, which was a concept I found fascinating. Each item they produce they produce with vigour. I also loved how fast-paced it was, customers got their orders so quickly. I was also inspired by the ultra-professional barista at our local café, and my love of nightclubs (at the time!)

So, we merged all three ideas together – Boost Juice, the professional barista and the nightclub environment – into a daytime operation. We set out to make a well-designed espresso bar that gives each customer the attention they deserve, quickly and professionally – every single time.

And it worked. It started getting busier right from Day 1.

Q. At what point do you think being an entrepreneur stops being risky?

Never – you can always get smooshed. For us, we take a risk every time we take on a new customer because they’re a whole new personality. We also take a risk when we let go of a customer who’s not pulling their weight, because we risk losing income and losing face with those customers.

To compensate for this risk you have to constantly take care of the brand. It’s the only thing that keeps me up at night – thinking about how we can keep being strong whilst being big, and keep being special too, which is really hard but not impossible!

I think we do a great job of this via our social networking activities. Social media enables us to channel our brand through our website and social networking accounts and get across our ethos and philosophies, taking it beyond the cup of coffee we serve.

Q. What three qualities do you think an entrepreneur needs?

To be bullheaded – don’t divert from the path you’ve chosen, no matter what. Your mission and focus can’t be about making money, otherwise it’s just not going to take off. And lastly, you need empathy to know what the customer feels when they’re in the situation – you need to be able to understand what they’re going to see and feel when they use your product or look at your company.

Q. What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your journey?

I’ve learnt it’s important to keep going even when things aren’t going well and you’re in those initial weeks and months when it feels like its not going to take off. You’ve got to keep working through that dip to get to the next part, which is a lot easier.

At the beginning it’s hard to find the right staff, it’s hard to get traction in the market and this is when most people pull out. But if you power on through that, you’re on the other side and with the others who’ve made it through.

Q. What advice do you have for people who feel they have a good idea, but are wary of taking the next step?

Talk to other people who are doing it, ask them how they’re managing.

Taking stock of numbers is important too. Excel spreadsheets really help because if the idea looks like its going to work out mathematically, and it’s a good, worthwhile idea, then you can go with it.

And don’t forget to read! I read some business books in those early days that changed my life.

– Will is featured in Nokia’s online book ‘In Hindsight’, which is available for free download.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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