by Cezanne Laidlaw
IF there is one thing the Strophair sisters can perfect it’s a good cup of coffee. But creating the perfect business brew to accompany a product can be testing in any market.
Baristas Susan and Penny Strophair recognised a gap in the Gold Coast’s coffee industry and are winning over the city’s cafe culture.
Susan, 33 and 30-year-old Penny decided to blend their love of customer service and coffee to satisfy the endless yearn for the perfect cup.
“We love coffee and have always worked with people, so why not combine all the things we love to make for our ultimate working experience,” says Penny.
Coffee Sisters operate two shops on the Coast, one on Monaco Street and the second in the Oasis Centre, Broadbeach which opened late in 2008.
“The customer base is totally different for the two shops so the menu and experience had to be different to suit the people we wanted to attract,” says Susan.
“Oasis has more of a casual vibe so we’ve used quirky, tongue-in-cheek names for our menu items to fit in with the local mood. At Monaco Street we have a lot of locals that make up our customer base, we know 99 per cent of the people that come in and already have their coffee orders down before they get in the door.”
The siblings share a history in marketing which has helped them establish a successful business model.
“We had experience working together in a larger company before Coffee Sisters so it was just a natural progression that we knew would work,” explains Penny.
“We both want to head in the same direction, but it’s our differing strengths and approaches to business that balances us, making for the perfect blended team.”
Penny says the business was confronted with the initial challenges of patience, waiting, looking and researching the right business and location. Susan agrees, adding that establishing a small business can be difficult for any young entrepreneur looking to make that big break.
“Getting a start in the industry (is a challenge), but also getting others to believe in you and your product,” says Susan.
The girls have teamed up with Queensland’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Phillip Di Bella to create a coffee blend of their own. The tasting and selection took a gruelling, six-caffeine-filled months, but the results are in the taste and the Sorella blend will be used exclusively at their Gold Coast cafes. The blend consists of five premium beans from India, New Guinea, South America and Central America, making for a multicultural, full bodied and balanced coffee.
“We really wanted this blend to be unique to our shops and make for a memorable coffee experience for our customers,” explains Susan.
Sorella, which translates from Italian as ‘sister’, is a strong blend with chocolate tones that excite but don’t overpower the palate especially designed for the coast’s coffee crazy, according to the Strophairs.
“Sorella is a reflection of what Gold Coast people want in a coffee – strong and smooth,” affirms Susan.
After interviewing a number of coffee houses, Di Bella was chosen because the company ‘shares a similar approach to business’.
“Di Bella stood out for us because our business values are in sync,” says Susan.
“The company is focused on serving premium products, training, customer service and loyalty which is what we believe Coffee Sisters offers its customers first and foremost.”
While many food retail businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the global financial crisis, Coffee Sisters has been lucky enough to escape the burn.
“We are fortunate enough to have our regulars still come in. We have however added more affordable lunch time specials and will implement ‘March Madness’ – a lunch meal special with our shout on any beverage of your choice,” says Susan.
And while starting a business with a family member is enough to send most into a fit of stress, the Strophair sisters are doing it for themselves and in harmonious circumstances.
“We have always been close as friends and business colleagues. We openly discuss all business issues and respect each other. We have ways of working that help define boundaries. Our personalities complement each other and it just works – it always has,” says Susan.
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