Realising a life long dream ...
BY KERRY ANDERSON
STAMPS Café is a dead giveaway name when you think about it. A long time in the making, Sue McDonald, proprietor of the Campbell’s Creek Post Office near Castlemaine, is to be congratulated for her perseverance over a two year period to open her dream café.
Popping in to meet with Sue on a successful opening day that has been inundated with customers I am surprised to discover that she also has a full time job as Practice Manager of a local medical clinic. In fact she has only taken some time off to help get the café up and started.
Storing that little bit of information away for later I start by asking her about how she started out in business.
When Sue moved back to the region in 2005 she brought with her the experience of being a partner in a city based electrical contractor business. A steely resolve to start a new phase in her life aided by this experience gave her the confidence to purchase the Campbell’s Creek Post Office in 2013.
“Some changes have been made since I took it over,” admits Sue. “After the general store closed we started stocking the newspapers as well as ice creams, drinks and lollies. We now open at 6.30am so residents can pick up their newspapers and parcels. Staff are here sorting the mail anyway so we may as well be open and it suits residents that work out of town and find it hard to get here during normal opening hours.”
A bonus for Sue has been her son Mark joining her in regional Victoria to take over the role of 'Postie' and manage the Post Office. His partner Bree is also involved in the business.
Right from the beginning Sue saw the opportunity to convert the Post Office residence into a café fulfilling another gap in this growing community’s street scape. Due to a long running battle with the council planning department and building inspectors, sadly the café has opened much later than anticipated.
Sue was spurred on by the support of her existing customers and the local Progress Association during what turned out to be an unexpectedly long and tedious journey. She made the most of the delay to source furnishings a bit at a time amidst many late night planning sessions. The café is certainly looking great as a result. The original 16 seats for customers have now expanded up to 40 with decking added outside.
“Hell no!” Sue exclaims when I ask her would she do it again, indicating the depth of her frustration with council processes. Hours of personal time to follow up stalled paper work compounded by the unavailability of council staff to issue permits has ultimately resulted in lost business revenue.
Fortunately at this point Sue’s daughter Leah has joined us. “But you’ve finally realised your dream,” she says reminding her mother of how she always loved visiting her grandmother’s café.
Putting the council frustrations behind her Sue agrees. “Yes, I am glad, it has always been my dream.”
So, back to her initial revelation. Why does she work Monday to Friday for someone else?
“I love my job,” is the simple answer. During Sue’s time as Practice Manager the clinic has doubled in size giving her plenty of challenges.
“Essentially I’m just the bill payer for the post office and work in it on weekends.” Likewise she has employed an experienced staff for the café and has high hopes that the two businesses combined will start to provide a return on investment in the future.
“And now you’re a grandmother,” I say indicating a young baby with her daughter Leah. Hence my second surprise to learn Sue already has grandchildren, including one 18 years old!
I am now doubly impressed by this businesswoman’s energy and determination and wish her all the best with her latest venture which already looks like a winner.
Be warned. Sue McDonald is full of surprises and a great inspiration to us all.
Sadly Stamps Cafe closed its doors after a year of successful trading when Sue encountered further barriers. Regardless, there are still good learnings from this interview.
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.